In an atmosphere described by attendees as buoyant and energized, greater numbers of booksellers and industry professionals than in recent years returned to New York for the city's first national booksellers trade show in over a decade. Scheduling considerations placed the show a full month earlier than usual, but few complained about an early spring visit to New York, particularly when the weather turned perfectly sunny and balmy and so many unique activities were within reach.
Highlights included special "only in New York" events: a walking tour of Harlem, sponsored by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA), and a Circle Line boat trip around Manhattan, including an emotional view of the Statue of Liberty and the site of the World Trade Center attack, co-hosted by NAIBA and the American Booksellers Association with many co-sponsors.
Those in town for the show also had a quintessential New York evening at a party for the publication of Chris Finan's new biography of presidential candidate and former New York governor Al Smith, Alfred E. Smith: The Happy Warrior (Hill & Wang). Smith headed the project of building the Empire State Building, and on May 2 over 250 people enjoyed the view from that building's 80th floor at a party celebrating the publication of Finan's biography of Smith. Two days later another historic New York Building -- historic Webster Hall -- was packed with BEA attendees to hear the return of the Rock Bottom Remainders.
Many in the book industry and numerous authors based in the New York area, attended this year's BEA, adding to the show's excitement. The show's opening night reception, on Thursday, May 2, was a mob scene due to the welcome speech by New York's former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. [There was a great deal of coverage of this year's show on C-SPAN's BookTV. Click here for related story.]
Both locals and out-of-towners enjoyed the venue. Bookseller Steve Eddy of Book King in Rutland, Vermont, told BTW during BEA that "the show is going very well. It's nice to see it back in New York, a wonderful city."
Arsen Kashkashian of the Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colorado, said, "The parties have been better than ever. The energy of being in New York, and on the publisher's home turf -- they've gone all out."
"It's so much fun to be in New York," Jennifer Anglin of Enchanted Forest Books for Children in Dallas, commented. "There's so much to do -- and there's an energy here, being surrounded by so much of the publishing industry."
Publishers were generally enthusiastic about the high energy level of the show and the increase in numbers over past years. The growth of the Book Sense marketing program was evident in both publishers' comments and in the many displays of titles bearing 76 stickers and posters declaring houses were "Proud to be a Book Sense Publisher Partner."
Several publishers told BTW that orders placed on Friday alone surpassed their total orders placed over three days in Chicago in 2001. Elizabeth Carduff, vice president, associate publisher of Perseus Books, told BTW that the show got off to a brisk start: "It was good, booksellers coming right out of the gate on Friday morning.... I was pleased."
According to public relations executive Sallyanne McCartin of Sallyanne McCartin & Associates, representing Soho Press, "It's been extremely busy, the floor has been packed. [BEA] allows us to see bookstores that otherwise we wouldn't get to see. Independent bookstores are our partners in this, and they let us know what's working and what's not.... Some of the stores that we do business with are off the beaten track, so this helps us build a network of relationships with bookstores."
Publishers from diverse companies, including Overlook Press, Rizzoli-Universe, Scribner's, and Distributed Art Publishers (DAP), were overwhelmingly upbeat, happy with the heavy floor traffic ("much busier than last year") and pleased with the number of independent stores they were seeing.
Booksellers also relished opportunities to meet lesser-known publishers and suppliers, as well as fellow booksellers and authors. Brian Rood, owner of Avenue Books, a new- and used-book store in Berkeley, California, said that he enjoys BEA for "schmoozing ... looking at small publishers and remainders. But the Convention becomes less and less important. I have done all my buying already."
"I try to look for things I wouldn't normally see at the store," said Boulder Bookstore's Kashkashian, "the small presses, things that would be lost in the catalogue."
"It's wonderful! I've just finished mailing back four huge boxes filled with catalogues and galleys. That's what I'm here for, to tell them what librarians need," said Merle Jacob, director of library collection development at the Chicago Public Library.
Robert Sindelar, store manager, and Amanda Tobier, buyer, of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington, believed that the show was better this year than previously, and they said that they were pleased to be able to mingle with other booksellers as well as with the authors they sell.
Norman Nissen of Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, New York, summed up the feelings of many on the show floor, "Oh, my aching back! But it's worth it. A rich experience, but hard on the feet." [For more on the trade floor, titles, and authors at the show, click here.]
This year's ABA educational programming featured numerous substantive panels and sessions on topics requested by the membership. Hundreds of booksellers (including nearly 60 prospective booksellers, who were attending a booksellers school at Javits) took advantage of the sessions, which began with a special all-day program on Thursday, May 2. [For more on ABA's educational programming at BEA, click here.] Watch for more BTW coverage of key bookseller educational programming at BEA.
Jaci Hanna of That Bookstore in Danville, Danville, Pennsylvania, attended a number of panels, including the session on bookstore finances, led by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. "I learned a lot," she said. "The nice thing is the disk [with an Excel spreadsheet]. You take it home, and pop it in, and go."
Paul Takushi, trade book buyer for the UCS Bookstore in Davis, California, said, "The sessions have been very good, very helpful," noting that "the finance session was really good. It was comprehensive, and Avin is really a good presenter, and there were excellent tools given out." Takushi said he had also had a series of meetings at the show with BookSense.com staff, who were "really helpful and really approachable." In addition, sessions on marketing and inventory control led by booksellers Carole Horne of Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and John Bennett of Bennett Books, Wyckoff, New Jersey, were also very well attended. A panel on succession planning, held on May 4, was praised by a number of booksellers.
Special events, such as the book and author breakfasts, lunches, and teas, the Book Sense 76 Luncheon, and Celebration of Bookselling, were memorable, providing attendees with opportunities to hear favorite authors and to compare notes with other booksellers. [For more on the Celebration and the Luncheon, click here.]
Comments by booksellers leaving this year's Children's Book and Author Breakfast on Friday morning included numerous superlatives. Enchanted Forest Books' Anglin echoed the sentiments of many when she said that she was "captivated by the authors who spoke" -- Tony Kushner, Maurice Sendak, John Lithgow, and Kate DiCamillo, whom Anglin described as "phenomenal." [For more on the Children's Book & Author Breakfast, click here.]
Valuable bookseller-to-bookseller networking went on throughout the show. Eric Frazier of Frazier's in Lexington, North Carolina, noted that he had met another bookseller at the Celebration of Bookselling on Friday evening who was now in the process of installing the same computerized inventory control system that Frazier had implemented in his store a year ago. During their conversation, Frazier shared a number of tips with her based on his experience. "I'm all too happy to save her bumps and bruises on the learning curve," he said.
At the Book Sense 76 Author Luncheon, over 50 authors (complete list below) were in attendance and the Book Sense Book of the Year finalists stood up at their assigned table and spoke briefly, graciously thanking the booksellers in their own words. Veteran bookseller Nancy Olson of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina, was ebullient. "Hearing all the authors speak and recognizing that we help them -- it energized me. I loved it," she said.
Carol Moyer, children's buyer at Quail Ridge, was extremely pleased that "they put the children's authors along with the others."
Both Leif Enger (Peace Like a River, Atlantic Monthly) and Ann Brashares (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Delacorte), who were declared winners of two of the Book Sense Book of the Year awards later that same day, spoke eloquently at the luncheon. Enger invoked the name of ABA's Book Sense senior marketing consultant, Carl Lennertz, well known to all booksellers present.
"Our local bookstore is about an hour's drive away from our house in northern Minnesota, and right after Grove/Atlantic sent out the early reading copies of Peace Like a River, Susie at the bookstore called me up and said, 'I'm going to write to Carl about you.' I didn't know why she would tell me that. I thought maybe Carl was her uncle."
Ann Brashares stated simply, "It's so nice when power and influence are in the hands of people who care so much about what they do."
Authors Attending 2002 Book Sense 76 Author Luncheon, May 3
* Ann Brashares, Delacorte
* Orson Scott Card, Tor
* David Catrow, S&S (Margaret McElderry Books) Putnam
* Harriet Scott Chessman, Seven Stories
* Tim Cockey, Hyperion
* Eoin Colfer, Hyperion Books for Children/Talk Miramax
* Reed Farrel Coleman, Permanent Press
* Bernard Cornwell, HarperCollins
* Sharon Creech, HarperCollins
* Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick
* Tim Dorsey, William Morrow
* Mark Dunn, MacAdam/Cage
* Barbara Ehrenreich, Holt (Metropolitan)
* Leif Enger, Atlantic Monthly Press
* Louise Erdrich, HarperCollins
* Jules Feiffer, Hyperion Books for Children
* Paula Fox, Holt
* Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay
* Julia Glass, Pantheon
* Carol Goodman, Ballantine
* John Griesemer, Picador
* Denise Hamilton, Scribner
* Amy Hest, Candlewick
* Kate Jennings, 4th Estate
* Derrick Jensen, Context
* Paulette Jiles, HarperCollins
* Joseph Kanon, Picador
* Alan Katz, S&S (Margaret McElderry Books)
* Marian Keyes, HarperPerennial
* Barbara Kerley, Scholastic
* Ross King, Walker
* Barbara Kingsolver, HarperCollins
* Patty Lovell, Putnam
* Carlo Lucarelli, City Lights (CBSD)
* Gregory Maguire, HarperCollins
* Michael Malone, Sourcebooks
* Andrew Miller, Harcourt
* Joe Edd Morris, Context
* Marnie Mueller, Curbstone Press
* Ridley Pearson, Hyperion
* Joe Queenan, Picador
* Sharon Randall, Sleeping Bear Press
* Richard Russo, Random House
* Terry Ryan, Simon & Schuster
* Janet Schulman, Random House
* John Searles, HarperPerennial
* Karin Slaughter, Morrow
* Kamila Shamsie, Bloomsbury USA
* John Scott Shepherd, Rugged Land
* Rick Steves, Avalon
* Jennifer Weiner, Pocket