I was lucky enough to attend the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show in Providence, RI this week. Actually, I’m still here for the weekend, exploring the city as I’ve never been here before and it’s absolutely fantastic and don’t be surprised if I suddenly announce I’m moving here. But all that aside, it was so great to see so many old friends, meet new people, and explore NEIBA from the other side of the table – as part of publishing, rather than bookselling.

Truth be told, I attended on Wednesday as myself, a book blogger for Wildly Read, and that was such a treat. Literally. The luncheon and dinner were pretty delish. The Awards Luncheon was honoring the recipients of the 2011 New England Book Awards and the President’s Award. Categories & honorees are as follows:

Fiction:  Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Non-fiction: Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Children’s: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
President’s Award: Howard Frank Mosher

Everyone gave a speech, told many heartfelt and hilarious stories, and we all received copies of these books. My favorite quote came from Jeanne Birdsall who talked about writing for children stories that encouraged or showcased a “belief in optimism”. I’m lucky in that I’ve known Jeanne Birdsall from my children’s bookseller days at The Odyssey Bookshop, so she was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me afterward and personalize my copy. That’s three of the five books in the series out and each one has made me laugh, cry, hope, dream, and fall in love with the Penderwicks family just a little bit more. Review to follow. Also an exciting tidbit – I was rereading Penderwicks in a coffee shop window seat in Providence and a newspaper photographer came by, took my picture, asked me my name and what I was reading, and I ended up in the local Providence paper. I’ll try to scan a copy in sometime.

The NECBA (New England Children’s Booksellers Association) Children’s Author and Illustrator Dinner featured Ally Condie, author of Crossed, Loren Long, author & illustrator of Otis and the Tornado, and Brian Selznick, creator of Wonderstruck. Each author also gave a little speech and we were treated to pictures of Loren Long and his two sons meeting President Obama, and watched the trailer for Hugo (which you can watch here), the movie based on Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Ally Condie spoke meaningfully about how “it’s hard sometimes to not fix things for people,” while Brian Selznick talked about how he “was writing about a minority [people who are deaf] that I was not a part of.”

Thursday featured educational sessions; I went to two in the morning: Marketing Print and E-Books In-and-Out of Your Store and Integrating Social Media into Your Store’s Activities. I picked up some advice for that store I want to open some day and also came away with a few tidbits for how publishers might provide more content, resources, etc. for booksellers. The bottom line, as I saw it, was that social media is necessary, an online presence is a must, but traditional methods cannot be forgotten either. In the words of Josh Christie of Sherman’s Books, “Social Media doesn’t not sell books.” Most importantly: you get what you pay for, or as Josh Cook of Porter Square Books put it, “Talent has a lot of return on investment.” In other words, having a staff member dedicated to online presence building, digital content development, and sales floor book displays will pay off in the long run.

Thursday night was the First Look at the Show & Author Cocktail Reception where Beacon Press was proud to show off Kate Whouley, author of Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words. After the authors signed books, booksellers cased the publisher tables, and I tried to get as many people as possible to bring me food from the cocktail part of the floor, Ms. Emily Crowe, Store Manager at the Odyssey Bookshop and blogger at As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!), worked her magic and was able to get me invited to the Algonquin author dinner with Hillary Jordan, author of When She Woke, and Martha Southgate, author of The Taste of Salt. Let me tell you, you get to know booksellers, publishers, and authors pretty quickly when the drinks are free and everyone goes around the table telling embarrassing stories and stories about their first concert experience by way of introduction. A HUGE thank you to both Emily & Algonquin for a delightful evening.

Friday was the real trade show floor day, where Tom Hallock, Associate Publisher and Director of Sales & Marketing at Beacon Press, and I took turns standing at our press’s table, telling booksellers and other publishers about our books, giving away copies, catching up with old friends, and networking with new ones. I also have to thank my foodie insider, John, at the Rhode Island Convention Center, who never steered me wrong once in the food department, and who was responsible for my delectable lunch of handmade Korean beef dumplings with sesame sweet potato fries and a cream puff from Mama Kim’s Korean food truck.

If you’re a blogger, librarian, bookseller, or publisher considering whether or not these tradeshows are worth it, from my humble opinion as both former bookseller, current blogger, and current publishing industry participant, YES. Firstly, the amount of books you get for free practically pays for your tickets/travel alone. I’ll be going home with three tote bags and one full box of books – and a huge thank you to Tom for driving those back to Boston for me rather than making me schlep them on the Commuter Rail. Then there’s the networking, finding out best and worst practices from others in your industry, as well as meeting with the publishers to see new titles you may not have paid attention to while flipping through the catalogues and during rep appointments. With most publishers going to an online ordering format rather than paper catalogues, I believe tradeshows are one of the best ways to connect with the books themselves, and to get your own face out there rather than just a blogger title or bookstore name. There’s my unsolicited two cents, and now I’m going to grab my camera (no, it’s not yet digital) and explore the rest of Providence.

One thought on “NEIBA

  1. I've been thinking about doing a quick post about NEIBA, and this clinches it. I just need to finish up all of my more fun Caribbean/St John posts before I start in on something more work related. Thanks for the shout-out, and it was incredibly wonderful getting to catch up with you in Providence!

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