The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association met this
weekend at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, Pa.,
next to the park where another independent-minded group camped out
several centuries ago. The event drew hundreds of booksellers who mixed with many
authors--including more than two score at the Moveable Dinner Feast--and enjoyed a day of strong educational programming before
yesterday's trade show.
The Valley Forge Gun Show, one of the more unlikely groups ever to
share a convention center with a booksellers association, provided easy
ammunition for many jokes by speakers and attendees. For example, new
NAIBA president Joe Drabyak of Chester County Book & Music Co.,
West Chester, Pa., said at the annual meeting that Barbara Meade and
Carla Cohen, the owners of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., had
been inspired by the gun show to open a second location called Lawyers,
Guns & Money. Rejected store names, he continued, included Words
& Weaponry and Books, Baristas & Bullets. A new NAIBA affiliate
is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he added. One wag
suggested guns could be "the hot new sideline." Another said the pen
might be mightier than the sword but paled next to some of the easily
visible M-16s and other assault weapons.
Panels, some of which we will summarize over the next few days,
addressed such topics as book clubs, engaging young adult readers,
handselling, merchandising and marketing tips from a range of stores in
the region as well as information about forming local business
alliances (featuring a representative from the American Independent
Business Alliance), several ABA sessions and demonstrations of such programs
as Constant Contact and Above the Treeline. NAIBA executive director
Eileen Dengler said the "education presented here was created for
booksellers' needs--it answers their questions. We're very proud of it."
At the annual meeting, NAIBA welcomed three new board members: Jessica
Stockton of McNally Robinson Booksellers, New York City, Harvey Finkel
of the Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, N.J., and Tim Hepp, a rep for Simon &
In a short address, Drabyak asked publishers to "remember that we are
an extension of your sales forces. You do a fine job of selling to us .
. . . We will sell deep into the season." He pledged to keep on
promoting various NAIBA programs such as the trunk shows and NAIBAhood
gatherings and the association's participation in the Spoken Word and
cooperation with AMIBA, for example. "Even though we're independent booksellers," he
said, "we are dependent on one another."
Adele and Sam Herman of Como Sales won the William Helmuth Sales Rep of
the Year award. Carla Cohen of Politics & Prose wrote this about
Sam: "We always look forward to his visits with us. He represents
Workman with such heartfelt concern that we always want to order as
many books as will fit into the store. We adore it when he and Adele
visit together, a rare but to-be-sought event. She is as light and
humorous as Sam is earnest. What a power couple!"
Adele told the NAIBA crowd: "We've had a lot of fun, met some wonderful
people and treasure relationships built over the years. It is a true
pleasure. I wouldn't do anything else."
Terry Lucas, owner of the Open Book in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., won the
NAIBA bookseller of the year award for her essay "declaring my
independence." She told the group that her essay "came straight from my
heart" but had forgotten to mention the camaraderie among independent
booksellers. "I'm astounded at the generosity of spirit, the kindness"
of booksellers, she said. "This is a competitive world and we're all so
nice to each other," sharing ideas and information.
Jane O'Connor, author of Fancy Nancy (HarperCollins), which won
NAIBA's Picture Book of the Year award, told the group that during her
bookstore tour with illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser, she was
"constantly floored by the energy and sense of fun booksellers would
bring to events," which drew many girls who dressed up in a range of
Libba Bray, whose Rebel Angels (Delacorte) won
the NAIBA children's literature award, said that she is "a huge fan of
independent booksellers," dating back to her time in high school, when
she worked in a store. "They're smarter than the average bear" and have
been "instrumental" in helping her reach her dream of becoming a
writer. (Her wonderful "Ode to the Independent
Bookseller" appears below.)
More Author Oratory
Lisa Scottoline, whose new book is Dirty Blonde, praised
booksellers in general and handselling legend Joe Drabyak in particular, saying
that the two go back so far that "Joe even fixed me up. He can sell
anything--even me!" Scottoline added that she sometimes feels her books
are "a little too commercial, with the occasional car chase and lame
sex scene--like real life." Still, she continued, she tries to talk
about issues of justice, fairness and the penal system in her stories,
and independent booksellers attract that the "cultivated, thinking
reader" that responds to such work. "Talking about issues is what books
and you do so well."
Lamenting that modern society tends to want to learn only facts, not
delve into imaginative explorations of life and issues, and doesn't like to read
"dark books" that include anything sad, Lisa Tucker, whose new book is Once Upon a Day,
praised booksellers for encouraging readers to read fiction and dark
books so that readers "take risks" and learn to "look into the heart of
Alice McDermott cheerfully told a luncheon crowd that she is "grateful
for what you do for those of us who labor in the writer's world. You
and I perhaps are involved in a profession that if not dying, is fading
from the general culture. Those of us writing literary fiction would be
very lonely without you." Speaking about her new book, she said, "If
someone asks what After This is about, please tell them it's an antiwar novel."
Touting his John, Paul, George & Ben, Lane Smith said it was
"appropriate that I have a goofy history book here. It's so close to a
place where families congregate and discuss their own lives and the
American dream. I'm talking about the [King of Prussia] mall. That
Our hats are off to bookseller road warrior Oren Teicher, the ABA's
COO, who accomplished a neat hat trick over the weekend, spending
Friday at NEBA in Providence, R.I., Saturday at NAIBA and flying early
Sunday morning to Denver for MPIBA--and an ABA board meeting following
that. We used to think it was a feat just to go to three or four
regionals over two months.