Strong Sales for Politics & Prose’s Fourth Year at National Book Festival

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    Iconic Washington, D.C., indie Politics & Prose Bookstore & Coffeehouse enjoyed strong sales numbers at the 17th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival on Saturday, the store’s fourth consecutive stint as the festival’s official bookseller.

    ABA's Robyn DesHotel and Ryan Quinn, Politics & Prose co-owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, and ABA's Akira McKinzie in front of ABA's wallpaper custom-made for the festival.
    ABA's Robyn DesHotel and Ryan Quinn, Politics & Prose co-owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, and ABA's Akira McKinzie in front of the wallpaper that ABA custom-made for the festival.

    The daylong event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., featured presentations, panel discussions, family-friendly activities, games, character meet and greets, and a poetry slam. Although the Library of Congress, the event’s main organizer, does not keep an exact count of people in attendance each year, organizers told the Washington Post, a charter sponsor of the event, that “tens of thousands” of people attended the September 2 festival. Last year’s crowd was estimated at more than 100,000 attendees.

    “The festival was great. It seemed like there were longer checkout lines and larger crowds than last time. Sales exceeded last year’s as well, and yet there were somewhat fewer authors, about 110 compared to 120 or so last year. The weather was somewhat rainy, but that didn’t appear to discourage people from turning out,” said Bradley Graham, who co-owns Politics & Prose with his wife, Lissa Muscatine. “Quite a few of them were well-known authors, so it was not surprising that they attracted big audiences.”

    This year, the store brought along over 340 titles by more than 100 featured authors, poets, and illustrators. Dollar-wise, said Graham, total sales exceeded 65 percent of what P&P brought, with the number of copies sold over 23,500.

    Although volunteers set up 115 stanchions to form lanes for checkout, the queue was already snaking halfway around the book sales area early in the day, said Graham. More than 60 Politics & Prose staff members helped at the checkout stations’ 20 registers.

    National Book Festival book sales area
    Festival attendees surround the book sales area.

    “We also had three volunteers from the American Booksellers Association staff and several publisher reps,” Graham said. “There were four people from Ingram, which is an important partner with us in putting this on. We even had some former employees come back to help. The company that sells Ibid, our POS system, sent three people to assist with the operation of the registers.”

    The staff members attending from the American Booksellers Association were Chief Financial Officer Robyn DesHotel, IndieCommerce Specialist Ryan Quinn, and Social Media Coordinator Akira McKinzie. As it has for the past three years, ABA also provided and installed custom wallpaper in the sales area, listing the association’s more than 2,000 member store names and locations on 10 panels.

    On Saturday, the 2,000-seat Main Stage, which was introduced last year, served as the venue for seven of the festival’s most popular authors: David McCullough, Diana Gabaldon, J.D. Vance, Thomas L. Friedman, Michael Lewis, Condoleezza Rice, and David Baldacci. This year’s themed pavilions included Contemporary Life, Fiction, Graphic Novels, History & Biography, Poetry & Prose, Teens, Thrillers & Fantasy, and two separate Children’s stages.

    Outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center
    Outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center

    Some of the authors and public figures signing books, giving talks, and participating on panels included Hidden Figures author Margo Lee Shetterly; cartoonist Roz Chast, who designed this year’s promotional poster; Roxane Gay; Elizabeth Strout; Wonder author R.J. Palacio; Claire Messud; Nathan Hill; Scott Turow; and graphic novelist and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang.

    The National Book Festival was also streamed live online in a broadcast on PBS Book View Now and C-SPAN Book TV.