Bookseller/Publisher Meetings Provide Valuable Insights
The American Booksellers Association’s expanded programming at this year’s BookExpo America provided new opportunities for booksellers and publishers to connect through both Meet the Editor and One-on-One Publisher meetings. Many participants –– booksellers, editors, and publishers alike –– gained valuable insights as to how their book industry counterparts operate on a day-to-day basis.
Meet the Editor, which was held last Wednesday in various publishing offices throughout New York City, gave booksellers a detailed look at the process and philosophy of book editing, while Saturday’s One-on-One Publisher Meetings provided bookstore owners and managers with the chance to meet with publishing executives to discuss topics of mutual interest.
Kelsey Myers, event coordinator at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado, was part of a small group of booksellers who met with about 10 editors from the children’s division of Simon & Schuster. The editors, who work with authors like Brandon Mull, Adam Lehrhaupt, and Lois Ehlert, each presented a pitch for their favorite upcoming title.
“I loved getting a glimpse of the book industry from the other perspective,” said Myers. “To see how passionate the editors are about the books they are currently working on really super-charged my excitement for those titles.” Myers added that while the session certainly provided her insight as a bookseller, it was also “a great opportunity for editors to find out what’s happening on the frontlines.”
Mary Beth Thomas, vice president, deputy director of sales at HarperCollins, guided a group of booksellers to the publisher’s offices, where they met with three editors and had a lively discussion about several of the books the editors had worked on, as well as upcoming titles.
“I think it was extremely beneficial for all involved,” said Thomas. “I find any time you get book lovers of any ilk in a room together, good stuff comes of it.” While it was clear that the booksellers enjoyed learning about the process, “the editors were thrilled to meet with the booksellers to learn what it is they could be doing better or differently to help them sell their books.” Ideas shared included how best to both acquire early reads, how to support titles, and the importance of authors using social media to help connect readers to the bookstores.
Annie Philbrick, co-owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, met with editors from Perseus, who provided her with a new perspective. As she is primarily a fiction reader, many of Perseus’s nonfiction titles were not on Philbrick’s radar. However, after learning more about the company and seeing how enthusiastic the editors were about their work, “I can come back to my store and sell those books better than I ever did,” said Philbrick.
Dan Christiaens, field sales manager for W.W. Norton, escorted a group of booksellers to the publisher’s offices, where they met with John Glusman, the editor in chief of Norton, who gave them a look into the entire publishing process, from acquisition to publication. An unannounced special guest, Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, made an appearance and discussed his new book, and Bob Weil, the head of the Norton Liveright imprint, spoke about his publishing program.
“I believe the process was beneficial to the editors who seldom meet with booksellers in this way,” said Christiaens. “This kind of session provides them with valuable feedback on the market for their books and the best way to present them to the reading public. It is a different kind of fun for them… the connections made between the ‘inside’ people and the ‘outside’ people are a benefit to everyone’s understanding of how our world works.”
Karen Hayes, co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, attended the Meet the Editor session with Norton, and said that Glusman and Weil provided fascinating details about both the editing process and the acquisition and stories behind each book.
“It was fabulous to meet these editors, who gave a face and personality to the imprints they represent,” said Hayes. “Norton is very hands-on with each book they acquire, and I now have a clearer idea of Norton’s publishing goals.”
Melissa Opel, manager of Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, Washington, took full advantage of the One-on-One Publisher Meetings, and was able to connect with Macmillan, Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin, Other Press, and Harlequin, with “bonus sessions” with Seven Stories, Candlewick, and Hachette.
With several of the publishers, “I very aggressively pushed our events program and the city of Spokane,” Opel said. “We do not seem to get [many] author tours and as the second largest city in our state we think this is a loss for both the publisher and us.” Opel was prepared with brochures of the store and a DVD tour, which were met with a positive response from the publishers. Some publishers spoke about their catalogs, what they offer, and how they can better partner with Auntie’s.
For Opel, this opportunity illustrated the fact that “Auntie’s is doing a lot of the right things but we are not connected enough to our publishers.” Through these meetings, she was able to meet with many and “left with a feeling of being heard. These appointments were easily the best part of BEA,” she said. As a West Coast bookseller, she often questions whether the trip to New York is necessary. These meetings “made the trip worth it,” Opel added.
Elise Supovitz, executive director of independent retail and Canadian sales at Candlewick, met with booksellers from nine different bookstores and discussed a range of topics, including the growth of children’s book sales, the effectiveness of sales reps, author and authorless events, and the book fair business.
“My day-to-day contact is primarily with children’s buyers, so the One-on-Ones were an excellent opportunity to have face time with staff I don’t regularly interface with,” Supovitz said. “The most positive piece of information I gleaned was that, for the majority of the stores I met with, the children’s book category is growing at a higher rate than other categories.”
The most productive meetings were with booksellers who had an agenda or specific issues to be covered, she added. “It’s always nice to have social time, but these were the strongest meetings and the most beneficial for both parties.”
Ellen Adler, publisher at The New Press, took part in both the Meet the Editor and One-on-One meetings and found the opportunities to be “extremely valuable for both sides,” she said.
During the One-on-One session, Adler mentioned key titles that she thought would interest attending booksellers, and they in turn were able to discuss how they’d promote and sell these titles.
“For publishers, it’s really easy to forget what happens in the marketplace,” said Adler. “This was an opportunity to remind us what our partners do every day. I think we benefited equally.”
Adler especially appreciated the ability to meet with so many booksellers at once. Since The New Press is a smaller imprint with a smaller presence on the trade show floor, “I don’t think we would have had an opportunity otherwise to talk to 15 booksellers at BookExpo,” she said. “We’ve been going to Winter Institute, and [these meetings] felt like that, in a very good way.”