GLBA Trade Show More Than Meets Expectations

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With an emphasis on the regional and the practical, the Great Lakes Booksellers Association (GLBA) 2002 Fall Trade Show was held on September 27 - 29 at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, Michigan. Both the new venue and new special events more than lived up to organizers' and attendees' expectations.

Jim Dana, executive director of GLBA, described the show as full of energy: "There was a really warm response [to the new venue] and high satisfaction.

"Last year, we were cursed," Dana said, in reference to the effects of the events of September 11. "This year, we were charmed. People liked the hotel, service was good, and the events were well attended. It was even better than our expectations."

Overall attendance was up from last year, said Dana, but exact figures were not yet available. He estimated the figure at about 800, with approximately 260 of those being exhibitors and 60 authors.

Comments from exhibitors and attendees, who talked to Bookselling This Week, reinforced Dana's comments about the success of the show.

Mary Jane Barnwell of the Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island, Michigan, described the gathering as "the best show that I've been to in years," and Sue Boucher of Lake Forest Bookstore in Lake Forest, Illinois, said, "The location was great, and everything about the show was seamless. The Authors Feast was wonderful."

The Authors Feast, on Friday, September 27, was new to the show this year and won rave reviews from many booksellers. More than 20 authors participated in this "moveable feast," which, as far as Barnwell was concerned, was a "definite instant replay" for next year. "The authors liked it, too," she added.

"A big success" were the words used by Iris Yipp of Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, Illinois, to describe the feast, and Carol Thompson of the Florence O. Wilson Bookstore in Wooster, Ohio, found "fascinating people at the table."

Throughout the day on Friday, educational sessions on topics ranging from "Ideas That Work" to "Free Money: Co-op for the Taking" to "Plugging In" were well attended and offered booksellers the opportunity to share their knowledge. Of "Ideas That Work," Michele Sulka, marketing director of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, said, "It was so wonderful. Everybody had great ideas. We were frantically scribbling, and no one wanted it to end." About the "Newsletters Online & In Print" session for which she was a presenter, Sulka said, "About 50 to 60 people were in attendance with different levels of experience, and we tried to reach everybody. A lot of people are looking for more information on this subject."

Yipp, who attended the session "Plugging In," mentioned it as one of the outstanding sessions on the program. It convinced her that her store needed to become "more connected."

Saturday morning's "Breakfast with the Board," another popular innovation at this year's show, drew more booksellers than previous GLBA annual meetings, according to Dana. GLBA's accomplishments during the past year, as well as plans for the future were topics of discussion. Attendees were also introduced to GLBA's new officers: President Dave Kaverman of Million Story Book Company; Vice President Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshop; Secretary Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac's Backs Paperbacks; and Treasurer Mary Jane Barnwell.

Dana believes that booksellers at the breakfast heeded the call to make the most of the regional show by going out and placing orders. When BTW stopped by the Holtzbrinck booth mid Saturday morning, local sales rep Judy Wainscott said, "It's been really busy. Busier than we usually are at this time of morning." Joanne Young, director of marketing for Baker & Taylor, said, "The show's been great. There's been a lot of traffic, and we're meeting people from all over the Midwest."

Lynda Schuh, special sales and exhibits manager for the University of Illinois Press, said that this was the first time that the press was representing itself at the regional. Sales reps usually bring some of its titles to regional shows, but, by self-representing, the press was able to feature all of its regional offerings.

Off the trade show floor, on Saturday, bargains were to be had at the Silent Auction to benefit GLBA's First Amendment Defense Fund. A crowd of booksellers surrounded the booth at the end of the day heatedly -- but good-naturedly -- bidding on items donated by exhibitors.

Endorsements of the Book Sense national marketing program were visible on the show floor as publishers displayed Book Sense Publisher Partner signs and 76 stickers on their books; at the GLBA Annual Meeting, where booksellers were exhorted to report to the bestseller list to get on publishers' radar screens; and at the session "What's New at Book Sense," presented by Book Sense Marketing Director Jill Perlstein.

At a session on "How to Use the New Electronic Handbook," Ruth Wirt of Million Story Book Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, attested, "The online handbook has made my life so much simpler. Basically it's my portal to everything. Why wouldn't everybody use it?"

Special events at the show began with the Great Lakes Book Awards presentation on Friday, September 27. Featured speakers were fiction winner Ann Packer (The Dive from Clausen's Pier, Knopf), winner in the general category Rich Cohen (Lake Effect, Knopf), and children's medal winner Richard Peck (Fair Weather, Dial Press). Mac's Backs' DeGaetano described the caliber of the speeches as "very high." Peck, she noted, spoke especially eloquently about literacy.

Jennifer Crusie (Faking It, St. Martin's) talked about romance novels and their appeal in a light-hearted way that left attendees at Saturday evening's "Bookseller Banquet" laughing. And despite the drama and dark elements in his Devil in the White City (Crown), Erik Larson did the same. On a more serious note, Jeffrey Eugenides spoke about his long-awaited second novel Middlesex (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), for which Master of Ceremonies Keith Taylor predicted many awards.

Cammie Mannino, of Halfway Down the Stairs in Rochester, Michigan, was mistress of ceremonies for the Sunday morning Children's Book & Author Breakfast, featuring Lois Lowry (Gooney Bird Greene, Houghton Mifflin), Jerry Pinkney (The Nightingale, Phyllis Fogelman Books/Penguin Putnam), and Pam Munoz Ryan (When Marian Sang, Scholastic).

Free expression -- "Voices at the Edge" -- was the theme of this year's Plenary Session, the last event of the show. David Schwartz of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, did a masterful job of setting the stage for poet Nikki Giovanni (Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, Morrow) and Bill Ayers, author of the controversial Fugitive Days (Penguin Books and Beacon Press).

Other special events included Friday's "Midnight Snacks," featuring tasty snacks and Michael Rosen and Sharon Reiss, collaborators on Midnight Snacks from Broadway Books; and Saturday's "New Voices Reading Room," with Michael Perry (Population: 485, HarperCollins), Bonnie Jo Campbell (Q Road, Scribner), and Nancy Zafris (Metal Shredders, Blue Hen).

"It was a great show," Dana concluded. GLBA was so pleased with the location and facilities, it will be considering the same location for next year's show, he said. --Rosemary Hawkins