PNBA in Portland: An Upbeat Show

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The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) held its fall trade show from September 13 - 15 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. Booksellers who spoke to BTW said that this year's show was very upbeat. Said Thom Chambliss, executive director for PNBA, "The show was well received. From a management standpoint, this year's show went smoothly."

Chambliss said that both author breakfasts had large turnouts, as did Saturday's banquet. Though he had yet to do an official count, he estimated that "we sold 180 tickets to the Sunday breakfast, and 200 to the banquet on Saturday."

Rene Kirkpatrick, buyer for All For Kids Books & Music in Seattle, said, "I felt great about the show. Everyone was really upbeat, and more hopeful. Over the last couple of years [booksellers] didn't seem as excited as they were this year. What was really cool, there didn't seem to be a lot of people missing; there were new booksellers who were just starting. I talked to some reps and they told me they got great orders."

Mary Kay Sneeringer, owner of Edmonds Bookshop, agreed that everyone seemed very positive this year, and she was glad to meet with other booksellers. "It was great to go and get ideas from other booksellers and pick their brains," she said. Edmonds also participated in the Book Sense 76 display contest, which asked booksellers to bring a photograph of their 76 display to the ABA booth for the chance to win a color printer. Sneeringer's store won. "That was a nice surprise," she said.

Sunday's breakfast received some notable reviews from booksellers, who made special mention of speeches by poet Nikki Giovanni (Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, William Morrow) and author Jill Conner Browne (The Sweet Potato Queens' Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner, Three Rivers Press).

"Nikki practically had the audience in tears," said Chambliss. "She spoke about the civil rights movement and meeting Rosa Parks, and then was followed by Jill Conner Browne." He explained that Browne came to the podium dressed in full Sweet Potato Queen regalia, and he wasn't sure how that segue would work after Giovanni's moving talk.

Sneeringer said, "It was a great segue. Browne tied in Giovanni talking about her hero [Rosa Parks] -- she came up wearing a crown and a sequined outfit, heavily padded and she tied [her speech] together with Nikki Giovanni's speech by saying at the end, 'Well behaved women rarely make history.'"

"That worked really well," Chambliss said.

On Thursday, September 12, prior to the opening of the trade show, over 20 people attended the American Booksellers Association's special three-hour financial session for booksellers, "Budgeting and Monitoring Workshop," which was led by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. Participants offered very positive evaluations of the session.

On Friday, September 13, the trade show had a full day of panels and workshops in addition to the booksellers' school, "Bookselling Behind the Scenes," which ran from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

At 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning, Jay Gesin, owner of, a Web site consulting firm for independent bookstores, conducted the seminar "Bookstore Web Site Marketing." "My session had a lot more people than I expected," he told BTW. "Stores were eager to hear how they could do more with their Web sites. I hope they came away with lots of ideas for their staff to use." Other programming on Friday included the bookseller workshops, "Our Reps Offer Their Picks of the Lists"; a panel explaining PNBA's Book PROse Program; and a publisher workshop, "Marketing New Authors," with Anna Johnson.

A panel for booksellers,"Jump Start Your Business Brain," with Jeff Stamp; an author workshop on "Do-It-Yourself Web Sites"; and an ABA session exploring "What's New at Book Sense" and the ABA Book Buyer's Handbook online followed the workshops.

After the morning educational programming came PNBA's Holiday Catalog Boxed Lunch. "I got some really good ideas there," said Kirkpatrick. "I love hearing other booksellers talk. You wonder, how could we not have thought of that? It really helped us with our displays."

Afternoon sessions included "Our Reps Offer Their Picks of the Lists"; "Winning Book Efforts -- A Team Effort," with a panel of booksellers and publishers, produced by the Northwest Association of Book Publishers; "Buyers Spotlight the Fall Children's Lists"; and, for publishers, "Contract Books: Best Sellers in Less than 90 Days," with Ronda Gates. Later, there was the "Celebration of Authors," where 11 authors talked about their new books. An "Autographing & Dessert Party" capped the day.

The trade exhibit, held in the Oregon Convention Center Exhibit Hall, was open on Saturday and Sunday. That was where All For Kids' Kirkpatrick spent a lot of her time on Saturday, she told BTW. "I was placing all my orders, and looking for new titles," she said, "and for new sidelines -- I'm always in the market for a new sideline."

Saturday's Book & Author Breakfast featured talks by T.A. Barron (The Hero's Trail, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers), Chuck Palahniuk (Lullaby, Doubleday), and Jill Fredston (Rowing to Latitude, North Point Press).

Later, booksellers discussed issues of concern at the "Booksellers Roundtable Lunch." Other Saturday events included various PNBA working committee meetings throughout the day. At Saturday's General Membership Meeting, Chambliss updated members about the Book Sense Regional Bestseller list and asked that everyone report, and DeDe Teeters of Armchair Books in Port Orchard, Washington, also talked about how Book Sense works.

Saturday evening's Cocktail Party, which preceded the Banquet, featured Lynda Barry (One Hundred Demons, Sasquatch Books), Bill Gates Sr. (Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes, Beacon Press), and Rosemary Wells (Getting to Know You! Rodgers and Hammerstein Favorites, HarperCollins).

"Lynda Barry wowed them all," commented Edmonds Bookshop's Sneeringer.

Sunday's "Meet the Authors Lunch" featured four nationally recognized authors: David James Duncan (My Story as Told by Water, Sierra Club Books), Jayne Ann Krentz (Light in Shadow, Putnam), G.M. Ford (Black River, Morrow), and Jack Prelutsky (Scranimals, Greenwillow).

"The authors were really great," said Sneeringer. "I thought [the trade show] went really well." -- David Grogan