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Thursday Oct 2
Headed out for the Northern California Independent
Bookstore Association (NCIBA) Trade
Show one day early because we are meeting a book packaging client
Friday. An easy drive “over the hill” (Reno is only a 3:45 hour drive
through the Sierra mountains to the Bay Area) to Oakland. Checked in and
just had enough time to throw the bags in the room and run off to
Alameda to watch the VP debates with, Marty, Robin’s sister, and her
family. The blab-fest was greatly enhanced by the nieces twirling and
doing handstands in front of the screen.
Friday Oct 3
|The Beagle Bay booth at NCIBA. Cynthia
Frank is on the left.
Slept in and had a leisurely breakfast. Found Cynthia Frank of
Cypress House waiting to be a
part of the NCIBA “speed dating reps” deal for the booksellers. We had
tried to get together last night, but she didn’t get in until 10 pm.
Set up our booth (which is next to Cypress House). Ran into a series of
“shoulda’s”: shoulda brought the tablecloth; shoulda brought more
frontlist books for giveaways; shoulda... I dunno. At some point you
just go with things. Table/booth looks pretty good.
|The USS Hornet Museum, Hanger Bay #2 with
a display of the aircraft used in the Apollo 11
After a break, we went down to the
USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, docked in the old Navy shipyard. We’re
working with Bob Fish, the trustee of the museum and creator of the
Apollo exhibit there, to produce a book about the recovery of Apollo
11—next year is the 40th anniversary (feel old yet?)—of which the
aircraft carrier USS Hornet was an integral part.
We got a
personal tour, and Bob showed us all the relevant details: the place
where the helicopter touched down with the astronauts, the quarantine
housing (MQF) in which they stayed, other aircraft involved; and on and
on. Plus the places where the ghosts frequent—Hornet
is one of the most haunted ships on the planet, apparently.
|Bob Fish, USS Hornet Museum trustee and
author with Robin Simonds in front of the quarantine trailer
- which contains the first "residential-use" microwave.
During all this, Robin and I were as happy as two (very large) babies.
We both love ships, and the space program, and ghosts. Bob kept saying,
“What else do you want to see?” And we’d say, whatever you want to show
us! So we rambled around the ship past closing time—2 hours or more.
|The famed recovery chopper "Helo #66"
with a mock-up of an astronaut in a quarantine suit. The
footsteps mark how Armstrong walked from the copter to the
Afterwards, we went to the Pier 29 restaurant, where we met up with
Bob’s wife, Jennifer. We talked over strategies about the book, museums
that have already expressed an interest, media plans, etc. As you can
tell, I am very serious about the book.
Watch for Hornet Plus Three: The Story of the
Apollo 11 Recovery to hit the stores in April!
Saturday, Oct 4
|The NCIBA 2008 show - the IBPA booth is
in the foreground.
We don’t expect much from the show this weekend. Given the stock market
melt-down, the dismal state of credit available for any business, and
consumers’ fear of spending, it seems unlikely booksellers will be in a
buying mood—especially for small press titles, which have little
marketing to draw customers into their stores. But we’d paid for the
room and the booth back in August, we had other business and family to
see, so we were just there to, as a friend once said, “fly the company’s
Had a quick breakfast, then went up to the room to gather things. Robin
was being a bit slow, and I always get a little freaked before a show,
so I decided to go down alone, with a box and the car-cooler full of
water on ice on our fold-up hand-cart. Got on the elevator and it went
down to the 7th floor (we’re on 16), then stopped and started back up.
Hit the down button again and got as far as the 6th floor, where this
woman got on. I told her that the elevator had gone yo-yo a moment
before and hoped the thing would behave. Just as we reached the 3rd
floor, the elevator paused, then shot up to the 17th floor. Hit the down
button again and picked up people at 9. At this point, I told everyone
that it seemed unwise to be on the elevator, and people decided to agree
with me when we stopped at the 4th floor. So we all got out and went on
another elevator. But my cooler fell over, dumping a bunch of cold water
on the marble floor.
|Duke Hill with what little he had to show
after the fire that devastated his business.
I was thinking, Griefnits! I hope this isn’t how the whole day is
going! [In retrospect, I wonder if the Hornet ghosties followed me.]
Informed the front desk of the elevator problem and dashed off to the
show hall... where I promptly spilled water at the exhibitors’ entrance.
Sigh. [On second thought, skip the ghosts. I’m apparently living an
“I Love Lucy” rerun. Wa-a-a-ah!]
Fortunately, from there, the day improved considerably.
The show is about half the size of the first one we attended in 2001
(which was famously cut short when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan on the
2nd day, and all the booksellers scrambled for home, sure al Qaeda was
going to bomb the Bay area). Attendance seems to be about the same as
last year (and this proved to be the case)—which is to say, light. When
they announced the first autographs, uncharacteristically, there was no
race for the signing booths. Not really a good sign.
As some of you who’ve followed my previous posts to this show know, we
always put out treats to attract the wandering booksellers. As Robin
says, “Like good fisher[persons], we try different bait every year.”
We’ve done Twizzlers, chocolates, macaroons, etc. This year, it’s
mini-brownies. They are seriously chocolate-y and their aroma extends
for about two booths in either direction. While there weren’t a lot of
booksellers, they all stopped at the booth for a brownie—or six. Good
thing we bought a lot.
Wandered around the hall to see who was there. Ran into Duke Hill, an
old friend and one of the last of the great academic titles reps in the
biz. He grabbed me and said, “Come with me.” He led me to his booth
where he showed me pictures of a terrible fire that destroyed his
library/office. Eight thousand books went up in the
conflagration—probably caused by one of his cats knocking over a halogen
desk lamp, says the fire investigator. Some of the volumes were rare
first editions covering the latter half of the 19th through the early
21st century. He is heart sick. Although a data recovery wizard captured
all the information from his semi-melted laptop, Duke feels he may be
done with the business. “I’m too old to rebuild,” he says. I am
speechless with sadness for him.
Saw Peter Goodman at the Stone
Bridge Press booth—and later he returned the visit to our booth.
Peter and I see and talk to each other twice a year—at BEA and NCIBA.
I’d think the end of the world had come if I didn’t see him.
A survey of the booths showed few interesting trends. Apparently
marijuana books are hot this year. Almost every big company had one. One
small press in the new Bay Area publishers featured aisle specialized in
pot books—and they were beautifully produced, too. Not a lot of
political books. Chelsea Green
was there with their book
Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a
Transformative Presidency—the galleys for which were being
scrupulously ignored. This had nothing to do with the political leanings
of the crowd (the “Booksellers for Obama” stickers and buttons were
CG did an exclusive release of the book on Amazon—seriously honking
off their base, indie booksellers.
Random House, which skipped
being on the show floor last year for a suite that you had to know the
location and password to get in, were there. But
Thomas Nelson was
not. Wasn’t surprised as they bagged out of their booth commitment at BEA.
Saw Todd and Kit Borg of South Tahoe’s
Thriller Press. Todd is the
author of the Owen McKenna Tahoe murder mystery series. We enjoy his
books. Talked some shop with him and swapped signed books. His newest is
Saw Ora Shulman from Graphic
Arts Publishers. She told me that her company had gone with Ingram’s
new distribution arm IPA—which means that she no longer can do her job
as a rep! However, in a weird trade-off arrangement, Ora now shows all
IPA books to her new turf, wholesalers. !!!!
In the old days, the show etiquette was that exhibitors only took a book
of yours if they gave you one of theirs. In recent years, this seemed to
be slacking off. But we had several people swap us their book for ours
today. Although one woman swapped her shell necklace for a
book—prompting Robin to muse he’d never sold a book for “wampum” before
and was this a trend during the economic crisis?
A lot of interest in our YA books (Stone Pine Press’
and Imaginator Press’
were the frontlist titles we were pushing), but they were also
interested in travel (the two we were featuring were Illustrata Press’
for Use and AzurAlive Press’
26 Gorgeous Hikes in the
And by the close of the show at four, we had written enough orders that
we’d paid for the booth! That’s my standard of a successful show, and we
have another day to go!
So pooped that neither of us felt like urban exploring for dinner (our
favorite Chinese restaurant closed). We went down to the 2nd floor
restaurant for a nice meal and a ridiculous amount of wine. When the
waiter discovered we were staying in the hotel, he filled our one glass
a piece order with almost the whole bottle in two glasses. “Hey, you’re
not driving. And if you don’t finish it here, you can take it up to your
All in all, an OK day!
Sunday Oct 5
|Joel Mikesell of Cypress House, Clare
Bell, author of
and Jacqueline Simonds of Beagle Bay.
Started the day having breakfast with Marty Simonds, Robin’s sister.
It’s always nice to see her, but especially without the wee ones jumping
all over (not that we don’t love our nieces, but they are always
competing for Mom’s attention). Afterwards, she and I went down to the
show to set up for the day. Marty comes every year to cruise the show,
but always has the same guilt attacks about taking books (“Well, who am
I? I’m not going to sell books,” she asks. Um, someone who reads and a
woman who belongs to a book club... plus someone who will take home
books that don’t have to be otherwise disposed of). Very quickly she got
over her trepidation, and we were collecting bulging sacks of books for
Trying something new this year: an
e-catalog on disk, which not only includes all of our titles (covers,
summary, awards, etc), but also a chapter or two of the front-list
books. Most booksellers (about 65%) seem to like the idea. There is some
resistance from those who aren't computer literate. We'll be putting the
listing on-line soon, with first chapters from all the books.
The show on Sunday is dedicated to children’s books. The author
breakfast always packs in the booksellers—and for the first time, there
were lines at the autograph booths.
Clare Bell came in. She is the author of
(for the lengthy road to publishing this 5th in the series took, see the
blog here) and will be doing a signing. She brought some great
props—her pipe cleaner critter (frequently mistaken for Ratha), a wild
cat puppet, and her laptop, with a slideshow of the drawings and skull
mock-ups she did to create the “reality” of the characters (she is, by
day, an engineer).
Clare is an established author, so she is used to the grind of chatting
up booksellers, seeing if they want to do an event and getting interest
in the book. Between the signing and the brownies, we had the attention
of almost every bookseller who came by. One of the booksellers who
showed up asked for a signed book and just stood there smiling when she
asked his name. Suddenly, she exclaimed, “Oh my God! David!” David Nee
is the co-owner of The
Other Change of Hobbit—one of California’s biggest SF and Fantasy
bookstores. He published Clare’s very first story! (For a wonderful tale
of how Clare ended up being published by the grace of SF diva Andre
Norton and the aforementioned pipe cleaner critters,
see here). They are planning an event at the store.
Clare signed books until about 12:30. Then we rearranged the table and
went back to the regular business of selling books.
After lunch, I ran into Bridget Kinsella—who was wearing a
Shelf Awareness badge.
“Oh!” I said as she walked by. I’ve read Bridget’s work in
for years. I don’t know her enough to talk to her. But she stopped when
she heard my outburst and we chatted a bit. That’s when she told me PW
had given her the heave-ho after 15 years. She’s working for Shelf until
she gets a “real job” (her words).
BEA post, you will recall
Leah Waarvick and Emma, her rescue dog narrator for
I Sit and Stay.
She was at the Cypress House booth and of course, Emma was a great
attention getter. It was great to hear that Leah is getting some real
interest from service groups about buying quantities of this terrific
book and kit.
One bookseller who stopped by
(apparently mooching on the brownies and waiting for a friend) joined in
a conversation we were having with Joel Mikesell of Cypress House about
the state of indie booksellers. She opined that most independent stores
will only be in business until their current lease is up. She was one of
several people we met who had moved into a consultancy/specialty
business that takes books to specific groups and company/interest-group
|Clare Bell's pipe-cleaner creation seems
to like the brownies as much as the booksellers!
About 2, Bob Fish (see Friday) dropped by to see his first book trade
show. Having seen Cynthia Frank do her author tours for several years, I
walked him around the floor so he could see how many and varied was the
competition for a space on a bookstore shelf. This would have been a lot
easier had the show organizer not given a microphone to someone who was
doing a “rep picks” dog and pony show that was blasted out over the PA
and you couldn’t hear yourself think. While Bob and I were wandering,
the floor emptied out—no booksellers. They were all with the rep. As so
often happens, many exhibitors started packing up. Bob decided to head
And then, poof! It was 3 and we were done! Robin had packed the car with
our hotel stuff around noon. The tear-down of the booth took very little
time. So in half an hour we were on the road home. We don’t usually try
and drive home after a full day, but didn’t want to pay for yet another
night (since we came in a day early).
Stopped to get gas once we were out of
the Bay-area. For some reason, I got into a conversation with the
convenience store clerk about what I did for a living. Next thing I
knew, I had a customer (never forget your business cards)!
By the time we got to the old
homestead, we were seriously pooped! But glad we had such a good show.
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