The show opened with an address from the Keynote Speaker, Daniel Handler. You may recognize him by the name Lemony Snicket – Mr. Handler is the 'public face' of the elusive author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. He has a new book coming out in early January 2015 called We Are Pirates, but he was more interested in talking about his new Upstream initiative, which encourages authors to reach out to local bookstores and help sellers keep a stock of autographed books on hand since reinforcing the author-reader connection is something independent booksellers can offer that online stores can't. After rallying the crowd by comparing booksellers with pirates, Handler offered a chance for two show attendees to compete to have him do a guest appearance at their store. (Sadly, despite my frantic hand waving I was not selected to participate.) The two sellers had to answer a series of multiple choice and true-false questions; after a hot and hilarious contest Copperfield's Books won the contest. Handler finished his morning by signing ARCs of his book; my copy of We Are Pirates will surely be read in the very near future because who can resist teenage and geriatric pirates cruising the dread waters of the San Francisco Bay?
I had just enough time to run next door and find a seat for the Small and Academic Presses Rep picks. Sales reps from eight different publishers each presented four books that they thought would be the hits of the holiday season. Categories for the books included “Smart Choice”, “Unusual but Lovable”, “Buzz is in the Air”, and “One Book I Want Everyone to Read”. While a lot of the books seemed a bit too...intellectual (there were some university presses) for the crowd our store gets, there were definitely some cool books that I hope my bosses will pick up for the store. (I would tell you about them, but unfortunately I had to turn in my notes to the store owners so I don't actually have the titles in front of me.)
After the small rep picks finished, I had a long break to kill time. There was an author buzz lunch that sucked up most of the show attendees, but I hadn't wanted to pay $35 to go. I had hoped to wander the trade show sales floor, but it wasn't opening until the evening. Instead, I wandered over to Starbucks to buy a sandwich and then curled up on a bench to read until the next session started.
The next education session was “Graphic Novels: Too Legit To Quit”. I love graphic novels, but they haven't been big sellers at work so I was hoping to pick up some tips on how to sell them more effectively. A graphic novel author/artist, a librarian, and a bookseller led a panel. The artist, Thien Pham, made me laugh with his assertion that the novel was dead, and that graphic novels are the future. But he made some excellent points about ways in which graphic novels can be superior storytellers, and reminded me that reluctant readers will often enjoy graphic novels when they won't pick up a regular book. A librarian (I didn't catch her name, unfortunately) discussed her success with graphic novels at her library branch, which has readers of all ages and backgrounds reading comics. The main takeaway I had from her was that graphic novels should be treated the same as any other book – that is, if someone says, “I want a book about World War II and the Holocaust” Art Spiegalman'sMaus is just as valid a suggestion as The Diary of Anne Frank or Elie Weisel's Night. Ann Seaton of Hicklebee's moderated the discussion.
Children's Rep picks was next, and it was hugely popular. I was lucky to get a seat! Again, there were four categories: “Picture This”, “Under the Radar”, “Teen Terrific”, and “One Book I Want Everyone to Read”. There were so many reps that they could only devote a minute to each book, and with the exception of one loquacious salesman who would not stop talking they were all very good about staying within the time limit. (Seriously, that one guy was so bad that I would tune out and as a result we will not be ordering any of his books.) It was really cool, and led very nicely into the Children's Author Tea.
The Tea was the only ticketed event that I was going to attend, so I was really looking forward to it. There were five authors:
Jandy Nelson (I'll Give You the Sun)
Frank Portman (King Dork series)
Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet graphic novel series)
Raina Telgemeier (Sisters, Drama, Smile – all graphic novels)
Scott Westerfeld (Uglies series, Leviathan series, Afterworlds)
I missed a chunk of Nelson's talk because I was trying to find a spot to sit – all of the tables were full but I finally managed to find a chair that no one had wanted because its back was to the authors. By the time Frank Portman was on stage, I had figured my situation out and was fully absorbed. Instead of reading from his book, Portman pulled out his guitar and played us a song (one that his character might write) and midway through he blew out the sound system. Awesome.
Kibuishi and Telgemeier presented together, talking about their graphic novel projects and what inspired them. Kibuishi, who moved to the US from Japan when he was young, fondly remembered improving his English by reading comic books. Telgemeier reminisced about going to bookstores with her father when she was a child.
Scott Westerfeld talked extensively about the young adult authors community, which he “reveals” in his new book Afterworlds, and how the Internet has changed fandom and author-reader interactions in ways he never experienced when he was a kid reading in the 1950s. Of all the authors who spoke, Westerfeld was the only one whose previous books I've read, and I really enjoyed his talk. I think the best thing he said was that Afterworlds is his six hundred page answer to the age old reader question, “Where do you get your ideas?”
As I slipped out of the Author Tea, arms loaded with signed copies of the latest book from each speaker, I stumbled into the show room and quickly realized that publishers were eager to hand me copies of their upcoming releases. I hurried back to the car to drop off the books I'd already amassed during the day, and grabbed a bag to load up. For the next hour and a half, until the show floor closed, I was talking to publishers and sales reps about new books, hot books, books that might appeal to our customers in Los Gatos. I think I had one tote bag stuffed with catalogs and lists of titles, a second tote bag filled with ARCs and finished copies of books for the store's staff to investigate, and a cell phone fully loaded with pictures of books I thought our store might like but couldn't fit into my bags. SO MUCH STUFF. It was awesome. I mean, I'm gonna give most of this stuff to the bosses but I definitely sneaked a title or three into the bag for me.
The one thing that surprised me was that there were not a lot of sidelines sellers present. I thought they'd surely be around, because the Discovery Show is a great way to hit a whole bunch of booksellers at once, but other than a guy selling calenders, a t-shirt/tote bag printer, and a table with craft kits/kid games, it was all publishers.
Anyway, it was really cool. I wish I had handed out more business cards, but for my first publishing industry trade show I think it went pretty well. I learned a lot about the “back end” of the business and will hopefully, now that I'm armed with a bit of knowledge, help get our stores ready for the busy Christmas season.