I had hoped to finish soon enough that I would be able to make it up to NCIBA in time for the Large House Rep Picks, but that was long over before I’d even HB’s. Once I realized that I’d missed it, I took my time getting up to the city, and arrived in the early afternoon.
I cased the trade show floor, stopping to introduce myself to reps and learn a little bit about their books. Over and over I heard them say, “Oh, you’re from HB’s! There’s a lot of you here today.” It was true that we had a very large representation at the trade show. About half of our staff ended up attending one or both days. I got the impression that some of the reps didn’t want to waste their time talking to me because they’d already had conversations with my co-workers. That’s too bad, but what can you do? I can certainly understand that if I’ve just spent an hour outlining the fall picture books with one person from a store, I don’t want to get into it all over again when I could be talking to someone else. So I mostly stuck to introductions.
I had a few key topics I wanted to discuss, things that I think would do well in the store: children’s books on programming, stocking stuffer adult books like the Object Lessons books I’d seen the day before, and graphic novels. If someone had a display for those items, I usually spoke to them at greater length. But as much as I might want to discuss art criticism with the rep of several university presses, I knew I should just introduce myself, take a catalog and business card, and keep moving.
There were some good moments, though. One rep was an absolute sweetheart; when I told him that I had just started as a manager at HB’s he told me to stop by at the end of the show, because he had some books on management he’d be happy to give me. Another rep who sells “bookish items” like Edgar Allan Poe socks and decorative boxes that look like fancy books took a few minutes to talk about buying at trade shows and how it’s different from buying back at the store, and the role of reps – things I had a general idea about but could definitely use education on the particulars.
Every time I spoke to someone, I seemed to leave with a new book in my hand. I filled multiple bags as I trekked back and forth to my car. My plan had been to pass most of the ARCs on to other HB’s employees after I finished them, but after a while I began to wonder if anyone would want them since so many HB staff were already circulating the show.
At 5:00 the Annual Meeting kicked off. There was a brief report on Independent Bookstore Day (successful) and the webmaster revealed the new, improved design for the NCIBA website, but most of the meeting was a tribute to Hut Landon, the outgoing Executive Director. Everything I know about Hut indicates that he deserved all the praise he received and more, but I had not had the opportunity to work with him and had only spoken to him in passing once or twice last year. I wish I knew him better. The new director talked a bit about the plans for the future, but really, it was all about Hut and what a swell guy he is.
NCIBA closes with an Author Reception. There were thirty authors, all of whom were signing copies of their books (provided by the publisher so FREE!) and chatting with guests. I got to have a fangirl moment when I got to Judd Winick’s table; I may have been gushing when I told him that I had loved his comic strip Frumpy the Clown when I was a kid. He was so sweet. When he signed my copy of Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth he drew Frumpy in the book and noted that it was the first Frumpy he’d drawn in Hilo.
I tried to restrain myself. I really did. My car was already full of books and how many more could I conceivably read? But somehow I still ended up taking home over half of the author’s books. I just can’t help it! You start talking to someone about their book, it sounds interesting, and suddenly you’ve got to read it as soon as you get through all the other titles you’ve promised to check out.
It was a very fun and productive discovery show. I met a lot of really cool, interesting people and picked up a mighty pile of reading. I’m so glad that HB’s was able to get me in at the last minute to enjoy such a great opportunity.