Thom Chambliss, director of Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, recently answered vendor’s most frequently asked questions about PNBA’s Fall Show 2008.
The 2008 show will be held Monday through Wednesday, September 15 to 17, at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn Hotel and Convention Center. For more information, see www.pnba.org.
Q: Are author signing, workshop speaking, and other promotional and educational event opportunities on Wednesday only open to two-day exhibitors?
A: NO, anyone with a fall 08 PNBA badge, including those who exhibit one day, will have access to the entire show, including Wednesday. If you exhibit for only one day, you are welcome to attend the events on Wednesday, you just won't have your own exhibit space that day.
Q: I am a little confused as to how that extra day (Wednesday, the second day ofexhibits) will work.
A: The second "day of exhibits" will have many fewer exhibitors, and those exhibitors will be situated (both days) near the front of the exhibit hall (generally speaking), so that all attendees entering the hall on the second day will need to walk past the exhibitors tables or booths before reaching the Author Promotions area.
There will be authors signing their new books, authors talking about what they will do when they visit a store for an appearance, an author/bookseller/librarian panel discussion about working together, a series of authors talking about their experiences with libraries, etc. etc. I don't know the exact details yet, because I don't know how much space we will have nor what kind of authors will be made available to us, but we have some ideas and I expect that we (PNBA staff) will plan some interesting stuff. The idea is to arrange it so that the attendees will have to walk passed the exhibitors still there on the second day to get to the author presentations.
Q: Who will still be around (on the second day of exhibits), and when are author events planned besides day two?
A: Again, we don't know exactly how many booksellers will stay, but with added author events (and NO signing on the show the first day), we hope it will be a good crowd. Besides the author events on except for the autographing on the floor on Tuesday, which we will not do. There will be a new Autographing Party on Monday night; on Tuesday morning, we'll have the Book & Author Breakfast (with four authors, all books pre-signed). Then Tuesday afternoon, after the show floor has closed, we'll have some autographing, and THEN the Author Feast, featuring twenty authors visiting six different tables of booksellers to talk about their new books.
Q: I don’t really know why booksellers go (to the show). Is it education, free stuff, socializing, or ordering?
A: The booksellers with whom I talk tell me that they LOVE connecting with the reps, most of whom they no longer see in their stores. They also connect with books that they may have missed for whatever reason; find new sidelines that they could use in their stores; attend the education sessions to get new ideas for their stores; gather good info about books that they may have not thought worth their time; and meet authors whom they may want to invite to visit their stores. The author connections are huge for some of our booksellers. Yes, they like the free ARCs, too!
Q: Can you serve good free coffee all day and make the lunch buffet so good nobody would leave for the typical 2-hour lunch?
A: If we can afford better coffee, we will have it! We heard a lot of complaints about the coffee at this facility last year, so I'm looking into hiring a high quality coffee vendor. They're not cheap. Making the lunch buffet "good" is actually a lot more challenging. We're talking hotel food here, but we will try. We are encouraging librarians to visit the exhibits between their educational sessions, so we hope that the lunch time will be crowded with librarians. Again, we'll see.
Q: Why not extend the Tuesday trade show an extra hour, from 8:30 am to whatever?
A: This is difficult, but I appreciate the concept. We have found that we cannot start our Book & Author Breakfast before 8:00 am, or the attendance numbers decline. We want to encourage attendance at the Breakfast, so we don't open the show floor until AFTER the Breakfast ends, about 9:30. It may be easier for us to keep the show floor open later, say until 5:00 pm, but that would cause problems with the dinner event that follows, the Feast of Authors. We rely a lot on bookseller help to produce that Feast, and they need to be there early to work with the authors. I will study the options.
Q: One question regarding authors on the floor for Tuesday: Can we have our authors there for informal signings?
A: SURE!! You can continue to do whatever you want to do in your own booth, or table, or whatever. Just so it doesn't drown out (loud) or crowd out (people in the way) the others around you.
Q: Will you continue Buzz Books as that has proved quite successful for us?
A: Oh, YES, very definitely. And, we hope to add several more events like it. The second day really will be more of an Author/Book Promo Day.
Q: I do think that with smaller exhibit space we will especially need an area for tables and chairs for people to sit and talk, and booksellers to look through catalogues, etc. I can't see protracted discussion at exhibit areas without complicating the area for other exhibitors.
A: Yes, we're aware of that issue, too. It's going to be difficult on Tuesday, the first (and main) exhibit day. The space is very limited. We are hoping to have some areas for sitting and relaxing, eating lunch or whatever, but they may be OFF the show floor, in the lobby or back hallway. It will certainlynot be ideal.
Q: I'd love to get my authors into better contact with booksellers and hope that there will be plenty of opportunities.
A: Exactly: it's author/bookseller and author/librarian connections that we plan to facilitate.
Q: Why have the dates been changed from an end of the week show to a beginning of the week show?
A: We prefer end of the week, that is, Thursday through Saturday, but the Holiday Inn at the Portland Airport was already booked for those days when we inquired. The only days close to our preferred were the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday earlier in the week, so we took them for 2008. Our 2009 contract, in the same facility, is for Thursday - Saturday, September 10-12.
About seven years ago, PNBA conducted a survey of both sales reps and booksellers, asking whether they preferred weekend or weekday shows. Surprisingly, the results were overwhelmingly "We don't care!" We received about 60 responses from booksellers and only three had a preference, two for the weekend and one for weekdays, each saying it was harder to find replacements to "mind the store" on their non-preferred days. We received about 40 replies from reps, and they ALL preferred week DAYS, not the weekend. Those who commented, said they did not want to have to work the weekend, if they didn't have to!
We have held a few shows on weekdays during the last few years, and the turn-outs indicated no lower attendance because of the fact that those shows were held during the week. If we can get a better deal, or if our preferred dates are not available, we feel OK signing for week days, but we still try to get dates late in the week, if we can.