We received the following letter on May 5 from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. Please feel free to leave your comments about these changes.
Dear PNBA rep, publisher and author members,
We are making some very big changes to the fall show this year, and some of it may be confusing to you; so I am writing now to explain the changes, and to ask for your input on ways to help smooth the transition.
As background, last year's show in Bellevue was not well attended. We decided to move the show back to the Portland area, where we historically have had our best attendance.
We also have heard from many of you, and from some of our bookseller members as well, that the exhibits have been too spread out, with aisles much wider than we need and exhibitors too far away from each other. At the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, we used the entire exhibit hall, which was 35,000 square feet, down from 60,000 square feet that we were renting in the Oregon Convention Center. Many of you told me that that 35,000 sq ft space was still too large for our needs.
A large group of you have also suggested (some rather firmly) that we should cut the exhibit part of the show back to one-day, because the traffic in the last several years cannot justify two days. At the same time, many of you have asked that we not produce author events on the show floor during the exhibits, because of the sense that it drew customers away from your exhibits. Finally, in recent years many publishers have shown more interest in sending authors to the shows than they have in exhibiting.
To meld all of these interests into one new show is complicated, and will require adjustments for all of us. This 2008 show will be a trial effort for all of us; I hope that you will all be excited about the changes, and hopeful that they will re-invigorate the shows and our members. Here are the basic changes:
1) The next two fall shows (2008 and 2009) will be held at the Holiday Inn at the Portland Airport, whose Columbia Conference Center has only 15,500 square feet of exhibit space. Not only does this size require that we shrink the aisle space, it also means that our basic tables will be six feet long, not eight feet, and a basic booth size will be 8' x 8', not 8' x 10', as they have traditionally been each fall. (We did use six foot tables at most of our spring shows.)
2) PNBA will save some money using this independent exhibit hall, compared to the amount we spent at the OCC and the Meydenbauer. Therefore, we are reducing the cost of the table and booth space.
3) We are encouraging most vendors to exhibit for just one day, Tuesday, September 16. Those of you who tell us that you really need that second day (mostly independent reps, whose customers often pick up a catalog one day and come back the next to place orders) may sign up for two days, but will pay an additional fee for the second day, and will need to reserve your exhibit space much earlier than the vendors who will exhibit for only one day. After the two-day exhibitor deadline, I will have a short time to lay out the exhibit floor, to determine exactly how much space, in what locations, will be available for other uses on the second day, Wednesday, September 17. Only after those determinations are made will I be able to plan, promote, and schedule the other uses for those spaces.
4) There will be no author autographing on the show floor on the first day of exhibits, Tuesday, September 16. After the Book & Author Breakfast in the morning, there will be no author events and no educational events for booksellers until after the show floor closes Tuesday afternoon at 4:30. The emphasis on the show floor on Tuesday will be completely on the exhibitors. (I would love to hear any of your ideas about what PNBA might do to enliven and promote the exhibits.)
5) The second day of exhibits will now become Author Promotion Day, with those few exhibitors who paid extra for the second day sharing the hall with a diversity of author activities. In addition to the traditional author autographings, we will have authors meeting booksellers to discuss what types of presentation the authors might make when they visit stores, panels with authors discussing how booksellers can help promote their books, and seminars with authors and booksellers discussing how we can all work together to promote book sales. We will scatter the author events throughout the hall, to encourage booksellers to walk passed your exhibits on their way to the author events. And we will plan the author events so that they will not overwhelm the exhibitors who will be writing orders and talking with your customers.
6) We will be inviting a larger but limited number of librarians to attend the show (maximum 100), offering them free education on the first day of exhibits (Tuesday, the 16th) and complete access to the exhibit hall on Wednesday, the 17th. A main "theme" of this year's show will be "Booksellers and Librarians Working Together." I expect that the librarians will share our booksellers' interest in an Author Promotion Day.
As I mentioned earlier, I am anxious to hear from any of you with suggestions about how to make this new venue and schedule work best for you, the exhibitors, and for our booksellers. I will seriously consider any ideas and, if there are no problems with timing, space or expense, we will incorporate them into this year's event. If they are good ideas with problems that cannot be solved before this year's show, staff will discuss them after this show, in hopes of incorporating them into future events. If you have any questions or concerns about the new schedule, please contact me within the next two weeks, that is, before May 16. After the 16th, I will compile all of the concerns and post them, with our responses, on PNBA's web site, so that you may all share them.
To help you understand more completely what we envision for this year's show, we have posted several documents on our web site as pdfs. The links to those documents are at the end of this letter, after my signature.
Thank you for your consideration, patience and participation. We've got our fingers crossed, and hope that these changes will be well-received and will provide you with a re-invigorated show, well worth your time and effort. The PNBA Board has made it very clear to me that the most important consideration for the show is that it remain a valuable opportunity for booksellers to learn as much as they can about the industry and how to sell more books. With your help and enthusiasm, I believe that these changes will keep us working toward that end, and will provide us all with the best regional industry tradeshow possible.
Thom Chambliss, Executive Director
Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association
214 East 12th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401-3245
2008 Show: Monday - Wednesday, September 15 -17.