Monday, April 27, 2009

Emily's Highlights from the trenches of LA Lit Culture

From a bookseller's standpoint, the LA Times Festival of Books is a lot of work. You spend a few weeks gathering supplies and inventory, and it is one of those rare opportunities where you get to decide just what it is that will define your store to thousands of potential new customers and faithful regulars. Then you get up early several days in a row, carry lots of boxes, cover all of your beloved books with dew-repellent tarps, and hope for exactly the weather we got this weekend.

Because we really wanted our booth to have the same curated feel as our store, fine-tuning was essential. We brought signed copies from past events, books for upcoming events, edgy fiction and rare gems from small presses, a spinner of Hard Case Crime books, heady titles from university presses, and kids books that reflect our refined tastes. Interestingly, staff picks didn't seem to help or hurt -- what really mattered was the visual. People were looking at books all day in 100s and 100s of booths, and if you could catch their eye with something they hadn't seen before, they might stop by. The goal was to have a few titles they might come looking for, and lots that they won't see anywhere else.

One of my favorite quotes came before our booth was even open: as we were unpacking boxes, a finals-addled UCLA student asked, voice all full of awe and wonder, whether "ALL of the books in your store are like THIS?"

I only had the pleasure of attending one panel, Publishing 3.0, which was phenomenal. I haven't mentally distilled it quite yet, but let's just say that it had the potential to be everything the ill-fated SXSW publishing panel was not. They only true limitation was time.

Other highlights included the Granta party at Equator Books and a successful tweetup at the Skylight booth with my idol Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull and Counterpoint. And the icing on the cake, quite literally, was at the end of my last shift, when a coworker (whose father happens to be a bigshot fiction writer) gave me her VIP wrist band. I snuck into the VIP lounge and had the most amazing free brie, free mini sandwiches, and don't even get me started on the free chocolate cake. They sure know how to treat their VIPs!

I think that #LATFOB gives us an idea of what BEA might be like if it were open to the public. I'm a fan of opening up the final day of BEA. At the Publishing 3.0 panel, Richard Nash suggested that 20th century publishing was really about perfecting the art of supply. In order to survive this transition into the 21st century, Nash suggests that honing in on customer demand will be the key. To this relative rookie, it seems that BEA still falls more on the supply side: we are talking amongst ourselves, various points along the book supply chain, about how we can all work together -- an important and undoubtedly exciting task. But as booksellers, our role is really that of intermediary between authors/publishers/publicists on one hand and readers on the other. And unlike BEA, where we booksellers often have to be the voice of our customers, the Festival of Books brings all of these parties face to face.

L.A.'s Literary Culture

Props to Emerging Leaders Council member Emily Pullen (Skylight Books), who is quoted in today's Los Angeles Times article on the LA Times Festival of Books:

"It's a misconception that L.A. is not a book town," said Emily Pullen, a manager for Skylight Books in Los Feliz, which has a booth at the festival with edgy fiction, handmade zines and graphic novels for sale. "It's got an amazingly rich literary culture. New York is the home of the big publishing houses. But there are so many great, amazing and energizing authors who live in L.A."

Some of us New York booksellers (hi, it's me Jessica!) were awfully jealous of the literary goings-on in L.A. this weekend. And it's awesome to see a mainstream newspaper acknowledge the huge number of booklovers out there (surprise, reading isn't dead!)

Congrats to Emily, Skylight, and all the participants in the rich literary culture of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reasons Frontline Booksellers Should Go To BEA

Book Expo America is happening in New York City, May 28 - 31. If you work as a frontline bookseller in an independent bookstore, here's why you should come.

1) For your future.
This is where you'll meet the people you'll be working with for the next 20 years. It may be where you meet someone who will give you your next job, or connect you with someone to help you do your own job better. It's where you'll establish the relationships that will give you a chance for a long-term career in the book industry, whether in bookstores, publishing, or elsewhere.

2) For the parties. Duh. Even if you didn't get the embossed invitation (that probably went to your boss), you will have the opportunity to go to dinners, cocktails, beerfests, maybe even the odd dance party. (Here's your first invitation: Emerging Leaders party, open bar, Wednesday May 27 -- time and place to come!)

3) For the free stuff. Maybe you already get lots of galleys sent to the bookstore -- but nothing like this. While it's good advice not to load yourself down too much with swag, it definitely makes sense to take advantage of some of the book giveaways (and tote bags, notepads, keychains, buttons, and figurines, if you're into that) publishers are offering specifically for handselling booksellers like you.

4) For the education. The ABA's Day of Education is second to none in terms of professional development for booksellers -- go to the sessions on Thursday, and you WILL be a better bookseller by the end of the day. And the education offered by BEA itself is nothing to sneeze at, either.

5) For your Next Great Read. The books for this summer, fall and winter will be arrayed for your discovery -- you might find the next novel by your favorite author, or some serendipitous great book you've never heard of. (Kind of like browsing in a bookstore, for bookstores.)

6) For new vendors and products. You might not be the buyer in your store, but that doesn't mean you can't discover a great new indie press or sideline manufacturer to bring back to your store. Your eye for the new is as valuable as anyone's.

7) For encounters with authors. Sherman Alexie? Richard Russo? Stephen Tyler? Whoever you're crazy about, chances are you'll have a chance to shake their hand and have them sign your book -- or just hear them rock out in their own inimitable fashion.

8) For putting faces with names. You talk on the phone to your sales rep, you email with publicists, but there's nothing like meeting face-to-face with your professional colleagues. Your interactions afterward will be more interesting and better.

9) For New York City. Yeah, it's an expensive town -- but it's also one of the greatest cities in the world, the center of book publishing, and home to a ton of great indie bookstores. Whether you wanna squeeze in a visit to the Strand, the Met, Prospect Park, or FAO Schwartz, you'll be in the place to do it. It's got a kind of energy that's completely unique.

10) Because the badge is free. If you're a young bookseller and you email the Emerging Leaders Council, we can hook you up with a FREE pass to BEA, for a single day or several. All you have to do is get here (and we can even help you out with somewhere to stay.)

There are plenty more reasons to come to BEA this year. What are some of your favorites?

Friday, April 17, 2009

EL represent at BEA (and FREE passes!)

Your Emerging Leaders Council members (as well as the younger generation of booksellers as a whole) looms large in the recently announced program schedule for ABA's Day of Education for Book Expo 2009. Here's where you can find us on Thursday, May 28:

- Jennifer Laughran (EL rep, NCIBA region) talks about Book Club Brainstorming

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (EL rep, NAIBA region) talks about Bookstore as the Third Place: Making Your Store a Community Center Through Innovative Events

- Jen Northington (EL rep, MPBA region) talks about Going Digital: An Industry Discussion on Selling E-Content

- Megan Sullivan (EL rep, NEIBA region) talks about Social Media and the Independent Bookseller

Want to join us in NYC for the Day of Education and all the buzz of Book Expo? Email us! The Emerging Leaders Council has a limited number of free passes to BEA available for Emerging Leaders booksellers. And if you need a place to stay, you can get in touch with the couchsurfing network through Ning, Twitter, or via email. See you at BEA!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Couch Surfing BEA '09

Book Expo American 2009 is fast approaching (May 28-31), and this year (and probably the next few years) it's happening in NYC. Booksellers will be descending on the city from all over the country to partake in the conference. This year, registration is free for booksellers -- but they'll still need a place to sleep. Since bookstores may be cutting travel costs, Emerging Leaders booksellers may be unable to afford hotel rooms.

What to do? Well, there are a couple of options! You could pool resources with other booksellers or find a comfy couch to crash on (or provide one!). How to find those booksellers? Emerging Leaders has you covered.

The Emerging Leaders Council will be working on pairing booksellers in need of trade show accommodations with those who have places to offer. Need a place to stay, want to pool funds, or have a couch on offer? Email us at, join our Couch Surfing BEA group on Ning, or follow #BEAcouchsurf on Twitter.

This is a chance to foster the camaraderie and professionalism of our industry, learn about how other bookstores operate, and maybe make new friends and contacts in bookstores outside the city. At the very least, you'll have someone to show up at parties with.

See you at BEA!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Inaugural Post!

Welcome to our new blog! It seems appropriate to start with our official mission statement:

Emerging Leaders aims to develop, retain, and support the independent book industry's future innovators and leaders, through peer support, networking, mentoring, and education. Emerging Leaders is tailored, but not restricted, to booksellers age forty and under, who are determined to work in the industry and who demonstrate a passion for bookselling.

Emerging Leaders works with the American Booksellers Association to create projects, programming, and a peer group for young independent booksellers. The nine members of the Emerging Leaders Council will be blogging here about events, projects, and other stuff of interest to our constituents. You can find more details about us on the Emerging Leaders website.

Welcome, young booksellers! On to the future of books!