Maybe it was my unquenchable ray-of-sunshine personality (those who know me are now laughing), but Book Expo, held last week at the Javitz Center in NYC, felt distinctly up. I showed at a pre-show nearby for a couple of days before the official show began, which was great, and then the show itself was endlessly busy. Last year, in the same place and time, Friday was a slow day, almost slow enough to allow catching up with non-show sales and show follow-ups, but this year I didn't get a break.
Part of the story is that independent bookstores are back in a big way, and those who always bought bargain books are buying more, while new bookstores are trying it out and older bookstores that never bought bargain before are starting to work it into their business plans. I also felt that there were more international customers at the show, at least shopping with and talking with me. There were quite a few years where I did not see as many as before travel to the USA became such a challenge for many of them, so maybe there is something going on there that makes it easier, or maybe they are just dealing with it, but they were shopping for bargain books this year.
One observation that I had in previous years was also magnified this year, which is that customers who shopped the pre-show were very different from those who did not. The international customers, with a few notable exceptions, do not shop pre-shows and often only shop at Book Expo and other international fairs such as London and Frankfurt. Local booksellers tend to shop the pre-shows more than the official shows. Then there are the exceptions, those buyers who shop the pre-show and Book Expo, spending time and money with the same suppliers at both.
Beating my drum once again, if you are not buying bargain books to sell to your bookstore's customers, here is one more bit to think about. The most successful booksellers in the world (seriously) shop the same bargain wholesalers twice within a few days, spending big money on airfare and hotel bills to do so. Maybe you need to rethink your buying strategies.
More thoughts about trade shows: