Observations from a Trade Show

November 1999
by Sue Robishaw, ManyTracks Publishing

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Having finally unwound from attending my first regional independent bookseller’s trade show, I would
like to share a few observations. Excuse me while I get my soapbox in place….

The pace was intense, with scarce time to think or analyze. For many booksellers, this is the only
event they attend, the only chance to view and get copies of the latest offerings (sales reps don’t
visit the smaller stores and outlying locales).

The large publishers were there in force, and their promotional authors-bags soon could be seen
bulging with signed copies of give-away books and galleys. Mid-sized publishers were represented, but
small publishers were few and seemed to get lost in the crowd.

This immersion in the booksellers’ world was enlightening, especially being thrown face-to-face
with the gritty truth of where we-as small, micro, and nano publishers-fit into that large world. This
is not a pleasant realization, and you have to be willing to look with eyes open, and ego well in

Frankly, booksellers have little need or desire for us or our books. Sure there are wonderful
exceptions, and we tend to gravitate and base our decisions on these friendly booksellers. But they
are not the majority. There are simply more than enough books out there, being published in
overwhelming numbers, throw-away fashion, by the mega-five. When you are surrounded by these (usually)
beautifully done books, you can see why a bookseller is not likely to take on a book that doesn’t look
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