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2019 ALA Post Show Report

Washington DC, June 21-24, 2019

The most gratifying feedback we receive from librarians at ALA is “what you’re doing is so important.” They’re talking about the fact that we’re at the show to highlight independent books specifically, both when it comes to the titles featured in our collective and through subscriptions to the magazine, which reaches thousands of librarians on top of the thousands we encounter on the show floor. We think it’s important, too.

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Librarians are wont to remind us that there are big hurdles when it comes to adding independent books to their collections. Books that aren’t reviewed are often a no-go; books without accessible distributors face obstacles, too. It’s a challenge on top of the many challenges that go into publishing for the first time, and something that not all first-time authors know to consider. Burgeoning writers stop into our booth, too, asking “what’s the next step?” If their publication dates are yet to come, we let them know about coverage opportunities in the magazine, how books enter into our collective, and why it’s so important to have books reviewed by reputable sources. If they’re touting books that are already out, we’re quick to send them over to our friends at IBPA—an invaluable resource for all small publishers or self-published writers. Marketing, as it turns out, is just as big a task as writing a book itself.

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And we’re there to help with the marketing! Librarians ducking into our booth are always excited to pick up titles they can’t see anywhere else on the show floor: impeccably designed children’s books that cover dreamy adventures or tackle big childhood topics like grappling with feelings proved popular at this show, but so too did titles on navigating the workplace with care and local interest titles about the natural environment. We’ve often read and reviewed the books that we’re sharing, so we’re able to add a personal note here or there: “this author is wonderful about school visits,” we remarked to a school librarian who picked up a middle grade title, and she and the woman next to her both jotted this information down. Many took the cards we provided leading them to our digital catalog, where they can get more information on the books displayed. Follow-up will most likely occur in increased sales through your distributor and the places librarians purchase books. But rest assured, at this bustling show, the booth traffic was as high as ever, and interest in your titles abounded.

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Our location—by Amazon books, C-Span, Oasis Audio, and, as ever, close to the Pop-Top stage—translated to large numbers of people passing by, and those numbers went up even higher when author signings spilled into our aisle. There’s some kismet involved in a reader showing up to meet Kate DiCamillo and winding up introduced to an unexpected title perched on a nearby table, too.

Publishers and publicists we covered in the pages of Foreword stopped in to discuss their upcoming titles and coverage possibilities, and we were excited to hear about what’s coming in winter 2020. It’s aweing that the stream of independent books, always exciting as it moves, also replenishes itself so frequently. We were impressed by what we read on the show floor, and are excited about what’s to come, as well.

—Michelle Anne Schingler, Managing Editor