Adventures with Meeba and Gliba (Report from the Regionals)

Meeba and Gliba may sound like a pair of adorable monkeys from a children’s book, but they’re not: they’re nicknames for two of the ten regional associations of independent booksellers across the country. One stands for MBA (“Meeba”), the Midwest Booksellers Association, and the other is the acronym for the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. Together they cover most of the north central US, from the Dakotas to Ohio, and, like the other regionals, have their trade shows in the fall.  We were present at both shows, which took place on consecutive weekends earlier this month.

As an editor, I don’t usually get to go to the bookseller shows, except for the occasional BEA. But since I have a book coming out in April I was able to attend as an author on behalf of Penguin.  For both shows, I was a guest at the “Moveable Feast” dinners, where my role was to sit at a table full of booksellers and librarians, talk about my book, and then (after about 20 minutes) MOVE to another table and talk some more!

If it sounds like speed-dating, it sort of is—really, the author is courting booksellers to hand-sell his or her book, and the booksellers and librarians are often seeking suitable authors for their events.  It’s not as frantic as it sounds, and it’s really fun. (As authors, we do so much talking that we’re fed beforehand, so that we don’t have to worry about talking with our mouths full.)

And so the Friday morning before last I was in a hotel room in St. Paul, Minnesota for MBA, admiring the river view and getting ready for my first round of book-seller speed-dating. Later I walked over to the convention center (right across Rice Park) and met up with Margaret (our Sales VP at Whitman) and author Michelle Edwards, who was attending the Moveable Feast to promote The Hanukkah Trike from our Fall 2010 list. Michelle and I checked our table assignents, wished each other good luck, and before we knew it we were in an hour-long whirlwind of conversation with folks from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Missouri. Galleys were signed, questions like, “What gave you the idea to write your book?” were answered, and we hope, some new bookseller relationships were forged.

The following weekend—last Friday— I found myself in Dearborn, Michigan for the GLIBA show.  As soon as I arrived at the show I was greeted with a giant stack of galleys of my book to sign—these would be handed out to all Moveable Feast attendees. “Did you bring a favorite pen?” the volunteer at the signing table asked. Luckily I did. (Did I bring a replacement right hand after I wore out mine on this stack? No, I did not.)

At GLIBA the familiar faces were Illinois booksellers from places like Anderson’s Book Shop, Book Cellar, and elsewhere, as well as a handful of authors who had attended MBA (it’s common for authors to do more than one regional).  The show includes numerous panels and discussions about bookselling and the publishing industry. Margaret spoke on one at the last minute, and the Penguin reps I met with before the dinner said she gave a great talk.

Finally, it was time for Feast #2. At MBA, there’d been two authors assigned to each table of booksellers—this time, there was just one author per table, which made it both easier (no need to compete for attention) and harder (you have to talk the whole time). But just like at the Midwest Book feast, each table was full of enthusiastic people—booksellers, librarians, and teachers. They were from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin (yes, Wisconsin overlaps with both regions), and they all were thrilled to talk books.

The show continued through the rest of the weekend, but it was time for me to fly home on Saturday morning.  Just before my ride to the airport I stopped by the trade show floor, admired the publisher booths, and checked in with Margaret, who reported that the Albert Whitman jelly book bands were a hot item. While it’s definitely a blast to be an author and plug your own book, I know from working at Whitman that being part of the bigger picture is just as exhilarating. There’s nothing like spending a weekend—or two, in a row!—with people who love books.

Adventures with Meeba and Gliba (Report from the Regionals)