Michelle Cavalier, Owner, Cavalier House Books
I was terrified to go to the SIBA trade show! I opened my store in September of ’09, and it still doesn’t feel real, so I knew people were going to call me out on it. I thought that people would tell me I wasn’t a real bookseller and that I didn’t belong. Basically, that they would find me out and know my secret. I’m not a bookseller! I’m just a book lover. I don’t know anything about running a business.
And then I got there and I saw it. You are all just like me. Everyone in this business is in it because they love books. Yeah, they may be older and wiser than me and they may have some clue as to what it means to own or run a small business, but really I had nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
The day of education served to solidify this new belief. SIBA is, as the acronym allows, an alliance. The trade show was about being a book lover and learning to be a better bookseller. There were people here to help me learn the business and promotional stuff! I wanted to divide myself into several ‘mini-me’s in order to attend all of the available classes and panels, but alas there is only one of me. However, those I was able to attend were great.
First was “Get in Bed with a Book Blogger” with the bloggers from Beatrice.com (Ron Hogan) and The Book Lady’s Blog (Rebecca Joines Schinsky) as well as Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore and SIBA president. I was so looking forward to this because I am ready to jump in bed with a blogger of my own. What should I expect of her? She of me? They answered it all and I am ready to implement their suggestions in my store and online. Then there was what I called the Malaprops’ Twitter Class. I asked several questions, but they were patient with me. I had no idea how Twitter worked really or the etiquette of it. Thanks to the Malaprops’ ladies I have been significantly more active on Twitter, but I still have a lot to learn (and a lot of first day of school awkwardness to get over).
I also attended two author panels (“True Southern: Books Steeped in the South” and “Cooking Up a Storm: Sharing recipes with readers”) as well as all of the author meals (wherein we did not eat authors, but listened to them speak). From the very first breakfast my TBR pile started growing and by Sunday evening it was taller than I am. How could I ever have been intimidated by these authors? They were all so eager to talk about their work and mine. Everyone was so approachable, and I realized – these are my people! Then the exhibits opened and I saw so many people geeking out over new books. It was so exciting and refreshing to see so many people as excited as I was about exactly the same things. Our collected passion: books!
The final coup came on Sunday morning at the “Good Ideas Breakfast.” I shared my idea of partnering with a local travel agent for literary tours, and they liked it. Everyone was so supportive. They liked my idea and counted me as one of their own. As it turns out, all of my insecurities were unfounded. I am not only a booklover, but a bookseller and business owner. So, thanks to you, my fellow SIBA members, for reminding me why I’m doing this in the first place. See you again next year.