by Lisa Pell
In this election season, with all the talk of red states and blue states, last weekend at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance conference in Naples, Florida I saw a mixing of the two in a perfect shade of – purple.
And in this blog about North meeting South, the South wins.
One of the most fascinating scenes this newbie author witnessed, one every new writer should consider trying to observe, in the flesh, not on Facebook, was a session where the New York publishing industry reps presented their wares to independent southern booksellers. Each publishing house had four minutes to showcase its line of books, and the bell tolled mightily when the time was up for major and small publishers equally. Somehow a literary Gong Show struck me as a bit of an oxymoron, but maybe my naiveté regarding the publishing industry was simply moronic.
This scene brought home for me the epic nature of the struggle not only to get a book published, but sold. And these booksellers know their business – you could see the grit and gleam in their eyes as they scribbled notes on the hot hits to buy. To have survived the ravages of the publishing industry over the past few years and continue to maintain faith in the valiant cause that is the promotion of literature has taken almost Scarlettish determination to never go hungry again.
These booksellers rocked. I had a blast chatting up folks on various excursions, in the free-for-all that was the exhibit hall, on the Sunset Deck, at the hotel bar, and in the various meeting rooms where so many talented authors and experienced marketing hands shared their considerable wisdom. But most of all, where the conference truly gelled for me was in something called The Moveable Feast. These southerners really were determined not to go hungry again. The luncheon was billed as a sort of speed dating for authors in their courtship of booksellers. As one of about two dozen authors chosen to participate, each of us had seven minutes to pitch a table of booksellers, then the voice behind the mighty microphone beckoned us to move on. I could have danced this SIBA Shuffle all afternoon – didn’t even miss the beach other than a longing glance from my hotel room window as I left, wishing I could have stayed another night. Rather, this was about a novelesque type of Beach Music, the sounds of impressions and connections being made to the rhythm of table talk. The appropriately colored haze swirling about my head as I endeavored to avoid sounding like a repetitive robot was thankfully limited to my imagination.
What a colorful mix of people I was fortunate to meet, so diverse, but with the same collective purpose – selling books.
Power to the purple!