Monday, October 17, 2011

What I learned at NEIBA

What an inspiring weekend! I'm a little giddy, just thinking about it. The highlight I want to share with you is from my first trip to the New England Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference. NEIBA is a three-day event where indie booksellers get together to learn, grow their businesses, and think about coming trends & how to serve readers well. It's a celebration of loving books, appreciating the value of stories, and understanding the feeling of possibility we have when we plunk down our cash searching for something (entertainment, hope, new perspective, education...) in words someone has written on a page.

(Searching for a picture to go w/this post, I found these words from Boston Book Bums, describing last year's conference: "books are a fascinating beast. They are both solitary and communal. They are personal yet commercial at heart. We often read alone, in a vacuum, yet are eager to share and talk about our beloved books in groups. Yet the chance to really socialize, to branch out in a “uber-book” environment is what makes expos like wonderful. Gatherings are the social flesh and blood hub of writers, publishers, agents, buyers, sellers and readers... One cannot plant a seed without going into the field." Exactly!)

Friday, I went into the field! I'm not a bookseller (although I'd love to be, even in these strange times!) so I went as a blogger/book reviewer the third day, to the expo-style event where publishing houses set up displays to share advance copies and build buzz about their new titles. And what I experienced there was so wonderful: the book world working the way it's meant to. Here's what I mean...

At each publisher's table, I introduced myself as a blogger who likes to review mostly memoirs and upmarket women's fiction. At the first table, I was given two books that seemed like good fits. The second table was Hachette (my publisher), and I must admit that I was thrilled when the sales rep saw my name badge and said, "'re one of our're family!" But I got more than a nice "atta girl" from that table. After the rep graciously handed me a big bag for books and said, "You'll need this!" something his colleague said (I don't remember exactly what?) prompted me to change my question. I said to the them: "Never mind what I usually read and review. What are YOU super excited about this season? Tell me about it!"

This change of question led to a fun conversation there, and at every table...and the most bizarre array of new reading material I could possibly imagine. For those of you who enjoy book recommendations/reviews, we've got a wild ride ahead! And I met some of the neatest people, including one woman who I've known via Twitter for months (we both kept saying, "I know you from somewhere...but where???")

I left with that Hachette bag FILLED with books...and a sense that my world had expanded.

So TODAY I'm wondering: what can this teach me about the other interactions in my life? I tend to look for commonalities--points of connection--with people I meet. But what if I simply asked, "What are you super excited about right now? Tell me about it..." and waited to see where that took us?

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