NCIBA's "Discovery Show" Has Record Attendance, Outstanding Previews



The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (“NCIBA”) held its third annual, trade-only, two-day Discovery Show event recently at the South San Francisco Convention Center. The goal of the NCIBA is “to promote the vitality, diversity and prosperity of independent book selling as essential to the life of our communities and crucial to the dissemination of ideas in society.” This group certainly delivers on every facet of that goal, and this was evident in the centerpiece of this event, the annual NCIBA membership meeting. It is during this time that members come together each year and discuss topics of interest to the independent book selling community.

The other activities taking place during this time are always informative- and usually a lot of fun.  With its educationl workshops, author signings, readings, panels, social gatherings, and exhibition of new, holiday and backlist seasons of some 500+ publishers and vendors of related items, I always think of the Discovery Show as a regional "mini Book Expo."

While the Show draws from over 300 book sellers in Northern as well as Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona, the even seemed even more heavily trafficked this year- even despite the (much needed, but difficult to navigate) heavy downpours visited upon the Bay Area those days.


Grace Bonney signs her new book for fans while Calvin Crosby and Elaine Petrocelli look on

We had over 200 reservations in advance this year,” show co-coordinator, Ann Seaton, NCIBA Administrator, told me on site. “And I love seeing all of my (book selling) people here,” she added. “This is my kind of 'family reunion.' “ 

We had not only a record pre-registration number,” Calvin Crosby, NCIBA's Executive Director, confirmed, “but also record attendance. We had 102 authors and around 750 vendors with a sold-out exhibit hall floor. The (author breakfast and luncheon) events sold out to capacity before the show even opened.” On top of all of that, this year's event featured an amazing list of authors appearing at one of two receptions or participating in various panels. Included in that group were Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and “locals” Anne Lamott, Martin Cruz Smith, Laurie King, and Michael Krasny.

Grace Bonney moderates panel on independent book selling with L-R Elaine Petrocelli, Christie Olsen Day (Gallery Books) and Amy Thomas (Pegasus Books)

One, very special, panel was comprised of women independent book store owners, including Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage (celebrating 40 years in business this year), Amy Thomas (owner of Pegasus Books and NCIBA Board President), and Christie Olsen Day (Gallery Bookshop).  Moderated by Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge and author of Inspiration, Advice and Kicking Ass in Business. these amazing, trail-blazing book sellers tackled topics ranging from gender differences in management style (boys are socialized to be “brave,” while girls are told they need be “perfect”) to their favorite part of being in the book selling biz (great business friends and the ARC's, the ARC's!).


So what, you might ask, would there be of interest to anyone “outside of” the book selling trade? Great question! It is at these kinds of events that a book-loving reporter can get a “first hand” look at what's soon available for holiday sales, and also talk with sales reps and get their thoughts on what is trending and what they feel their “best sellers” might be. And this very valuable information, friends, I pass along to you!


Display of new books at show entrance

This show has an early excitement to it,” Tom McIntyre, sales rep with Hachette Books Group (New York) told me. “It's an opportunity to show some books that might be considered 'regional' and offer buyers more choices.” His picks include The Rolling Stones/All The Songs (The Story Behind Every Track) and a gift book, Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created (which I found quite intriguing).

Simon & Schuster's Cheri Hickmen echoed a “musical” theme, telling me she was especially pleased with her Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run which has just come out and is already showing very strong sales. S&S's book on Bob Dylan is due out on November 15th and they expect this will also do very well. Hickmen is also excited about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's My Own Words. She has reason to be: the book was just featured as “Supreme Style” in this month's Oprah magazine Another title that had her especially percolating is one so new they were only just delivering it to the show floor when I arrived. A special announcement was soon to follow for Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History by Molly Schiot, a "highly illustrated" (Hickmen's words) history of women athletes. So, Hickmen had many reasons to be excited when she told me, “The show is busy, maybe busier than last year,” and that she was seeing “a lot of engagement.”


Chronicle Books booth

As always, Chronicle Books- and Event Coordinator Casie Kolbeck- totally impressed with not only quality but also breadth of publications. Their holiday “picks” are too numerous to mention, so I will feature our “faves.” Two things I would not mind finding under my tree this year are Chronicle's lovely linen tea towels with butterflies on them and their Cookie Advent Cookbook. “The idea for this book grew from Chronicle staffers bringing in and swapping holiday cookies,” Kolbeck told me. What a nice idea! Kolbeck's favorites include a new release of a board book gift set/puzzle of Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, a not-so-kiddies-only book Presents Through the Window by Taro Gomi, (about a Santa Claus who delivers the wrong presents to the right people-my paraphrasing there), and- a great concept- Small Victories Cookbook (Julia Turshen, Grace Bonney's wife) for those beginners who want to learn to cook “special” but not at either an expert or beginner level (each featured recipe has two “branch off” idea recipes to try once a particular technique learned in the main recipe is mastered). Pretty neat! Another beautiful book- and concept- is an adult coloring book, Where the Wildflowers Grow. Chronicle also features many choices of colored pencils, this year offering neons and metallics, as well a gift set that contains its own sharpener. “You know,” Kolbeck told me, “some people don't have pencil sharpeners 'anymore.'” Well said! Might be time for a come-back of all things non-digital, no?

Booksellers traveled from near and far- some simply hopping on BART coming over from Berkeley, such as Books Inc.'s Melanie Knight. Knight was glad to be there. “I've only missed one year,” she told me. “I find something new every year.” This year was no exception as she'd discovered jewelry made from the pages and covers of books. “It's awesome!” she added.

Others came from Los Altos, including Heather Smith who works full time at Linden Tree Books, who said she was “very pleased with the opportunity to sample the spring ARC's. “It's exciting,” she told me, “and very helpful in selling them. I can tell whoever I'm with (at the store) who would enjoy (a title).” Perhaps taking the “prize” for traveling the furthest this year was Ann Kilkenny, owner of Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, and her trustee employee Toni Wheeler. They drove down for the event, not minding the three-hour trip in bad weather one bit. “We were here three years ago,” Wheeler told me, “and we missed last year. We did not want to miss another year. This is a good way to keep track of 'who's who.' To hear authors talk about their own books is very important.” Wheeler also told me she encounters books she wouldn't otherwise read or find, adding, “(The show) is a great way to discover things.” Keeping with a theme!

Earth Water + Sky booth

One vendor with an interesting product that was new to me was Earth Sky + Water, a publisher of regional pictorial nature guides and nature-related items, including beautiful stationery. Located over on “the other coast” in New Hampshire, their first publication was built around the shells of Sanibel Island. Company president Steven Lewers told me they've been in business for three years and this was their first NCIBA show.

Another fabulous industry experience, and I can't wait for the next which will be Independent Bookstore Day, April 29, 2017- an event widely celebrated and open to the public, and well worth visiting:


©2016 Text and Images M. D. Caprario


M.D. Caprario is a lifestyle and features writer working in the Los Angeles, New York, and Bay Areas covering books, entertainment, and people, projects, and places involved with creating goodness in our world.  Reach her at [email protected]



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