|Jackson Square, New Orleans. image mine|
Firstly, Winter Institute: this is the place where 500 independent booksellers gather to share stories about being indies and how to survive and put best practices into place, whether you're a national rock star bookstore like Politics & Prose in DC, or more of a regional indie folk star like the Odyssey Bookshop, which is my store. The only thing we have to pay is our hotel room and our flight and incidental expenses because publishers and wholesalers (thank you, Ingram Content Group!) sponsor the whole damn event for us. We represent a small portion of book sales nationally (figures include online sources such as Amazon and big box stores such as Target or Wal-Mart), but apparently we're tastemakers in the industry and because of that, publishers like to sponsor Winter Institute and invite us out to author dinners and such. Who knew?
What I do know is that Winter Institute is what I most look forward to all year long. I enjoy attending BEA and my regional trade show of NEIBA, but Winter Institute rocks it in a way far beyond the other two. For one thing, it's a fairly small attendance as far as national trade shows go: it's capped at 500 attendees to maintain a sense of intimacy and so that we can break down into manageable groups for further discussion. And while there still is, regrettably, a sense of cliquishness at events like this, the more I attend, the more booksellers I come to know and thus the less I feel like an outsider.
For example, publishers still tend to favor the old guard (or at least their biggest) accounts when it comes to dinner invitations, which makes it difficult for new booksellers to get invited, particularly if they're not the buyer or the events coordinator for their store. In the past I've "inherited" invitations from my colleague Joan (who is definitely a member of the old guard) when she couldn't attend, but this was the first year that I was invited to multiple dinners on what I presume to be my own merit; a situation that I exclusively chalk up to the fact that I was my most active in 2011 for reading & reviewing books for publishers and they finally seemed to notice, despite the fact that I'm neither the events coordinator nor the primary adult book buyer in my store.
Over the next few days, I'll be posting about the Winter Institute and how I took to heart the New Orleans unofficial catchphrase, "laissez les bon temps roulez." In other words, I behaved as if I were a good 20 years younger than I am, but I regret nothing. In the meantime, here are a few shots from our welcome reception at the Louisiana State Museum at the Cabildo in Jackson Square:
|Marika & Joan at the Cabildo|
|One of the displays at the Cabildo|
|Another Cabildo display. It was cool. And HUGE|
|The children's buyer from Books & Books in Florida. All of her tattoos were hand drawn on her by the actual illustrators when visiting her store, which she immediately had inked. I love Otis!|