It’s quite late to really report on the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, which was held October 8 and 9, 2011, but I’ll give a quick overview just for the record. Seattle, Washington is a great town for a book fair. The often rainy weather and the ubiquitous steaming mugs of hot coffee help to create the mood that one ought to just stay indoors, warm and cozy, and read books. A LOT of people turned out for the fair, and the room was bustling with more people than I see at many of the California book fairs I do. That said, sales were good, but not great (for me, anyway — the mileage of other booksellers may vary). I would definitely try this fair at least once more before deciding whether or not to put it on my permanent roster of fairs each year.
In many book fair reports, we read about the books, the size of the crowd, whether sales were good or bad, and the amazing post-fair bookseller dinners. One thing most people aren’t writing about is the huge logistical job it is to get one’s books — often prized, unique possessions — to and from the fair safely and economically. Sure, if the fair is close to home, as are most of the fairs I’ve done for the past four years, logistics are easy — load the 22 boxes of books and eight or nine bookcases in your van and go. But if the fair is far out of town and even farther out of state, shipping books and supplies can be expensive. There’s the potential for damage to the precious book cargo, and then there’s the whole aspect of return shipping and getting one’s books from the fair to FedEx (or whatever shipper is available) at the end of the fair. The logistics make my head spin. In the five years I’ve been in business, I’d done only fairs to which I could drive (even driving as far as Los Angeles for the Pasadena and Santa Monica book fairs).
I haven’t reserved a booth at the Seattle Book Fair in past years, because Seattle is quite far from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. If I drove my books there from California, I’d add four days (two days drive each way) to the trip, something in which I can’t currently indulge. And if I shipped my books to the fair and took an airplane to the Seattle, shortening my journey, I would need to purchase sturdy Pelican cases to ensure that the books would arrive undamaged and would also pay pretty large shipping fees. As Seattle is the only fair I currently do that would require me to ship my books, I wasn’t sure I was yet ready to invest in the cases. I initially decided that, once again, I’d have to miss the Seattle Fair.
One day, when I was wandering the aisles of Home Depot on a domestic errand, my cell phone rang. It was Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis. He was looking for someone who would be interested in sharing a booth space in Seattle (he has to ship his books all the way from Maine) and thought to see if I might like to do the fair and share a booth space. Hmm. He made the fair sound so fun, I began to reconsider. If I only had to get a half-booth of books to the fair, that might not be so bad. I explained to Ian that I didn’t want to drive my books to Seattle and that I don’t yet have Pelican cases, but could I think it over?
In the meantime, I called Brad and Jennifer Johnson of The Bookshop in Covina, California. I knew they might be driving to the fair and I knew that in order to get to Seattle they would have to journey from Southern California through Northern California (where I live) and eventually on to Oregon and Washington. (None of my local bookseller friends were driving — most were shipping their books to the fair.) I asked them if they were doing so whether I might drive my books out to Highway 5 (about 90 minutes from my house) and give the books to them to drive to Seattle. I offered money for gas as well as lunch on Highway 5 and a dinner in Seattle. Turns out that Brad and Jennifer were flying to Seattle this year, but their colleague, Roger Gozdecki, of Anthology Rare Books, was driving his books and the books of a few others to Seattle. I worked out a deal with Roger, who graciously offered to meet me at the junction of Interstate Highway 5 and The Known World (aka The Bay Area).
I would not have been able to do this fair without the help and encouragement of my bookselling friends. So, to Ian and to Brad and Jennifer and to Roger, thank you. I couldn’t have done the Seattle fair without your logistical assistance. And to those of you who are new to selling books at book fairs, don’t be afraid to work together with your colleagues to work out the logistics. You may find that with a little help from your friends the load is a lot lighter.
A few photos below:
Book Hunter’s Holiday and Lux Mentis, Booth #506
A close up of one of the shelves in my trophy case:
A few decorative bindings:
My busy neighbors across the aisle, The Book Shop and Anthology Rare Books:
Also nearby, Tavistock Books and Books Tell You Why:
See you in the stacks!