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SIBA19: "Making real connections that last"

Posted By Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, Monday, October 28, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2019

I wanted to enclose some thoughts about my experience at the conference, before too much time passed. To me it was superlatively organized and well-run. I've been on the planning end of conferences and events and I know first-hand how tricky it can be to address all logistics, and from my perspective, as a participant, everything felt very smooth and efficient.

Friday's lunch panel--spontaneous, lively, heartfelt, intelligent--featuring Kimberly, Gilly, Julie, Charlaine, and Akilah--was a definite standout. I loved the panelists' rapport with one another, their diverse backgrounds/writing interests, and their interactions with the audience. 

The discussion between Sharon Robinson and Peggy Wallace Kennedy was momentous and very moving. It was a privilege to witness an event that felt both historical and urgent to our cultural(ly divided) moment.

All of the author lunches and dinners were wonderful. I'm an author, too (Motherest, Twelve/Hachette 2017), and a reader first and foremost, and I loved getting to wear both of those hats, plus my newest, that of a bookstore owner, while listening to debut and seasoned authors discuss their books, their journeys, and their experiences with bookstores. It was affirming to be reminded, time and again, the pivotal role independent bookstores play both in shaping authors' careers and in cultivating culture, discussion, and community. Saturday night's dinner was especially emotional--Jaquira Diaz brought me to tears, and Isaac Fitzgerald kept everyone laughing. 

The trade floor was a dizzying dream. We were thrilled to meet in person our reps, who we'd been emailing with for weeks. We came away with dozens of ARCs and galleys that we've been gobbling up since returning home. It was great to put faces to names, and to take in such great swaths of the publishing landscape.

Lastly, I'll say that the conversations that I had with other booksellers, veterans and newbies, were SO helpful and heartening. Real connections were made that I believe will last. I feel buoyed by the time I spent in Spartanburg, determined to make our store the best it can be, and eager to join such a thriving community. The timing couldn't have been better--we're looking at an early-to-mid November grand opening, so it was a perfect way to reflect, prepare, and brave (joyfully!) for what's ahead.

Thanks again for the chance to attend--it's something we'll look forward to year after year. Best of luck to you as you head into the next chapter.
~Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, AL

Tags:  #siba18 

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A Hurricane of Biblical Proportions Couldn’t Keep Them Away: Steve Moss attends his first SIBA Discovery Show

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Hurricane of Biblical Proportions Couldn’t Keep Them Away: Steve Moss attends his first SIBA Discovery Show

Booksellers, authors, publishers, and industry exhibitors from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama (Roll Tide), Louisiana, Virginia, and of course Florida, descended on the spectacular Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor Florida, just north of Tampa, for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 2018 and its “Make Your Mark” conference.

As a first-time attendee and a Reba and Dave Williams Scholarship Fund beneficiary, I was joyfully overwhelmed with not only abundant southern charm and hospitality, but by a completely packed and extremely well-organized schedule of events including readings, movies, dinners, lunches, exhibitions, lectures, author panels, and bookstore tours, as well as workshops and industry-themed meetings designed to maximize the efforts of what our industry is all about.   

I found myself with writer’s cramp, checking off in my show directory all the events I wanted to be a part of.

Innovation engineer and whiskey maker Doug Hall started things off for me with his “Driving Eureka! Problem Solving with Data Driven Methods and the Innovation Engineering System” workshop. Forcing participants to think outside the box in approaching industry as well as personal challenges, I found this to be an instructive and valuable hands-on workshop, training people to get to a new idea quickly by mapping out their strategy in an easy to grasp methodology.

A tour of the area’s Independent bookstores followed, with stops at the historic, impressive Oxford Exchange, an all-purpose, on purpose, bookstore, coffee shop, restaurant, meeting and event venue, all housed in a 100+ year old building. One of the many wonderful meals of the week to come was served in the restaurant there, with the gracious folks from Baker & Taylor picking up the tab.

On to Inkwood Books, a quintessential bookshop in downtown Tampa, with a knowledgeable and friendly staff, they welcomed us with open arms. I picked up a couple of merchandising ideas there, so if any of the staff happens to stop by my shop, they’ll be recognizable.

Next stop, Mojo Books and Music. This is a time machine of a place, harkening back to the bookstores of my youth, shelves filled floor to ceiling with books, the bookcases sheer weight being supported by wooden shims, actual LP record albums, music CD’s, and a nostalgic display of posters in one of those old time racks you can leisurely flip through. I wish I had budgeted for the signed first edition of “You’re Only Old Once,” by Dr. Seuss they had displayed under glass, but I settled for a store t-shirt and a Blade Runner movie poster. The bus ride “home” was narrated tour guide style by Arcadia Press author Mark Muncy who, as the author of Freaky Florida, filled us all in on some of the more odd histories and mysteries of Florida. I’ve lived in Florida all my life and even learned a few things!

SIBA started off with a bang, or should I say, a Bragg, Thursday morning, with 2019 Pat Conroy Legacy Award Recipient, Rick Bragg. I’ve known Rick for years from his appearances at my store, and he is always on point, a deliberately measured storyteller, and downright hysterically funny fellow. What a treat to see him honored, and to hear his perspective and recollections of Pat.

Various classes, lectures, workshops, escape rooms, and author readings filled the next few days, along with marvelous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, always with an author or authors and most of us attendees seeking out our areas of interest;  in my case, seeking out new roads and discovering new interests, as well as meeting and forming alliances with other booksellers, vendors, and publishers. I got a few good pointers from a class involving AV, which is one of my specialties, but I’m always open to learning new ideas. I didn’t get involved with the “Escape Rooms,” as I would probably still be there, but I understand they were great fun.

It’s also worth mentioning, that all the accommodations and events were housed on the same site so everything SIBA had to offer was within easy reach of anyone walking. Taking advantage of the free shuttle buses provided was also most appreciated for those not used to the 90+ degree temperatures. Wherever we were, we were made as comfortable as possible.

Workshops with titles “Maximizing Pre-Order Campaigns,” “Is Profit a Dirty Word?,” and “Inventory Management,” proved to be invaluable tools for those not normally attached to this part of the business. Events like “The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness,”  “Okra Picks and Their Authors Unite,” and “From the Frontlist to the Bestseller List” proved insatiable to those who love this part of the business. There really were too many great and helpful events to list effectively here.

Sadly, a couple of events were cancelled or abbreviated due to the nasty Ms. Florence, but again, she didn’t stop us from making the most out of all that was presented with quality and quantity. With workshops and lectures ranging in duration from 20 minutes to 4 hours, there was always something going on for everyone.  

Some authors who couldn’t make the trip due to various prior commitments or travel restrictions due to the storm were gracious enough to join us via video presentation; notably, Jarrett Krosoczka, who left the room speechless with his presentation of Hey, Kiddo. His heart-wrenching story of being raised by his grandparents, while his mother wrote him letters from prison, is on display for all to see in graphic novel form. Another highlight for me was the “Writing, Riding, Righting Historical Fiction” session with Amy Stewart, Jonathan Putnam, Signe Pike and Kristina McMorris. Another delectable dinner with a recipe from the book Southern Snacks by Perre Coleman Magness was served, along with readings by B.A. Shapiro, and Mary Laura Philpott was almost too much stimulation for the day. Almost.

Who would have thought Books would go with Bourbon? I’m sure the majority of our literary giants would not argue. The Southern Fried Karma and Blair Publishers event with “Books & Bourbon & Banter” took place in the cavernous Inverness Hall foyer with the theme of “Cultivating Artistic Voices of the New Millennium with a Southern Accent,” was well received.   

Everywhere was a cornucopia of ARC’s, catalogs, pens, pencils, book bags, matchbooks, business cards, snacks, The Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), reps, and of course, Books & Books & Books. Trying to fill my numerous book bags with as much as I could carry for friends and colleagues back home, I must confess, a few choice signed first editions were now destined for my private library at home.

Did I mention southern hospitality and southern charm goes hand in hand with plenty of food? Doughnuts, coffee, cake, tea and snacks were in abundance and within easy reach for all. Every event, workshop and lecture was sponsored by, or presented by, or in cooperation with, SIBA, and Industry heavyweights Baker & Taylor, Arcadia Publishing, BQB/WriteLife, Blair Carolina Wren, Publishers Weekly, Bookazine, BINC, Harpercollins, Flatiron Books, Ingram Content Group, National Geographic Books, Andrea Thome, 83 Press, Penguin Random House, Southern Fried Karma, University of North Carolina Press, and The Reba and Dave Williams Foundation for Literature and the Arts.  

The Friday night “Readers Supper” with the aforementioned Conroy Legacy Winner Rick Bragg was again a highlight, with Rick’s signature, off the cuff entertaining approach to storytelling. Unbelievably, I was seated at the same table with too-many-to-list-multiple-award-winner-and-prolific-author-legend, Walter Mosley, who gave one of his trademark remarkable readings. His latest, John Woman, is receiving the praise it deserves. Martha Hall Kelley, with her story of Holocaust survivors, The Lost Roses, was also a standout. Emcee Doug Robinson from Eagle Eye Books in Decatur, GA, did a great job as host.

The bittersweet after dinner movie, “The Bookshop” was the perfect denouement to the day.

Table after table of books filled with selections from the aforementioned publishing houses dominated Saturday, at least until “The Moveable Feast.” This was an actual feast of yet more food, as over 20 authors relocated from table to table to tell us their stories and allow questions and interact on a personal level with booksellers. We sat attentively listening and eating. I felt a bit conflicted for the authors as they had to rise and switch tables every few minutes to repeat what they had just imparted, but they seemed to love it.

SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell and Assistant Director Linda-Marie Barrett are to be commended for their organizational perfection and well-executed schedule of events at this landmark conference, as well as organizing the spacious and comfortable accommodations for all us attendees. I overheard nothing but positive responses from all those I interacted with.

I was back on the road home in the late afternoon, after having as many books as I could get signed by the authors, my car trunk packed with ARCs and ephemera, and my head swimming with everything that had transpired over the last 4 days. Rarely does one get afforded the exquisite pleasure of a literary experience such as this. Stories and ideas for stories, fondness for new friends and old, remembrances of authors known and newly discovered, coupled with thoughts of how I could improve my own bookshop’s ambiance, relationships with customers, and of course, sales, swirled around in my head. Crossing through the Everglades on my way back to Miami, with the soundtrack of the journey over the radio provided by Kenny Chesney, Phil Vasser, and Josh Wilson, I had plenty of positivity taking root, including the notion of someday writing about this experience and wondering perhaps about spending my retirement years playing golf at the immense Copperhead Course at the all-inclusive, self-contained, relaxing, Home of the Valspar Open, Innisbrook Golf Resort!

SIBA left its MARK on me!

See y’all next time!

Steve Moss

Events and Store Manager

Books and Books

Coral Gables, Florida


Tags:  #siba18 

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#SIBA18, Y'all!

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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Bookseller Sami Thomason Reflects on an "Absolutely Unforgettable" #SIBA18!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Bookseller Sami Thomason Reflects on an "Absolutely Unforgettable" #SIBA18!


My first SIBA show was absolutely unforgettable! From William Joyce's tear-jerking speech about the end of the Guardians series to Rick Bragg's side-splitting acceptance of the Pat Conroy Legacy award, I was constantly amazed by the brilliance of the many authors who spoke. I loved catching up with old friends like Jo Watson Hackl and Jimmy Cajoleas, who have both held events with Square Books, Jr., and making new connections with authors I have admired for years, such as Roshani Chokshi and Max Brallier. Only at SIBA can you grab a glass of wine and run into your literary heroes!


I thought the sales floor would be an overwhelming experience, but thanks to guidance from the SIBA staff, I navigated my way through all the amazing exhibitions. It was great seeing my sales reps and meeting their cohorts and getting the very best recommendations. In fact, my greatest triumph at SIBA happened on the exhibition floor when I won a cake at the cakewalk, and quickly made friends with everyone on the floor; there was too much cake to take back on the plane! I now have sweet memories of delicious cake and armfuls of books and catalogs to dig into. 


What sets SIBA apart from other conferences is definitely the element of Southern hospitality. Every bookseller I met immediately put me at ease and made me feel like we were old friends. I've got a list as long as my arm of stores I want to visit; I'm coming for you, Octavia Books! As a fairly new bookseller, I'm so grateful at SIBA who made me feel so welcome. Hopefully I'll see everyone next year-can we meet at the pool? 


Some facts about Sami:

Store and location: 

Square Books, Jr., Oxford Mississippi

Number of years as a bookseller: 


What you do at the store:

Teen and event buyer, book box curator, social media coordinator, book club liason

What book(s) are you reading?:

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi and Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Favorite handsell right now:

Sadie by Courtney Summers-a genuinely chilling mystery with an amazing podcast element.



Tags:  #SIBA18  Square Books 

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#SIBA18: The Rep Picks

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2018

#SIBA18: The Rep Picks

The Rep Pix 

It was a fast and furious "Rep Picks" session at #SIBA18, where about 20 reps ran lightning-fast through their favorite books of the upcoming season. Since each Rep got 2 minutes to talk and not a second more (ask them), the all did some pretty fast talking. Booksellers heard about 90+ books in 60 minutes. No one stopped to breathe.

Here's the collection on Edelweiss from Slime to Super Potato to the Southern Lady Code and back again:

Tags:  #siba18  rep picks 

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Saving the Best for Last? Food, Fun, and Books Galore at Our Moveable Feast of Authors!,

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, September 3, 2018

Saving the Best for Last? Food, Fun, and Books Galore at Our Moveable Feast of Authors! 

Close out an amazing #SIBA18 by attending one of SIBA booksellers’ perennial favorites; the Moveable Feast. What’s better than hanging out with your colleagues, eating lunch, and hearing about new books? Maybe listening to more authors, at lower decibels, and no shouting to be heard. Because this year, there’s a twist! 20 authors get 90 seconds to present to the entire crowd. You will not miss out on a single author or a single book, as lunch ends with author signings. What fun, and what a deal!


Still need a ticket? No problem! Email


Tags:  #siba18  Moveable Feast 

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Where Do YOU Want to Be at 730am on Saturday at #SIBA18? At our Breakfast Roundup of Authors

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, September 3, 2018


Where Do YOU Want to Be at 730am on Saturday at #SIBA18? At our Breakfast Roundup of Authors!

It isn't a SIBA Discovery Show if you're not burning the candle at both ends. As we enter the home stretch on Saturday, it's so worth getting up to hear this fabulous roundup of some of SIBA's favorite authors. Enjoy coffee and breakfast with MC Errol Raymond Anderson of Charis Books & More of Atlanta, GA as they introduce Rob SandersStonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution, Patti CallahanBecoming Mrs. Lewis, Ethan LongFangsgiving, Lisa UngerUnder My Skin, and Kiese LaymonHeavy: An American Memoir. This breakfast also includes a Recipe Sponsorship from University of North Carolina Press by Sara Foster, chef and author of Pie: A Savor the South Cookbook. Get caffeinated, well-fed, and inspired. Then go hit the show floor from 9-noon! Need a ticket? Email

Tags:  #siba18  breakfast roundup 

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On the Exhibits Stage at #SIBA18: The Rise of Alt Science Fiction & Fantasy

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, September 3, 2018

On the Exhibits Stage at #SIBA18: The Rise of Alt Science Fiction & Fantasy

SFF is more than a one-trick unicorn: we are seeing a smart evolution in one of literature's most popular sub-orbital genres. Even if you don't read science fiction, it's hard to ignore the critical attention that the new crop of alt SFF is generating. Whether it's a foray into the mildly dystopic future, and exploration of Afrofuturism, a re-imagined world under some of the harshest authoritarian principals at work on Earth today, SF is edging so much closer to science faction. Alt SFF is worth paying attention to- so as we navigate an increasingly dystopic present day, how can your store foster informed escapism by recommending hottest new titles in the SFF scene, cultivating sales to lit lovers and genre readers alike? Don't miss this panel discussion on Friday (9/14) on the Exhibits Stage in the Inverness Ballroom from 11am-noon. 

Moderator: Caroline Perny, (Senior Publicist at HarperVoyager)
Nicky Drayden (Author of TEMPER and THE PREY OF GODS)
Lucia Drinkwalter (Bookseller at Flyleaf Books)
Beth Seufer Buss (Community Outreach and Bookstore Manager at Bookmarks)
Jessica Osborne (Bookseller at E. Shaver)




Tags:  #siba18  Bookseller education 

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One of this Year's Premier Events: The SIBA Supper!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, September 3, 2018

One of this Year's Premier Events: The SIBA Supper!

One of our premier events, the SIBA Supper on Thursday night (9/13) at 8PM, brings together authors SIBA booksellers adore! Host Will Walton is the author of Okra Pick and SIBA bestseller, I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain. Will is also a bookseller at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA.


He’ll be introducing B. A. Shapiro, author of The Collector’s Apprentice. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own. Author Dawn Tripp praises Shapiro’s newest as “an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia.”


We’ll also hear from T. R. Simon, author of Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground, a powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood adventures that explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery. T. R. Simon is the co-author, with Victoria Bond, of the 2011 John Steptoe New Talent Author Award winner Zora and Me. 

Mary Laura Philpott, loved by SIBA booksellers for her earlier work Penguins with People Problems, will discuss her new collection of essays, I Miss You When I Blink. Philpott is the founding editor of Musing, the online magazine of Parnassus Books, as well as an Emmy-winning cohost of the show A Word on Words on Nashville Public Television.


This year’s  SIBA Supper features a Recipe Sponsorship from University of North Carolina Press from Perre Coleman MagnessSouthern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors. Magness is based in Memphis, Tennessee and is the cook and writer behind the websiteThe Runaway Spoon, which focuses on creative recipes with a Southern Slant.


Need a ticket? Email

Tags:  #siba18  siba supper 

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Wine & William & The Lost Country: A Celebration of William Gay at #SIBA18!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Friday, August 31, 2018



Wine & William & The Lost Country: A Celebration of William Gay at #SIBA18!


Here's a late-night event worth staying up for: a celebration with wine, song, and story of William Gay's The Lost Country. Join us for a fifty minute stage production of the stories of William Gay and the songs by his favorite songwriters, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and Townes Van Zandt. Sip wine while authors Patti Callahan, Anthony Grooms, Jana Sasser, Jon Mayes, and Shari Smith, writer of the show, read from The Lost Country, William's last manuscript. Music is by Eric Erdman and Eddie Heinzelman. Be steeped in the magic of William Gay's literary world, which Kirkus Review describes as "full-on Southern gothic."


Thursday, Sept 13, at 10pm in the Stirling Ballroom East, no ticket required!



Tags:  #siba18  William Gay 

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