PNBA Fall Tradeshow by Susan Colleen Browne

If you’re a small publisher interested in learning more about the publishing and book biz, you can’t do much better than check out the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Association Fall Tradeshow.

While the Portland event seems to be primarily designed to showcase books and authors to booksellers and librarians, small publishers can definitely benefit from the tradeshow as well. As a new author and the owner of a small press, with my first title out this summer, I attended two days of this year’s show, held September 10-12. The first day of the event provides educational sessions in three “tracks” of workshops or panel discussions: one for librarians, one for publishers/authors, and one for booksellers, with a fourth slate of workshops for presentations by publishers’ sales reps. Attendees were welcome to sit in on any track they liked; I attended workshops in all three.

Cynthia Frank, of Cypress House, gave two terrific publisher/author workshops back to back: “Intro for First-Time Publishers and Authors” and “Link Your Marketing & Editorial Calendars for Optimum Impact.” I came away with loads of tips and suggestions for more effective marketing, such as Cynthia’s advice that “editorial ink is better than ad ink.” Len Vlahos (COO of ABA) presented “Going Digital: The Case for E-Books.” This workshop convinced me that not only is the eBook publishing model finally looking viable, but there are big opportunities awaiting booksellers and authors.

“How to Discuss a Book…Club” gave me a chance to hear insights from four notable Pacific Northwest booksellers. They were friendly and accessible, and discussed a myriad of topics beyond book clubs. One was Cheryl McKeon of Third Place Books, who turned out to be my “host” at my appearance at Third Place Books this past Friday! (You see why making connections comes in handy!) The final panel I attended that day was “What Bookstores Expect and Need from Self-Publishers: How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot as You Walk in the Door.” Cynthia Frank, publicist Joanne McCall, Gerry Donaghy, a top buyer from Powell’s bookstore, and David Ash were on hand for more advice; David in particular offered lots of tricks of the trade about working with bookstores, and afterward, the presenters were available for brief one-on-one chats.

The tradeshow itself, starting on Friday, was a revelation—an exhibit hall filled with books—books that are intended as giveaways to booksellers and librarians. As one of the BPNW volunteers, sharing the booth with Adam, Keely and Velani, I was able to see first-hand how the PNBA “buzz book” program works, as well as the larger publishing business. Events like this can often bring you to the right place at the right time: one highly regarded area bookseller expressed an interest in having me appear at his bookstore. After the day of workshops, and another day on the show floor, I decided the event was well worth the time and money.

I came to the show with the goal of connecting with booksellers and librarians; I left with a notebook full of bookseller contacts, a fresh approach for my marketing strategies, and some valuable wisdom: if you’re an author and/or owner of a small press, you can flourish if you’re prepared to be nimble and creative…and when it comes to marketing, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. As Cynthia Frank said so eloquently, “take the path of least resistance.” That is, utilize your personal strengths, and keep your “person power” in mind.

Susan Colleen Browne volunteered at the Book Publishers Northwest exhibit at PNBA Trade Show. To learn more about PNBA and their events, visit their website:

One thought on “PNBA Fall Tradeshow by Susan Colleen Browne

  1. Amber says:

    Hi Susan,

    I’ve been working as a copywriter for PNBA (writing the author blurbs in the program) for the past two years and this year was the first time I volunteered at the Tradeshow. I had a similar experience of awe and fascination with the tables lined with books, authors within arms reach, and booksellers supporting local authors.

    Good luck with your marketing and if you’re in need of a copywriter, let me know!


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