SIBA 2016, Savannah, GA

This year's Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) trade show was held in Savannah, Georgia.

Before I tell you about the show though, here's a bit of the town's fascinating history.

 Savannah's recorded history begins in 1733. That's the year General James Oglethorpe and the 120 passengers of the good ship Anne landed on a bluff high along the Savannah River in February. Oglethorpe named the 13th and final American colony Georgia after England's King George II.

Savannah became its first city.

Savannah was named for the Savannah River, which probably derives from variant names for the Shawnee, a Native American people who migrated to the river in the 1680s.

The plan was to offer a new start for England's working poor and to strengthen the colonies by increasing trade. The colony of Georgia was also chartered as a buffer zone for South Carolina, protecting it from the advance of the Spanish in Florida.

Under the original charter, individuals were free to worship as they pleased and rum, lawyers, and slavery were forbidden.

This is the view from our hotel, the Hilton Savannah DeSoto, looking east toward the Atlantic.

Looking northwest toward South Carolina, just on the other side of the bridge.

The "before" photo of one of the two large exhibit rooms where publishers display their latest and forthcoming titles. Our tables are right up front just waiting for me and my box cutter to get to work.

And voila! Here we are all ready to meet the booksellers. I represent Ingram Content Group, Perseus Distribution, Publishers Group West and Legato Publishers Group.

Here I am with Katie Glasgow, our kick-ass and formidable telesales rep.

One of the highlights of the show, called Rep Pix, is when the reps get two whole minutes to talk to booksellers and focus on books they feel will do especially well once they are published. This was my view from behind the podium. Nicki Leone, from SIBA, the cruel timekeeper, is about to put the kibosh on poor Harper/Collins rep Eric Svenson as he desperately tries to talk about 156 books in 120 seconds.

I, who am in general much more sensible than Eric, chose two of our big Southern books to highlight. Each book took 1 minute:

The Homeplace

J. Drew Lanham


Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, SC has been home to generations of Lanhams.

In this thoughtful memoir readers meet Drew Lanham himself.

As a child, as his passion for nature and birds takes flight, he finds out what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity”, to find freedom in a land his ancestors were tied to by forced labor and then to be a black man in a profoundly white vocation.

And this from the creator and writer of The Shoe Burning Show, and Book Evangelist, Shari Smith:

Know this- whatever you need me to do to sell as many copies of The Home Place as I can, I will damn sure do it.

I will sing its praises.

I will drive around with a sign on my car.

I will chain myself to the door of every bookstore in the South until they 1) order 50 copies, 2) sell 50 copies, and 3) order 100 more.

I mean what I say.


By Michael Knight

I thought a long time on the best way to describe Michael Knight’s new book, Eveningland, but in the end, accepted that this now famous blurb from Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, just said it all.

Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200

You will get that $200 back as soon as you read and sell a bunch because you are going to 

I don't give shout outs to books very often.  I like to save my voice until I have found something particularly special.

 These stories will speak to you, break your heart, heal your soul.  This book is a perfect thing.

Please pick it up.  Please read it and share it.  Nothing like this has come out of the South, or American letters for that matter, for a very long time.


Thank you, my fellow book lovers.  We can move the needle on this one.

 Thank you, again.

Rock on brothers and sisters!  See you in Savannah!

Bang! The show starts.

During the "First 180 Days" party, the entertainment was provided by the legendary band, The Difficulties who hail from Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC. Band members included Mark Engebretson, Rachel York and his own generation's Mick Jagger, Brian Lampkin.

Caught in a hallway is your servant and the general manager of Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC, Linda-Marie Barrett.

And just because she is so gosh darn attractive.

And speaking of beautiful people, we have Jaime Fiocco and Banshion Simmons from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.

One of the most sought after publisher dinner invitations was for this gathering to honor three of Grove/Atlantic's Fall season's stars at Noble Fare restaurant.

 Here is, from l-r our friend Jamie Fiocco again, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Perfume River, Robert Olen Butler, Stefani Beddingfield from Inkwood Books in Tampa, ACappella Books's owner Frank Reiss, Zarah Wetmore from the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines NC, the lovely Katie Glasgow and Jeff Hipsher from Tallahassee's new Midtown Reader.

And in the other dining room we have the author of Bandit,  Molly Brodak, Tom Lowenburg from Octavia Books in New Orleans, the Country Bookshop's Damita Nocton , dinner host and Grove Atlantic's Director of Publicity, Deb Seager, Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens GA, author of Eveningland, Michael Knight, and Kelly Justice from Fountain Books in Richmond VA.

Michael Knight getting a round of well-deserved applause.

The incredibly suave Frank Reiss.

Back in the exhibit halls we have Harper/Collins's star rep Eric Svenson.

The legendary Jim Barkley of Southeastern Book Travelers with a very pretty friend.

From Writer's Block Books in Winter Park, FL, Lauren Zimmerman and Southern Territories Associates "go to" man, Geoff Rizzo.

Busy, busy, busy.

Jen Reynolds from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has her eye on me.

On Friday night there was the well attended SIBA Supper.
That's Cindy Norris from Malaprop's and Sara Look from Charis Books in Atlanta GA on the left.

Two of my colleagues from Ingram, Customer Care Manager, the lovely Celeste Winters and the very debonair Josh Floyd.

Columbia University Sales Consortium Manager Catherine Hobbs who has bragging rights as the mother of the cutest little girl at the show.  

Frazier Dobson from Como Sales has a serious discussion about how dangerous gnomes are becoming with Linda-Marie Barrett.

Ed Southern, Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers' Network with Fiction Addiction's Jill Hendrix.

Another crack rep from Como Sales, Gail Whitten.

Steven Wallace talks about fairies, Rumi, tarot cards and the advantages of buying from New Leaf Distributing.

A true Gentleman and Scholar, David Godine of David R Godine Publishers.

Malaprop's Linda-Marie Barrett, Will Walton from Avid Bookshop in Athens GA and Star Lowe from Starline Books in Chattanooga discuss their favorite cocktails.

Representing Shelf Awareness were the suspiciously happy Kristianne Huntsberger and Neil Strandberg.

The American Bookseller's Association sent their best, Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger.

Bess Dickens Kelpin from Random House Kids, Octavia Books owner's Judith Lafitte, Tom Lowenburg, Penguin/Random House's Doni Kay and Kelly Justice.

Pam French from BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, is being interviewed by Caleb Zane Huett from award winning Avid Bookshop in Athens GA.

Ingram's finest, Robb Soriano, Josh Floyd and again from Avid Bookshop, owner Janet Geddis. Way to get in the picture Josh.

The very lovely and talented Lady Banks from Lady Banks Bookshelf, aka Nicki Leone, from SIBA.

Jill Hendrix, Linda-Marie Barrett and also from Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, Cindy Norris.

SIBA volunteer Steve Jewell, taking a mug shot of Barbara Smalley, from Call Me Ishmael at SIBA's "Bookseller Crimes" Photo booth.

The beloved Toni Hetzel from Penguin Random House.

Nearing the end of the show were the drawings for prizes. Booksellers gather to hear who got lucky.

Hoping to win at the raffle is SIBA's upcoming president, and Eagle Eye Bookshop owner, Doug Robinson.

Here is SIBA's very own Wanda Jewell, the genius behind all that make these shows so successful. She is about to announce the winner of the raffle.

Another great SIBA show behind us. It was good to see old friends and make new ones.

Our last night in Savannah, a spectacular moon rise.


Jim Kelly said…
Awesome blog, Jon! Brought me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, traveling FL, peddling RH, K and P. So much of what books do is embodied in the relationships kept alive at regional gatherings. May I make one suggestion: Avid Reader by the old, S&S/Knopf editor, Bob Gottlieb.
Jon Mayes said…
Thanks Jim, for the nice words and the recommendation. I've heard a lot about the book and will pick it up.

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