Report on the Sacramento Book Fair

Just got back from the September 14 Sacramento antiquarian book fair.  The fair takes place in the spring and fall of each year at the Scottish Rite Temple, 6151 H Street.  The fair is ably managed by the ever-quirky (“No whining!) Jim Kay who does business as bookbomb.  It’s a great venue, big enough for about 60 vendors with wide spacious aisles and excellent presentation of books by capable booksellers, many of whom are members of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America (ABAA), as I am.  Jim had a very nice display of photos, etc. honoring the late ABAA member Don Connor of Sacramento in the foyer of the building as attendees walked into the big main room.  Thank you, Jim

I remember seeing many ABAA members there.  I saw James Bryant and Mary Hill of Carpe Diem Books of Monterey.  Thanks for buying those photography books from me, James and Mary.  I also saw Brad Johnson of The Book Shop of Covina, down in Southern California, ably assisted by Greg Krisilas of Coconut Rose Rare Books, also an ABAA member.  Thanks for selling me that nice copy of “B” Is for Burglar inscribed by Sue Grafton, Brad.  I call him Superman, but you may know him as Ken Sanders.  He was there from Salt Lake City.  More locally, I saw Dave Meeker from Sacramento who does business as Nick Adams & Co.  That connoisseur of fine cuisine, luxury hotels, big cars, and every conceivable book, Taylor Bowie, was there staffing the booth for John Michael Lang of Seattle.  I saw John Windle there visiting from San Francisco, but he may have been the only ABAA dealer from San Francisco who graced us with their presence.  It’s not that far away guys.  Also exhibiting were ABAA members Carl Blomgren of  Petaluma.  I was massaging prices on those photography books, Carl.  I gave you a chance.  I saw Chris Lowenstein of Book Hunter’s Holiday in San Mateo.  Bob Gavora was there representing Talent, OR.  Michael Good showed up, as always, and James Graham from way down in Palm Desert also exhibited.  I saw John Howell of Los Angeles with nice Ward Ritchie material.  Joyce Muns from Berkeley was there as a buyer.  Bud Plant had the booth right behind me.  Wow, what a set-up and nice display you made.  You must be younger than I.  That display must take a lot of work to put together.  Richard Press was spotted roaming the aisles looking for good material.  Vic Zoschak of Tavistock Books in Alameda always exhibits.  I like that hat, Vic.  It’s a good look for you.  Please forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone, but you can see that the fair was well-represented by the best booksellers on the planet.

Now, was Sacramento worthy of such representation?  The following is based on my experience only.  I thought the crowd was a bit sparse.  I never felt that electric buzz that we all seek in a book fair as sellers.  I could easily see down each aisle from one end to the other without a plethora of eager buyers blocking my view.  If there was a huge rush of early attendees with fists full of cash, I missed it.  The beginning was a decided tapping of toe at the shallow end of the pool rather than a big ol’ cannonball at the deep end.

My own sales met my expectations, but they didn’t exceed them.  And I had to massage (discount) my prices on some of my expensive photography books in order to achieve the sales figures I wanted.  I might have felt better about this if I was massaging for private collectors.  I was not.  I massaged for dealers.  In fact, if I were to set aside the sales to other dealers, the fair results would have been a decided bust.  Is it the economy?  I don’t think so.  I still see restaurants packed night after night.  The housing market continues to rise.  Investors are paying cash outright for homes.  Money is there and it’s being spent.  It’s just not being spent, as yet, on books, at least not to the degree that we hope and need.

I also have a practice at these smaller, regional fairs of finding a book in another dealer’s booth that I use as an indicator of how the book fair will result  —  good or bad.  It’s always a good book with a very good price within my general field of modern literature.  If that book doesn’t sell, it’s a bad fair.  If someone is smart enough to find and buy that designated book, it’s an indicator that the fair will be a success.  In this case, the book was “C” Is For Corpse by Sue Grafton.  I think “C” is harder to find than either “A” or “B” and in this case, it was priced right at $350.  It was a fine copy in a fine jacket.  It was even displayed on a book stand.  Despite its being featured, the dealer in question said it was almost as if his customers couldn’t see it.  It was roundly ignored and didn’t sell.  Not a good sign.  It’s an indicator that this fair is more of a show than a sale.  Bummer.

From an operational point of view, the public address system worked well enough to know that it was being engaged, but I had no idea what the announcer said.  Also, it’s bright and sunny in Sacramento in early September.  Many exhibitors around the perimeters chose to keep their curtains open.  I suppose they thought it lit the room better.  My eyes are 65 years old and I have cataracts in both eyes, but I think exhibitors would have been far better served to keep the curtains closed.  The light blasting into the room through those tall windows caused way too much glare.  I had a lot of trouble gaining the best perspective available on the items I scanned in the booths of exhibitors.  I might have been able to find more books to buy if I could have known what I was looking at better than that blasting light allowed.

Will I exhibit there again?  Yes, but I now see the fair as a bonus when visiting and staying with my cousin Doug, and his lovely wife, Vlasta rather than the other way around.

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