A Fair Duet - Sacramento and Seattle Book Fairs 2009

- by Karen Wright

Maggie page seattle

Maggie Page of Page Books.


Jim had just returned from the Seattle Fair, had worked his own Sacramento Fair the week before, and was preparing to go to San Francisco very shortly. He said he did well in Seattle. "I think it is the last good independent fair going, it has the most well-heeled buyers, and it's a good book town."

Jim said that the Sacramento Fair's support comes from a good middle class cross section of people and state workers who buy the $25-$150 books. He also gets a lot of booksellers from the Bay Area who buy in Sacramento and resell in San Francisco and surrounds. He noted that the Sacramento Fair has been in existence for about 17 years, started by the Central Valley Booksellers Association, but three years ago the former organizer left and Jim took it over by default because he "didn't want the fair to go away." But, he told me that since he has taken over he has 'grown the show.' The last year before he took over they only had 43 dealers. Before the Internet, he said, the Sacramento Fair brought in 600-900 people each year with 58 dealers or more. "We had a waiting list," he said, "and we were really picky about who we allowed in."

He's expanding, too. They are having another Sacramento Book Fair on March 27, 2010 - their first spring fair. He gave away 700 free passes at this year's show and is giving dealers a very nice discount (are you all listening?) on booth prices so they can try this one and see how it goes. I think you'll see me there!

The Seattle Fair was organized by Louis Collins and David Gregor of Collins Books in Seattle. Collins said that they did very well this year and that sales were brisk. They sold 1617 tickets in the two days, which was within their usual 1500 to 2000. The fair has been going off and on, usually every other year or two, since the 1970s, but Collins and Gregor took it over in 1997 and have done it every year for the past 12 years. It is always held in the same place, the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, which Collins says is the only place left for that sort of affair, and always on the 2nd full weekend in October. They have 90 plus spaces available, 52 of which have already been reserved for next year. They give past exhibitors first choice of spaces, then around the first part of 2010, they will send out a notice for new exhibitors. If you want a space next year, send your info to info@seattlebookfair.com.

Collins said he was interested in the fact that many younger buyers were coming in and "actually buying books," which has been a big concern for most fair organizers in the past few years. It seemed that recently younger people were not buying books, but this year the young buyers were prominent. Even a number of the sellers, he noted, were younger people this time. It's a trend we all hope continues.

Speaking of younger; there were two booths in Seattle that drew my attention to children's books. I don't carry them myself, but I do appreciate how difficult it is to find children's books that aren't covered in crayola or torn to pieces. Page Books with Maggie Page at the helm had a lovely collection, many of which were books I treasured as a child - The Wizard of Oz, and the like. Another was the Children's Book Gallery, owned by Chris Loker from San Francisco. She carries rare illustrated and children's books up to the 1950s and all were pristine!