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The Los Angeles Book Fair's New Dealers | | The Los Angeles Book Fair's New Dealers

The Los Angeles Book Fair's New Dealers

Published on 22 July 2010

By Kate Fultz Hollis

The February 2010 Los Angeles Book Fair was a lovely fair with a chance for all of us to see old friends and colleagues.  What was different this year was that there were quite a few new dealers. Impossible, people say ... the antiquarian book trade is dying with us old folks. If you think that, then you didn't come to the Los Angeles Book Fair where I got to talk to quite a few new dealers while Gordon took some pictures.  I chatted with dealers who were very positive about being in the book trade and about being at the Los Angeles fair at the Century Plaza, an historic hotel located in Los Angeles' wealthy west side. I was also interested in hearing from the new dealers about how the "old" dealers treated them and everyone I spoke with (with some exceptions not chronicled here) thought they were very welcomed by the experienced dealers. I wanted the new dealers to speak for themselves and so some of the comments here are from questions I asked and some are in answer to how they felt about the Los Angeles fair.

Matt Raptis of Matthew Raptis & Co.

Matt Raptis of Matthew Raptis & Co., Booksellers in Brattleboro, Vermont noted, "My background in the trade: I was given my first first edition (Shelby Foote's "Civil War: A Narrative") by my mother at the age of eight and have been "collecting" ever since. I absolutely love reading and being around books. The fair went well. The exhibition hall was agreeable and the cost of the fair was as well. I met several collectors and many aspiring ones as well striking up many conversations. It was great to meet new friends. I am looking forward to San Francisco next year."


Joachim Koch of Books Tell You Why

On the other side from Matt in the ballroom at the Century Plaza, Joachim Koch and his family had a nice booth and as you can see in the picture they are a family business. Here is the transcript from Joachim:

Did you enjoy the fair?

[JK] Yes we did.  It was about as smoothly organized as it gets, everything before, during, and after was uneventful.

Did the fair meet your expectations?

[JK] Yes, at the same time we've had VERY low expectations, i.e., to cover cost, which we did.  In addition to that we've made great connections with existing (online) customers of ours and had some promising visits with purchase expectations going forward. Networking within the trade is an additional plus.  Overall, I would have wished for more on site purchases.

What did you think of the venue and of the costs for doing the fair in Los Angeles?

[JK] The venue is OK. I believe we were on the "fortunate side" of the exhibition area though.  I can see why there's a negative bias towards "the other side" of the house.

Did you meet new collectors - overall what did you think of the turnout (according to all it was lower than in previous years)?

[JK] Yes we did.  Particularly for us, as online-only sellers, a fair or any other opportunity to get out from behind a computer is a welcome opportunity to advance existing and build new relationships with collectors.  Both we did.  The actual traffic was below expectations.  Opening night during the Olympic opening ceremony was probably not a good choice, this could have been avoided with proper planning.  Not having been exhibiting at prior fairs doesn't allow me to compare.

Would you recommend that all new dealers come to the LA fair?

[JK] New (any) dealers should come to fairs, yes.  At the same time I'd believe there should be a better incentive program to make this happen, e.g., "share a booth with an 'old' seller at no cost" or "pay only x% commission on your sale", "get a zero percent loan for your booth fees (from the ABAA) at your first fair", etc.  I can see why new sellers can't or don't want to "risk" a not insignificant amount of money, specifically in this economy.  This might be a good investment for us all to make.

Did you find "old" dealers hospitable?  

[JK] Most are as hospitable as you are yourself.  Grouchy in, grouchy out.

Joachim's point about new incentives for new dealers to exhibit is a very good one and maybe one the ABAA should consider at some point.

Christian Westergaard of SOPHIA ∑ RARE BOOKS

Christian Westergaard of SOPHIA ∑ RARE BOOKS enjoyed his first American ABAA fair in Los Angeles and while he had to leave early as his new baby daughter arrived in Denmark, he sent me some interesting comments about his experience. (Congratulations to Christian and his wife on the birth of their daughter Lea.)

Did you enjoy the fair?  

[CW] I did indeed. I find the fact that the fair is just under the hotel extremely convenient. I also know that many visitors/customers book a room at the hotel, and that makes things like meeting in the lobby, etc. very easy.

Did the fair meet your expectations?

[CW] It did. The staff are very helpful and professional. However, it was annoying that the exhibitors could only first setup the same day as the opening. I finished just in time, but did not get a chance to go around and browse the other booths before. A lot of deals are done before the fair opens, and I think this is an important part of any fair, and it was a problem that this was cut out of this year's fair.  

What did you think of the venue and of the costs for doing the fair in Los Angeles?

[CW] The costs are reasonable. It's always expensive to do a fair abroad, but Los Angeles is significantly cheaper than New York (the New York price can scare quite a few away).

Did you meet new collectors - overall what did you think of the turnout?(according to all it was lower than in previous years)

[CW] I did meet a few new collectors, and the turnout was fine for me.

Would you recommend that all new dealers come to the LA fair?  

[CW] I would recommend that all new dealers should do some ILAB fair within a short time after their start. It's important to meet your colleagues in real life and talk about your specialties. These days a lot of people focus only on their presence on the Internet. But the rare book market on the Internet is becoming so big that no one can properly follow what happens, and communication is lost. I think fairs will become increasingly important for this reason.

Did you find "old" dealers hospitable?  

[CW] Very much.


Sunday Steinkirchner and Joshua Mann of B&B Rare Books

I will end the article here with Sunday Steinkirchner and Joshua Mann of B&B Rare Books in New York.  They were extremely positive about the Los Angeles Fair and about the field in general and I thought their perspective on being the new kids on the block is something all dealers should remember.  

"We enjoyed the fair very much. Overall, it was the best opportunity we've ever had in our professional career as booksellers to meet ABAA dealers, and to network and discover new paths to buying and selling what we specialize in. We expected to see amazing books offered by dealers in the top of our field, and we expected enthusiastic collectors that actually come to fairs ready to buy books. Our expectations were met. Although we heard that the attendance was much less than last year, we were very pleased with the crowd on Saturday.

This fair was also our first time visiting LA, and we enjoyed the venue. The neighborhood seemed a little industrial at first (lots of offices, not much retail) but we got the feeling from collectors that it is a well-known hotel in the area and easy to get to. The hotel was classy, and the layout for booths was well-designed. The costs were, of course, higher than we are used to paying at the smaller, local shows we've done, but overall we think the higher price was worth it because of the opportunities it afforded us. We were able to buy a few books, and we sold a decent amount to cover costs and start off the month of February pretty strong. Our sales were not as amazing as we could have hoped for, but definitely worth the investment. We had hoped for bigger crowds on Friday and Sunday, and we are sure that if the crowds were what you've had in previous years, the possibility of those few extra sales would have made it our best sales show ever.

I would recommend that new dealers try Los Angeles. We met a few new collectors, and we have also followed up with one for a post-show sale. It was a solid first showing for us, and we hope that with repeated appearances, West Coast collectors will become more aware of us. We know that customers who frequent ABAA fairs will always feel most comfortable with dealers that they recognize, but we felt that a lot of the people we met were also interested in meeting new, fresh faces. That was especially encouraging. Overall, we felt welcomed by the "old" dealers. We haven't always experienced this in the past, whether it is due to personality or a resistance to embrace a new generation of sellers, so this has been a common stumbling block for us. We were especially pleased with this fair because dealers were more apt to accept us, talk with us, and trade ideas. Sales and customers aside, this was hands-down the reason we felt the Los Angeles fair was a success for us. We are so excited to be new ABAA members, and we are looking forward to the New York show in April and San Francisco next year."

Our interviewees were:

Matthew Raptis
Matthew Raptis & Co., Booksellers
147 Orchard St.
Brattleboro, VT 05301

Joachim Koch

Books Tell You Why, Inc.
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Christian Westergaard

Bredgade 4,
1260 Kobenhavn K

Joshua Mann and Sunday Steinkirchner
B & B Rare Books, Ltd.
New York, New York

The article by Kate Fultz Hollis (photos by Gordon Hollis, Golden Legend) is published in the ABAA Newsletter Issue 5, Spring 2010. It is presented here by permission of the ABAA. Thank you very much.

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