Friday, April 20, 2018

Virginia Antiquarian Book Fair

I attended Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) in 2014, thanks to a scholarship from the Independent Online Booksellers Association. It was a stepping-stone dream come true for a bookseller with just three years in the business. I'd just closed my open shop and planned to make it as an online business.  But our instructors, successful booksellers with a wide variety of experience and specialties, touted multiple options including book fairs and catalogs.

Although I haven't yet made it to Book Week in New York City, I attended the Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair in Denver. When I came home from CABS, I didn't feel like I had the inventory to support a real antiquarian book fair. And there aren't any in North Carolina.

As my antique books inventory grew over the past couple of years, I started looking around for a venue in nearby states and found the Virginia Antiquarian Book Fair in Richmond. Alas, they were already booked up months in advance. Bummer.

Then, on March 5, I received a message saying a booth had opened up and was I still interested? Wow! I decided to take the opportunity and mailed in a check. Scary and exciting — my first antiquarian book fair, and only a month to get ready!

I bought another portable shelf and worked really hard getting a "new" collection of American Revolution, Civil War and other books ready to go. I even brought a couple to finish up in the hotel room the night before the fair, handwriting the last few descriptions.

The Virginia fair was very organized and easy to set up. Here's my booth after I sold quite a few books — before the doors opened!

Nick Cooke of Black Swan Books was one of the VABA organizers. Very welcoming and friendly, he invited all of us to his shop in the historic district Friday night. What a fun bookshop! I'd describe it as one and a half stories, with little nooks where you can sit and visit or browse.

It was a nice opportunity to relax a little and meet other booksellers, including people with familiar names that I'd never met in person.

I was happy to see Lorne Bair at the fair, the instructor from CABS who told me I should attend a book fair in the first place!

Overall, it was a great, exciting, exhausting experience. I hope to do it again next year!

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