The Foreword booth was far from the only representation of indie publishing in the exhibit hall. Ingram, one of the publishing industry’s largest and most powerful companies—and one who has recently acquired the distribution of loads of indie publishers through its purchase of Publishers Group West, Perseus Distribution, and others—hung a huge (and expensive) banner from the ceiling declaring themselves as a home for indie publishers. There were dedicated spaces in the exhibit hall for small presses, indie authors, plus Artist Alley, which included many independent graphic novel authors and artists. In other words, indie is alive and well at ALA, and if anything, that helped drive traffic to Foreword. Science fiction author Cory Doctorow made a special trip to our booth to “see what’s new in indie.”
Librarians look to Foreword and indie publishing in general to discover books that fill niches that the mainstream isn’t sufficiently serving. Young adult and children’s books were particularly in demand, and adult nonfiction—especially those with INDIES finalists stickers on them–saw repeated traffic.
The Event Overall
The American Library Association’s headquarters are in Chicago, so it’s no surprise that ALA hosts its Annual Conference in Chicago with relative frequency. But it’s not just convenience for ALA staff that makes Chicago a great venue for the event; every time ALA’s Annual Conference is hosted in its home city, it’s inevitably a standout event, with loads of visitors from all over the map and a city-wide excitement that Chicago is built for.
The 2017 ALA Annual Conference saw almost 23,000 visitors, including librarians from public, private, school, university, and corporate libraries, as well as vendors. Paid attendance—that’s librarians specifically—was up almost 50% over that of last year’s Annual Conference in Orlando. The overall attendance was the event’s largest since 2013, which was also in Chicago.