Saturday, July 25, 2015

ALA 2015 was a blast!

The Karadi USA team huddled for our first team meeting in Fremont, California — with a bunch of files, papers and pens ready for the many copious notes we went on to take. The trip to San Francisco held many firsts for our team, exhibiting at the ALA being one of them!

The ALA 2015 Conference was held at Moscone Center, the largest convention and exhibition hall in San Francisco. The Conference was spread across three buildings, each with a direction to its name. Jokes apart, the events were well-organized and clearly marked out; even those of us who were fresh off the boat didn’t take too long to get our ‘bearings’ (pun fully intended) right.
Registrations and Exhibit Hall Badges awaited us in the North Hall. Across the street, South Hall was where all the action was—at least as far as we were concerned. We were among the Small Press Tables. For neighbours, we had Scholastic, Chronicle Books, Live in a Story (lovely set-up!), and what seemed like a corridor each of Harper Collins and Penguin / Random House. We had the cafeteria right at our elbows for unlimited access to coffee and sandwiches.
We were among the first to arrive in our section—and we quickly found out why. It took us a little under two hours to set up Table #3341. Puppets, parrots and elephants were all part of the predominantly yellow decorations at our stall. We spent some time exploring the conference halls, and ended up getting some great tips from industry veterans on how to go about the ALA Conference.

The first person we spoke to was familiar with Karadi Tales. For a team looking to build brand awareness, what could be more exciting?! Marge Lock-Wouters of BiFolkal Productions gave us quick tips on how to go about the conference since this was the first time Karadi Tales was exhibiting anywhere in the US. We also got some practical tips from the ‘Mother Goose on a Loose’ team about ‘small budget’ table set-up options (getting to know that there is a Target store right around the corner made us breathe a giant sigh of relief). Marge also gave us a generous shout-out on her blog that evening -
In the past, these presses and publishers were often relegated to the last two or three rows at the end of the exhibit floor. But this year at ALA, there is a welcome change. The small press tables can be found at the end of rows - rows that put them next door to some of the biggest names in publishing, ILS systems and other national vendors. You won't have to go far to find a first time exhibitor like Karadi Tales, a publisher in India who has two books recently honored by the South Asia Book Awards - The Rumour won the Young People's Award in 2013 and in 2015 A Pair of Twins was on SABA's Highly Commended list. The books that are on exhibit from this publisher are delightful and easily open up our collections to needed diversity.
Once that was done, we took a break to go for a stroll around Fisherman’s Wharf, and got back just in time for the opening ceremony.
We spent the next three days making sure we did our share of spreading the word. Almost as well as our Karadi Bear would have spread his favourite honey over a hot and crispy piece of toast—or so we’d like to think!

For other first-timers,
Here’s what we had on hand:
Our ALA Schedule
Samples of Karadi Tales’ picture books
Karadi Tales US catalogues (Suraj, we want a couple of our India catalogues for the next time!)
Karadi Tales audiobooks’ catalogues
The Very Hungry Caterpillar—tactile (our personal favourite!) and bilingual versions
And most importantly, decorations

A Few Tips
  • Prepare for the conference in advance (2 months ahead would be a good place to start)
  • Book your tickets sooner than that if you are travelling overseas
  • Carry a journal 
  • Drink a lot of water!
  • Carry a few extra stands, markers and other things—you never know, whether you will need them or whether someone else might
  • Help and seek help—remember that not everyone knows about your work
  • Business casual ranges all the way from casual to full-on business gear—that looked as confusing as it sounds. There were canvas shoes walking the same aisle as shiny business Oxfords and stylish pumps. Checking to see what goes with your organization’s ‘look’ would be a good idea. Otherwise, just wear what you think fits the bill, and rock it!

Contributors: Aditi Chandrasekhar and Roopa Suresh