Booksellers, Publishers Enthusiastic for California Bookstore Day

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Planning is under way for the first-ever California Bookstore Day, a celebration of the written word and the culture of independent bookstores across the state, set for May 3, 2014. That day only, California’s indie booksellers will be offering special giveaways and limited-edition items, developed by publishers exclusively for the event. Special items include literature-based art projects, unique books, and collector’s items.

Last week, California Bookstore Day launched an Indiegogo campaign in order to raise $30,000 to pay for marketing materials and publicity campaigns, developing a website, coordinating publisher submissions, maintaining communication with participating bookstores, and establishing state-wide public outreach.

California Bookstore Day is the brainchild of Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, who saw the success of Record Store Day in bringing unique sales opportunities to independent music shops and considered how the music event could translate into a bookstore event.

“The artists and labels produce really unique, one-of-a-kind things, and you can only get them at a record store and on Record Store Day,” Mulvihill said. “That exclusivity and cool factor is what makes people line up at the stores.”

Mulvihill began working with Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA), and the organization’s board to launch the event in California, with hopes of turning it into a national event in the future. The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) has joined the inaugural effort, making it a statewide event. And the American Booksellers Association is offering resources and strategical support. "We are delighted to support our friends at NCIBA and SCIBA in developing California Bookstore Day," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "In working with them, we hope to learn from their experience and determine if there is logical progression to a national bookstore day."

At BookExpo America in May 2013, Mulvihill and Landon pitched California Bookstore Day to publishers and secured immediate support. “Many of the publishers were super enthusiastic,” said Mulvihill.

Samantha Schoech, a former bookseller with experience at several area stores, including a stint as events coordinator for A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, has been hired to oversee planning for California Bookstore Day. A freelance writer and editor for the past 10 years, she jumped on the opportunity to coordinate a big event. “I just really like working with people in the book business. Across the board, people are relaxed and smart and creative — and readers!” said Schoech. “From authors to booksellers to publishers, it’s a pretty great industry.”

And it’s the entire industry that will be working to make California Bookstore Day a success. “There are a lot of people that need to come together,” said Schoech. “Booksellers need to come together, publishers need to come together, authors need to come together, and, of course, book lovers.”

Schoech kicked off California Bookstore Day planning with a logo contest and organized a committee of booksellers to judge submissions. The committee evaluated how well each logo symbolized the spirit and eccentricity of the California book culture, as well as love for the printed book and brick-and-mortar stores. Green Apple bookseller Danielle Gundry Monji’s entry was selected as the winner.

The Indiegogo campaign is the next critical step, said Mulvihill. “To really make it happen we need stores to spread the Indiegogo campaign, and then later in the year do their best to make it a memorable day for their customers.”

Schoech is now working with publishers to establish the kinds of unique items that would draw customers into bookstores on California Bookstore Day and coordinating the bookseller committee that will review and select the best submissions. “We have some really big name, popular authors that are going to be involved,” said Schoech.

The end goal is to create limited-run word-based items (with the demand exceeding the supply) that would make people line up outside of stores to get these coveted items. Participating NCIBA and SCIBA member bookstores will choose a selection of items to sell and the items will only be available through those stores on May 3.

Schoech, Landon, and Mulvihill are anticipating participation from more than 100 bookstores and are working hard to keep the enthusiasm going. “I think that one of our goals moving forward is to keep booksellers engaged over the next several months and to figure out ways to convert the enthusiasm into action,” said Landon.

Once California Bookstore Day arrives, stores will be putting forth their best efforts to make the day memorable. “Each store has to do what it does well to draw people in that day,” said Mulvihill. “They really need to pull out all the stops that day to get people in.”

To make the event a success, Schoech wants to see bookstores take California Bookstore Day and run with it. “We really hope that on that day there will be really imaginative events happening at these bookstores — different events that reflect the personalities of the bookstores,” she said.

California Bookstore Day organizers hope to bring the celebration to a national level in 2015. “We are doing this with the expectation that it will create a National Bookstore Day down the road,” said Landon. “We hope that we’re helping all bookstores around the country eventually participate in this.”

“Stores outside of the region should support California Bookstore Day, so it can go national,” said Mulvihill. “We want other stores to see the success and say, ‘Hey, I want that too!’”

Keep up with California Bookstore Day on Facebook and support the event by contributing to the Indiegogo campaign.