Bookseller Tips & Tricks: Promoting Indie Next List Titles

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The American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next List is one of the many ways booksellers can recommend titles to their customers. While the printed and downloadable fliers can be handed out in-store and e-mailed directly to customers each month, booksellers should also consider creating physical displays in their store for customers to browse.

Kerry Halls, manager/head buyer at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, Washington, said that the store has designated a permanent spot — right next to the bestsellers — for Indie Next List titles.

Auntie's Bookstore's February Indie Next List Display
The February Indie Next List display at Auntie's Bookstore.

The store’s Indie Next List display has proven to be successful, Halls said. Auntie’s is located across the street from a popular hotel, within walking distance of several convention centers, and right in the middle of the downtown business core, which means a lot of people are stopping by the store with a limited amount of time to pick out a book, said Halls. “They really value being able to walk right in and instantly find several recommendations without having to ask,” she added.

But, Halls noted, the display is just as helpful for regular customers as well. “I think it’s easy to forget how intimidating a bookstore can be for some customers,” said Halls. “We have something like 35,000 to 50,000 titles on our shelves at any given time. That’s a lot of books. Where does one start? Displays provide a really friendly access point for people who maybe don’t have the time or energy to get lost in the stacks.”

Booksellers can also use the Indie Next List display to refer books that might be outside of their personal wheelhouse, to help customers searching for a gift, or to recommend something fresh to someone has already read everything, Halls added.

“The point of any display is driving sales while making the customer’s shopping experience a little more pleasant,” Halls said, “and I try to keep those objectives in mind any time I’m putting something together.”

Additionally, Halls wrote up some tips for booksellers looking to create Indie Next List displays in their store:

  • Keep displays as full as you can, with as many face-outs as possible. The second things start looking picked-over or junky, customers skip right to the next thing. Your displays have to look like you care about them before anyone else will.
  • People need to be able to tell your displays apart from your general sections. I mean, duh, right? But location and signage are a huge deal. Our Indie Next display is right next to our Bestsellers display, which you can’t not walk by if you’re shopping in the store. We also make big ol’ hand-lettered header signs for ALL of our displays (we actually incorporate current fliers in our Indie Next signs), so people can identify what they’re looking at right off the bat.
  • Always utilize shelf-talkers. The ones provided are awesome, but if you have someone on staff who has already read an Indie Next title or is willing to read an Indie Next title specifically for the cause, get a shelf-talker out of them! I cannot stress how much of a difference shelf-talkers make here. I think it feels more personal to people when it’s THEIR bookseller recommending a title, even when it isn’t specifically tailored to them. It’s really rare not to see an immediate uptick in sales for at title after we’ve thrown a shelf-talker in the mix.
  • It’s also not a bad idea to encourage ALL employees to read both the Indie Next fliers AND shelf-talkers on the display themselves so they can fudge their way through the titles they haven’t actually read. Because if people are noticing your display, people are going to ask about it. And nothing sells books better than a well-informed bookseller.

Visit BookWeb to learn more about the Indie Next List.