Booksellers around the country have started teaming up with local bloggers to promote events, increase sales, and expand their reach in both the online and physical communities.
In Richmond, Virginia, blogger Rebecca Joines Schinsky (The Book Lady's Blog) and Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice have taken their partnership beyond author events and publicity. Justice and Joines Schinsky recently crawled into bed together—at a local furniture store—for a photo shoot.
Their photos accompanied the launch of a new project of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), “Get Into Bed With a Bookseller.” Justice, the SIBA president, wants to encourage her fellow booksellers to team up with local book bloggers for a mutually beneficial relationship—although she doesn't expect her colleagues to interpret the project name so literally.
“We want everyone to do this, but not everyone will do this the same way,” she said. Since the personality of Fountain Bookstore "is very playful ... a little flirty,” the photos, inspired by a vintage Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice poster, are a good fit.
Other booksellers have found ways to work together that fit the tenors of their own stores and communities. In Brooklyn, for instance, blogger Ron Hogan organizes a series of blogger-author interviews that are a regular feature of the Greenlight Bookstore events calendar. Hogan selects the authors and bloggers and schedules their in-store discussions.
“The bookstore gets one event a month that we don't have to plan, and a great way to support midlist writers,” said Greenlight co-owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo. “More importantly, we get the chance to connect the online literary community with the bricks-and-mortar community, bringing folks who are talking about books online into a real-world conversation.”
Hogan noted that Greenlight has welcomed bloggers who focus on topics besides books. “We are fortunate in New York City to have so many great bloggers, and not just book bloggers,” he said. “Obviously, I want a blogger who's participating in an event at Greenlight to have some passion for books, but if their primary passion is for a neighborhood, or a social cause, or a style of cooking, that can make for a great event as well.”
In Illinois, The Bookstore in Glen Ellyn has found an advocate in Jen Karsbaek, who blogs at Devourer of Books. “Jen said she wanted to come visit our store, so we thought it would be fun if we made her some of her own bookmarks as a special treat,” said Margie White, a bookseller and event coordinator at The Bookstore. The bookmarks are similar to those the store's booksellers use to indicate their own staff picks. “We know how much fun it is to put staff recommendation cards in books, and we thought she would enjoy it too," White added. “Our customers are getting accustomed to seeing Jen's bookmarks, and they recognize her and chat with her at our events.”
At Fountain Bookstore, most of the partnership with The Book Lady's Blog is focused on in-store events. Joines Schinsky promotes the store's events on her blog and on Twitter, and she invites visiting authors to put in an appearance on her blog as well. “I often offer visiting authors the opportunity to guest blog for me, so regardless of the attendance at their event (which, I'm sure you know, can be affected by so many uncontrollable variables), they get exposure to thousands of readers on my blog,” she said.
Justice and Joines Schinsky's temperaments have a lot to do with the relationship's success. “I finally found someone who was willing to be as silly as me,” said Justice. Joines Schinsky, who until recently worked in event planning and corporate sales at a bookstore chain, agreed. “Kelly and I have the same approach: we believe that in order for books to stay alive, we have to make them fun.”
But Justice makes it clear that she doesn't want to have fun at the expense of her store. “I'm not saying that I don't take my business seriously,” she said. “My main thing is to generate sales.” Justice knows some sales have come directly from Joines Schinsky's recommendations, because customers have told her: “I have people coming in the store, saying, 'I follow The Book Lady's Blog; I've never been here before.'”
The practical benefits of establishing bookstore-blogger relationships are why Justice is determined to encourage her fellow booksellers to follow suit. “When I start a project now I think of my Southern booksellers first,” she said. “I really feel strongly about promoting Southern booksellers, authors, and bloggers.” Through September, Justice and SIBA executive director Wanda Jewell will be suggesting ways other bookstores and bloggers can work together.
“I think some booksellers are hesitant because they don't quite understand what bloggers do, or they're afraid of allowing a non-bookseller into their store's family, but the 'Get in Bed' project is about overcoming those objections,” said Joines Schinsky.
The Bookstore's White agrees that there's a value in developing relationships that extend beyond the computer screen. “Even the older ladies who don't really know what blogging is know Jen and understand that she's a book expert,” she said.