Fourth Independent Bookstore Day a Nationwide Hit

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More than 500 indie bookstores nationwide celebrated the fourth Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) on Saturday, April 28, with author appearances, special discounts, activities for all ages, and more. Participation was up from about 400 stores last year.

“It’s clear that Independent Bookstore Day has become a red-letter day for indie bookstores and their customers,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “Sales in the indie channel for the week of IBD this year were up 9.54 percent over sales in the comparable week in 2017, and in bookstores nationwide readers and book buyers enjoyed a wide range of fun activities and events that highlighted, once again, the unique role that independent bookstores play in connecting authors and readers and growing the larger community of the book. Samantha Schoech, the IBD Program Director, and Calvin Crosby, the executive director of NCIBA, as well as all the NCIBA bookstores that have played such a leadership position in establishing IBD, are all to be congratulated for the resounding success.”  

This year’s IBD featured 14 limited-edition items for sale, including Dragons Love Books onesies based on Adam Rubin’s Dragons Love Tacos, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial Books); a signed special edition of Ungrateful Mammals by Dave Eggers; literary tea towels with quotes from Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain; and a literary map of the universe. Free IBD giveaways included a specially stickered edition of a classic from the Feminism: A Very Short Introduction series from Oxford University Press, a Llama Llama coloring book activity kit, and more.

This year, Dave and Suzanne Lucey, co-owners of Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina, were celebrating the three-year-old store’s third Independent Bookstore Day in a row. Dave Lucey reported that in 2018, sales were up 15 percent over the last IBD and up about 75 percent over an average Saturday.

“It was a very long, wonderful day,” said Suzanne Lucey. “We were here almost two hours later than we usually close; people were waiting in line. This is the third year we did it and we’ve progressively gone up every year in terms of sales.”

Sixty people attended the store’s story time with Peppa Pig; the day also featured an appearance by Scholastic’s Geronimo Stilton, a round of Harry Potter trivia, a free audiobook offer from Libro.fm, free cookies and chocolate, and a wine tasting to cap off the night.

Page 158 also used Independent Bookstore Day to kick off their foray into beer and wine sales with special pricing for the occasion. The store had already been selling coffee and tea for a week, and its liquor license approval just happened to come in the day before after a five-month process, said Suzanne Lucey.

According to Dave Lucey, this year, Page 158 also asked Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones to declare the last Saturday in April to be Independent Bookstore Day; the proclamation was written up in the local paper and the store received some great press as a result.

“I asked the IBD people if they had some sample proclamation text and they provided one from California. I modified it for North Carolina and e-mailed our town clerk and she asked the mayor,” said Lucey. “I mentioned doing this on a bookseller Facebook group and Christine Brenner from Read With Me took the proclamation language and requested the same thing from [North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper]. We will do this every year. It’s so easy and worth it.”

The sample text for the proclamation, which can be adapted for any state, can be found here.

La Playa Books in San Diego, California, was one of nine stores to participate in the first San Diego Bookstore Crawl, an Independent Bookstore Day passport program similar to other multi-store partnership programs around the country, including the Boston Metro Bookstore Day book crawl, featuring 13 participating bookstores; Seattle Independent Bookstore Day, featuring 19 area stores; Chicago’s Second Annual Indie Bookstore Crawl, known as the #MyChicagoBookstore Challenge; the Brooklyn Bookstore Crawl; the Central Oregon Book Quest; the Twin Cities Independent Bookstore Passport challenge; and the Midwest Indie Bookstore Roadmap program.

The San Diego program was a three-day affair lasting from Saturday to Monday, said La Playa assistant manager and buyer Mimi Hannan. Customers who made a purchase received a map and a passport brochure, printed with support from the University of California San Diego Bookstore, and anyone who visited four stores got a free tote bag. Customers who visited more than four stores were entered into a raffle for a $225 bookstore gift card.

“The local paper Union Tribune had their big book festival in August so they were promoting both at the same time and we got lots of advertising for free, which was great,” said Hannan. “We had so many people come in who told us they didn’t know we were here, so the cross-promotion helping people realize that there’s more than one or two bookstores in their town was great, too.”

The day also featured free cake and coffee, ARC giveaways, and an event with local children’s book author Marcie Colleen. Hannan, who told Bookselling This Week that 2018 was La Playa’s first IBD, said this was the strongest Saturday the store has had since it opened in October 2016, with more than 300 transactions; the sales boost even carried over into the next day.

“There was just so much energy and enthusiasm from the customers who came into the store. They were so excited that we were there and a lot of them said that supporting indie bookstores was important to them,” said Hannan. “The passport program increased traffic for all of us. I’ve talked to the other booksellers and everyone said it was a huge success.”

Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the stores that took part in the Twin Cities Passport challenge, featured a host of events, activities, and giveaways to mark the day, including scratch-off cards with prizes, games, story time, and face painting in the store’s Party Room.

The store’s “Find John Green” contest was a hit, in which customers had to locate a photo of author John Green somewhere in the store, ignoring the impostors; the winner received a signed copy of Turtles All the Way Down. To advertise the event, staff members dropped off a red balloon with a book attached at different stores and spots around town.

Red Balloon’s IBD celebration also featured a performance by the Ramsey Middle School jazz band and a summer camp sampler, where customers got a sneak peek at the store’s upcoming Hogwarts Prep and Secret Identity summer camps.

On April 29, Red Balloon posted a note on Instagram expressing gratitude to the local book community: “We had such a wonderful #BookstoreDay & are so grateful to all the amazing people who came to celebrate with you! Thank you all. We have the best and most bookish community.”

Tori Tucker, the event manager at The Toadstool Bookshop’s Keene location, said the New Hampshire store, which also has locations in Peterborough and Milford, welcomed a good turnout for Independent Bookstore Day as well. In addition to bringing in local authors Sandra Neil Wallace (Between the Lines, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), Rachel Stearns (Now Is Forever, Snowy Day Distribution & Publishing), and others, Toadstool also hosted a cappella group Chock Full O’ Notes from Keene State College.

“We always like to reach out to local colleges to pull in more students,” said Tucker. “The performance went off very well. We had a group of 14 come and they performed eight songs.”

Tucker said the day started off with a story time, followed by a book signing with Circus Smirkus coach Jackie Leigh Davis, who did some juggling and demonstrated DIY circus tricks from her new book, DIY Circus Lab for Kids: A Family-Friendly Guide for Juggling, Balancing, Clowning and Show-Making (Lab Series) (Quarry Books).

“The Independent Bookstore Day merchandise sold quite well,” added Tucker. “Our store owner, Willard Williams, usually orders up everything for all three stores. Right now, we only have one T-shirt left and a couple of the plush characters.”

Moe’s Books owner Doris Moskowitz said that the Berkeley, California-based store’s 2018 celebration was surprisingly well-attended, despite the fact that the Bay Area Book Festival coincidentally fell on the same day. Moskowitz, daughter of founder Moe Moskowitz, said that in order to capitalize on both opportunities, Moe’s created a mini-store at the festival, where staff encouraged people to stop by the store on Telegraph Avenue on their way home.

“Since there were all these book events in Berkeley on that day, like author readings and signings, we didn’t expect anything to happen, but we actually had a very good sales day. We saw a surge of traffic at the store in the afternoon; sales were up 10 percent over an average Saturday for us,” said Moskowitz. “It was very cheerful in the store on Saturday; people were quite happy to be here and to be celebrating books.”

At the store in the days prior and at the festival booth, staff gave out sheets for a coloring contest; the design featured a bike made out of books that said ‘Mosey to Moe’s.’ “We’d never done a coloring contest before and we didn’t know if we would get a ton back. We got a few, but the people who returned them were really happy,” said Moskowitz.

White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gave customers 20 percent off used and signed books on Independent Bookstore Day, while those who made a purchase of $50 or more were entered into a raffle. Customers also received freebies like ARCs, special bookmarks, and other book swag with any purchase.

In an April 29 Instagram post, White Whale wrote, “Guuuuyyyyyysss! Today was our best sales day EVER! And it was the best people day, too—so many of the faces coming through our door were regulars, amazing individuals who have gushed over books with us and supported us and kept us going even on the non-record-setting days. We love you, we appreciate you, we thank you. You make this crazy idea worth it! #storefam #celebrating #thankyouthankyou #smashingrecords #indiebookstoreday.”

Cassie Clemans, owner of Roundabout Books in Bend, Oregon, said the store’s celebration of Independent Bookstore Day tallied more than 100 transactions, with around 200 people visiting the store that day.

“Our sales increased by 63 percent over last year, although about half the percentage increase was due to an off-site author event where we sold books for Margie Witt at the Oregon Women’s Veterans Conference,” said Clemans.

In addition to several authors in-store, Roundabout also offered a Dr. Seuss buy two get one free promotion, IBD exclusive merchandise for sale, and 10 percent off all books in the store. But they were most excited about launching the first-ever Central Oregon Book Quest, said Clemans, which offered customers the chance to earn a 30 percent off coupon good for the next six months at any of the participating stores.

“We partnered with three other stores to create a passport program for Indie Bookstore Day,” Clemans told Bookselling This Week. “We all plan to continue this program on IBD and hopefully add more stores in the future.” 

In Dallas, Texas, Interabang Books, which opened its doors in July 2017, was celebrating the store’s first Independent Bookstore Day.

“We could not have been happier with the results,” said operations manager Kyle Hall. “Sometimes you’re afraid that things like Independent Bookstore Day or Small Business Saturday may not translate to the public. It’s a chance to look our best and brightest, but will people perceive it as being different from any other Saturday? In our case, it definitely did.”

Interabang’s celebration featured a 90-minute extended children’s story time they called “The Mane Event,” featuring live ukulele music, a reading of Henry and Leo by Pamela Zagarensky (HMH Books for Young Readers), a lion mask and mane-making craft, and a roaring contest.  

“Sales were really brisk and there was a lot of energy in the store. We more than doubled our number of transactions from the average Saturday, and our average transaction amount was up 20 percent for the day, so we were delighted,” said Hall. “The booksellers on the floor reported all day long that people were coming in and saying, we’re so glad to learn about you! We’ve been lucky that we have had steady business since we opened, but a lot of people are still finding out about us.”

In terms of promotion, the store ran its first print ad in the Dallas Morning News on Saturday, and Hall told BTW a good number of customers cited the ad as the reason they came in. The day ended with a happy hour in the late afternoon, with complimentary beer, wine, and soft drinks, which brought in another rush of customers.

“We felt like we needed to do something late in the day, too. We knew that people would come in when store opened but we’re open until 8:00 p.m. so we thought it would be nice to see another wave...and it worked!” said Hall. “Just in time for the 4:00 happy hour, we got a whole bunch of customers. People were in the store right up until closing.”

In Detroit, Michigan, Source Booksellers owner Janet Webster Jones created a special in-store opportunity on Independent Bookstore Day where customers could stop and record their bookstore experiences in one of three ways.

In a message on Facebook in advance of the day, Jones wrote: “Do you have a story of a special experience in a bookstore - ANY bookstore? From 1:30-3:30 p.m., come in and tell us during our Bookstore Stories Session, part of our celebration of Independent Bookstore Day! We offer three ways to share your story: 1. Video record, 2. Audio record, 3. Write it in our official Bookstore Stories Journal. All stories will be posted on our website and on social media, with your permission, of course.”

Source’s celebration of Independent Bookstore Day also featured a sale on the store’s photography books, a free reusable bag with the purchase of a book from the Feminism: A Very Short Introduction series, and free Independent Bookstore Day stickers.

Bookstores that participated in Independent Bookstore Day are asked to fill out a survey by midnight on Thursday, May 10, to let organizers know how the day went. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete; one survey per store may be submitted. Booksellers are also invited to send their best photos from Independent Bookstore Day to IBD@NCIBA.com