Independent Bookstore Day Celebrations Showcase Booksellers’ Creativity

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More than 400 independent bookstores across the nation are planning exciting celebrations for Independent Bookstore Day, which will be held this year on April 29. Participating stores will be offering literary-themed merchandise specially created for the event, in addition to parties featuring author signings, photo booths, signature cocktails, and more.

In Washington, D.C., East City Bookshop is celebrating its first birthday in conjunction with Independent Bookstore Day. Throughout the day, customers visiting East City Bookshop will be treated to story times for young readers; a performance by Not What You Think, an cappella ensemble employing song and humor to foster equality and social justice; a free gift on purchases over $50; and an evening reception featuring live music, a signature cocktail, a photo booth, cake, and more.

“We’ve had a great first year,” said East City Bookshop owner Laurie Gillman. “We have a wonderful, supportive reading community that really wanted a bookstore, and we’ve had lots of fun trying all kinds of things to see what the community wants most.”

In addition to promoting its IBD festivities in local newspapers and on social media, East City Bookshop is sharing details with local bloggers, neighborhood event calendars, and listservs, such as the Moms on the Hill group. “We have a strong and very tight community on Capitol Hill, so there are lots of opportunities for hyper-local event promotion,” said East City Bookshop Marketing and Events Manager Hannah Sternberg.

The store’s next-door neighbor, Labyrinth Games & Puzzles, is celebrating International Tabletop Day on April 29 and is inviting customers in for festivities featuring board games. The stores will be swapping bookmarks and fliers to promote each other’s events. “Every year, Labyrinth creates a festival atmosphere with popcorn, balloons or face painting, and fun family activities for their Tabletop Day, so our whole shopping center will feel like one big party,” said Sternberg.

Itinerant Literate Books, a bookmobile that serves Charleston, South Carolina, will hold its Independent Bookstore Day celebrations at The Brew Cellar, a family-friendly brewery in North Charleston. The day will consist of a Matilda read-aloud, a Scrabble tournament, storybook yoga, a StorySLAM, and signings with local authors. There will also be a make-your-own blackout poetry station and literary games on hand for visitors.

To alert customers about the events, Itinerant Literate owners Julia Turner and Christen Thompson are publicizing their festivities on the bookmobile’s website, on Facebook, and in the local newspapers and city calendars. Fliers will also be distributed in Charleston and in area schools.

“This year we’re partnering with a local elementary school that is having a festival that day. We’re doing a donation promotion for them, and they’re helping spread the word about IBD,” said Turner, who noted that the Brew Cellar is also helping to get the word out to customers.

Last year, Itinerant Literate celebrated Independent Bookstore Day in conjunction with the launch of its bookmobile, so this year is also a birthday celebration. “We’re inviting some of our loyal customers to be booksellers for the day, to help with managing some of the larger events,” said Turner. “We’re planning to open up a little bit earlier and have tried to make more kid- and family-friendly events than we had last year.”

Another Chapter Bookstore, located in Owasso, Oklahoma, is offering a day of discounts, giveaways, story times for both children and adults, guided writing prompts, and appearances by local authors, said store owner Karen Barros. In addition, a window painter will be spending the day creating a mural featuring a little girl with a bouquet of book balloons in the front window. “We’re really trying to open the store up to the community, to invite them in,” said Barros.

Another Chapter’s coffee shop, which is managed by Barros’ daughter, will also play a role in the day’s celebrations. Following up on the success of a Beauty and the Beast-themed party for which the café created the Enchanted Rose raspberry and white mocha specialty drink, it will offer a new concoction specially formulated for Independent Bookstore Day.

This will be Another Chapter’s first-ever Independent Bookstore Day celebration, as the store opened on Black Friday last fall. “We had a really good turnout for the Beauty and the Beast movie release party, so I’m hoping we have that good or better of a turnout for Independent Bookstore Day,” said Barros.

Planning is still underway for Independent Bookstore Day celebrations at Star Line Books in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but owner Star Lowe is looking forward to a day featuring visits by local authors, a photo booth, story times, a make-your-own Golden Book, a community art project on “Why I love my indie bookstore,” and hourly giveaways of “Kindred Spirits,” an exclusive short story by Rainbow Rowell that local teachers are eager to help kids get their hands on, said Lowe.

Customers will also be invited to add the book they’re currently reading and loving to a running list entitled “My Current Favorite,” said Lowe, who explained, “All my customers want to know what everybody’s reading.”

Star Line was a relatively new store with limited staff during last year’s Independent Bookstore Day celebrations, but Lowe is hoping to see many more customers this year as the store’s plans have grown and there are no conflicting events in Chattanooga that day. “We’re just really excited to be a part of Independent Bookstore Day, and I’m hopeful for a good turnout,” she said.

As stores finalize their IBD programming and events, booksellers are encouraged to share their plans on the Independent Bookstore Day spreadsheet. Booksellers can also learn more about Independent Bookstore Day here and follow IBD on Facebook and Twitter.

Questions about Independent Bookstore Day can be directed to IBD Program Director Samantha Schoech or NCIBA Executive Director Calvin Crosby.