Lonely Planet Embarks on Independent Bookstore Road Trip

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Lonely Planet, the independent travel publisher, will begin a whirlwind, grand scale tour of independent bookstores on Saturday, May 8. A Lonely Planet RV, decked out with large side panels advertising the "Lonely Planet 2004 Independent Bookstore Road Trip," will tote Lonely Planet staff and, intermittently, trade press reporters, to visit over 100 independent bookstores throughout the eastern half of the U.S. Starting in New York and stopping at two to six bookstores every day, the RV will wend its way through New England, the mid-Atlantic region, the South, and through the Midwest to conclude the 26-state, over 5,000-mile megatour on June 3 at BookExpo America in Chicago.

Gary Todoroff, Lonely Planet's U.S. trade sales director, told BTW the idea for the tour originated when Todd Sotkiewicz (Lonely Planet president, U.S.), Robin Goldberg (vice president, marketing and business development), and he were discussing how to strengthen ties with independent bookstores. Todoroff announced to Sotkiewicz and Goldberg: "I have this wacky idea. We are all about travel and connecting to people; we have just published three road trip books, so let's take our own road trip and try to see 100 stores between sales conference and BEA." With the sales conference set for New York, that became the starting point for the tour, during which the Lonely Planet crew will try to pack in as many independents as possible in 27 days, while also bringing along some media representatives, including BTW and Publishers Weekly.

Lonely Planet sought to focus on independents because, as Todoroff noted, "The independent booksellers have … been very loyal and supportive of Lonely Planet for many years and we haven't had many opportunities to thank them and show our appreciation." One of the ways Lonely Planet hopes to show that appreciation is by raising visibility for independent bookstores. "By the very nature of our visit and the trade reporting they receive, we would hope that all of us in the book trade will be reminded of the importance of the independent booksellers to all publishers and to the communities they serve," said Todoroff.

During the tour, Lonely Planet will be spending approximately 30 to 60 minutes at each store. Some of the scheduled stops include Coliseum Books and St. Mark's Bookshop in New York City; Just Books in Greenwich, Connecticut; Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester, Massachusetts; McIntyre's Fine Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina; and Beaucoup Books in New Orleans. The plan is to thank booksellers individually for their past and present support, talk about travel, take pictures of booksellers, give away Road Trip T-shirts and posters to the staff, and send bookstores a commemorative, limited edition broadside at the end of the trip signed by Lonely Planet's founder, Tony Wheeler.

"The best forum for connecting with [booksellers] is a personal visit to their stores," Todoroff explained. "It … gives us a chance to celebrate the diversity of these bookstores and all of the great work they do on behalf of their communities."

Look for daily coverage of the Lonely Planet Independent Bookstore Road Trip in BTW beginning on Monday, May 10. --Karen Schechner