Marketing Meetup Recap: Independent Bookstore Day

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The American Booksellers Association’s recent Marketing Meetup focused on Independent Bookstore Day (IBD), which will take place on Saturday, April 24. The session included an overview of the annual event, why it’s important, and how some bookstores are celebrating and promoting it this year.

A recording of this session can be found on the Education Resources page on

Guest speakers for the session were: IBD Program Director Samantha Schoech; Danielle Mullen of Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago, Illinois; Erin Ball of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington; Britt Hopkins of Second Star to the Right Children’s Books in Denver, Colorado; Robin Wood of Books & Books at The Studios of Key West in Key West, Florida; Hannah Reidell of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, and MIBA; and ABA IndieCommerce Specialist Courtney Karecki.

Here are some of the ways booksellers are celebrating this year:

  • Mullen shared that Semicolon will be hosting its quarterly #ClearTheShelves initiative, a book giveaway for students of Chicago Public Schools, to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day. Semicolon will also host a paint party for customers this year, where customers will receive a kit to create their own book cover.
  • Instead of its usual annual bookstore crawl, Ball said that Third Place Books will be hosting a 10-10-10 challenge along with other Seattle-based bookstores. Customers will have 10 days to visit 10 bookstores and make 10 purchases, virtual or in-store.
  • Hopkins said that Second Star to the Right will be offering a passport for the Denver area. Twelve bookstores are currently signed up as part of a hybrid program, where customers are asked to shop at three participating stores either in-store or online to be entered into a giveaway. Second Star to the Right will also be hosting virtual celebrations.
  • Wood said that this year, Books & Books will give goodie bags to customers to celebrate IBD. The store is also holding a promotion where customers can get last year’s tote bag (leftover due to COVID-19) with any purchase — since it has the wrong date, it’s being marketed as a collectible.
  • Reidell said that Raven will be hosting its first in-person event since closing to the public in 2020 because of COVID. It will be a sidewalk sale with IBD merch and new store merch.

Here are some tips for marketing and hosting celebrations:

  • This week, IBD launched a social media campaign with IBD Ambassador Glennon Doyle. All participants are encouraged to take an indie bookstore-inspired photo and post it to social media using the hashtags #BookstoreShoutOut and #IndieBookstoreDay. There will also be a virtual party on Twitter. More information about the campaign can be found here.
  • For other marketing assets, such as shelf-talkers and exclusive images, check out the Independent Bookstore Day Marketing Kit.
  • Like last year, there will be virtual author events for IBD. These will take place the week prior to IBD, as well as on IBD itself. Watch Bookselling This Week for more information.
  • Schoech noted that booksellers holding in-person events should consider what customers see when they walk in the store — it’s helpful to have IBD merch on display, so people realize it’s a special day.
  • Karecki shared that this year, IndieCommerce and IndieLite have integrated with Independent Bookstore Day. IndieCommerce and IndieLite stores will already have the IBD merchandise — including book titles, cover images, metadata, and more — on their websites. These items fall into the custom product category. They will not have an Add to Cart button until April 24, so customers will not be able to place an order for those items before that date. If stores are not selling particular items, booksellers can unpublish that item’s page, which will make it unavailable to customers. Unpublishing a page will also remove that title from the book list created for IBD. View this Help Page for more information.
  • Wood said that for Independent Bookstore Day, it helps to have a “use what you have” philosophy. This means that Books & Books has repurposed leftover posters and swag from past events, pulled scratch and dent books for a gift basket, and more.
  • Consider creating a geotag on Snapchat — news about IBD celebrations will reach local customers who use the app.
  • When promoting the event on social media and in newsletters, Raven is dropping small hints about potential IBD events to build excitement. It’s also helpful to include links in all communications to drive traffic and encourage online sales.