The American Booksellers Association’s latest Marketing Meetup, hosted via Zoom on Thursday, March 26, covered ways booksellers can begin to work with schools in their area. Guest speakers for the session included Jamie Anderson of Downtown Books in Manteo, North Carolina; Stephanie Heinz of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine; and Cathy Berner of Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston, Texas.
Here are some ways bookstores can begin working with schools:
- Find one contact within the school system and go from there. Anderson’s store began by working with the elementary media coordinator for a local school; that contact went on to mention Anderson’s store to local librarians, which helped her to foster new relationships.
- Write letters reminding schools of your bookstore and the services offered. Be sure to send to media coordinators, school finance officers, school principals, central office workers, superintendents, school board members, and others. This bumped school business up for Anderson’s store.
- Stores should also consider joining an e-procurement system. For Anderson, this means her store has been pre-authorized to do business with state agencies.
- Once contacts have been established, stores can arrange school visits, book fairs, and book clubs.
Berner noted that because she has many librarians interested in hosting an author for an event, she sends out a Google Form that lists her store’s expectations and available authors. This streamlines the process and ensures that the store and the school are on the same page.
- Berner also sends a confirmation two weeks before the scheduled school visit to remind the school of both the visit and expectations her store has.
Heinz shared some school networking ideas booksellers can consider during the current coronavirus outbreak:
- Host virtual visits. With many schools already practicing online learning and trying to come up with ways to engage students of all ages, virtual visits could be a way to give teachers some breathing room. For orders, booksellers can coordinate with publishers to get personalized bookplates if given enough advanced notice.
Give book donations. Email the superintendent's office to figure out the best way to get galleys to students. There are still places where families are picking up school-provided meals, so booksellers can make them available there (though schools might want to take a more directed approach to make sure the books are getting to students who need them most). Booksellers can also coordinate with their community to do a virtual book drive.
- Anderson added that booksellers can look into Libro.fm’s Audiobook Listening Copy program to get galleys for teachers.
- Create a newsletter. Consider doing an educator-focused newsletter that features digital resources being created by authors and publishers; book recommendations; and information about digital programming your store is hosting
- Work on lists for book fairs. Booksellers can build book fair lists for next year. Heinz suggested a general one for each age group a store will be working with (pre-school, elementary, middle school, and high school) that can be modified to fit various school sizes or requests once the events are confirmed. Use Edelweiss to tag titles for different book fairs.
- Think about summer reading. Especially with Amazon de-prioritizing book orders, now is a perfect time to talk to schools about being the main source for their summer reading lists. Booksellers who haven’t done anything with summer reading before can start with the superintendent’s office and work down from there. Some areas have district-wide reading; others specify by school; for some, it depends on the teacher.
A recording of this session, as well as samples of school letters and order forms, can be found on BookWeb’s Education Resources page.