In 2018, the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA) launched the Midwest Indie Bookstore Roadmap to help rally customers for Independent Bookstore Day (IBD). After major success across bookstores region-wide, MIBA will release a new version of the map for 2019 on Independent Bookstore Day (April 27), featuring 30 new stores, updated illustrations, and an overall fresh new look.
“The idea was truly a group effort by our board and staff,” said MIBA Executive Director Carrie Obry. A few years ago, she told Bookselling This Week, MIBA launched the IBD Twin Cities Bookstore Passport, which is considered to be the pilot program that helped to develop something that could support the whole region. The passport challenged customers to visit every one of the bookstores on it (18 in 2017) to get their passport stamped. Customers who completed the challenge were entered into a raffle to win book-related prizes.
“At one of our board meetings, we stumbled on the idea of creating an old-school foldout roadmap for stores to distribute for free on Independent Bookstore Day,” Obry said. “We thought it would serve multiple purposes fantastically: it could promote our stores to the public, act as a membership piece, and our publisher and industry members around the country could use it to learn about our region.”
As a promotional tool, Obry said, the roadmap generates a sense of pride and excitement to see so many thriving bookstores showcased all in one place. “It spot-on celebrates our vision statement from our strategic plan — we envision a region full of communities with thriving, vibrant independent bookstores,” she said.
One of the standout features of the bookstore map is the artwork, which is hand-drawn by artist Kevin Cannon. With each store hand-drawn, said Obry, “we could offer delightful artwork for stores to use on social media profiles and to create merchandise to sell. The art has been used on Facebook profiles, mugs, hats, patches — you name it. [Cannon’s] creative mind is remarkable, from conceiving of how to make all of the stores fit to drawing each one with individualized care that highlights their quirky traits.”
“He has blown people away with his care and creativity, and many of our stores have incorporated his art into their permanent branding,” Obry added, noting that even publishers have raved about the artwork and some have put pieces on their office walls to help them learn about stores in the region.
Publishers also appreciate that the map offers advertising opportunities. “Our unique ad spot allows them to promote a wide range of items,” said Obry. “The entire literary community gets involved, too. We have ads from agents, literary festivals, and the like.”
Of course, the map is popular with booksellers, too. “I ordered several books for a mom to give to her 10-year-old who loves to read. When the mom came to pick up the books, I included a roadmap in her bag,” said Sandy Schuberg of Hedgie’s Books, Toys, & More in Bedford, Iowa, last year. After reviewing the map, “the mom told me that her daughter has planned out their vacation based on eight of the independent bookstores she wants to visit!”
“We loved the bookstore roadmap. We included it in all of our book-of-the-month subscription mailings the month it came out. People love it — it’s equally useful as something to tuck into your glove compartment and as a piece of art,” said Danny Caine of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas. “We put the art on a limited-edition T-shirt that sold out really quickly. We even commissioned Kevin Cannon to do a custom illustration for us to put on onesies, and it’s simply adorable.”
This year’s map will encourage customers to post pictures of themselves in a featured bookstore, using the #BookstoreRoadmap hashtag and tagging @MidwestBooks and the bookstore. Beginning in May, a random photo will be selected each month as that month’s winner, and that customer will receive a $25 gift card to the store they visited. Tagged photos will also enter customers into a grand prize raffle. More information about the map can be found here.