Weller Book Works: Operation Book Drop

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Weller Book Works recently placed hundreds of free books for people to find throughout Salt Lake City in a guerrilla marketing campaign aimed at promoting both the store’s new location in Trolley Square and “the concept of the book.”

During Operation Book Drop, Weller Book Works left 878 books, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Algonquin) and The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone (W.W. Norton), with jackets especially designed for the project in secret locations.

“The idea to drop free books throughout the city came from our marketing firm, Super Top Secret, about two and a half years ago,” said Catherine Weller. “When they first proposed Operation Book Drop, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t imagine asking publishers to give me that many books. To the marketing firm it seemed like nothing, and the idea was so cool, that I swallowed hard and agreed to give it a try.”

Six publishers donated books for the event. “All of them deserve kudos for believing in bricks-and-mortar stores and the people they serve -- and for backing up that belief with action,” Weller wrote on the store blog.

Weller Book Works and Super Top Secret created eye-catching jackets with copy that promotes reading as well as the store’s mission for the six Operation Book Drop titles:

  • Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo (Algonquin)
  • Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows (Chronicle)
  • Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar (FSG)
  • What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Debrah Madison (Gibbs Smith)
  • H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  • The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone (W.W. Norton)
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Algonquin)

Passing along the found book was encouraged. The jackets featured “Chapter Messages” in place of titles, that included “Don’t Take Candy or Anything Else from Corporate Strangers” and “Mindless Zombies are Among Us, There is Only One Cure.”

“We wanted to catch peoples’ eyes and get them talking,” said Weller. “We also wanted to drive traffic to our redesigned web site. And, of course, we wanted to get them in the new store.”

The Book Drop served its purpose. One customer found a book, stayed up all night to finish it, and stopped by to thank Weller Book Works the next day. Some who didn’t find a book, came in to buy copies of the books that were distributed because they looked intriguing. Others bought second books in the two different series that were donated.

Weller Book Works also left a book in the entry of a local community radio station, which resulted in an interview about the state of independent bookselling today.

Distributing the books around the city was a lot of fun, said Weller. “Every step of the process, from the cover design to mapping the drop areas, to jacketing the books, and then actually distributing the books was a pleasure… Each employee and volunteer raved about the project.”

Operation Book Drop has been a natural segue to World Book Night. “There are a few differences between the two projects, but I can tell you that the act of giving books away is exhilarating,” said Weller. “Everyone should give it a try.”