Mother-daughter duo and avid romance readers Marissa and Roseann Backlin opened Love’s Sweet Arrow, a new and used romance bookstore, in Tinley Park, Illinois, this past June. The Backlins told Bookselling This Week that when deciding what to name their store, they took to Google.
“We were trying to find something inventive,” said Marissa Backlin. “For a long time, we were Googling romance words and stuff like that, and then we found a list of love words [called] references to the penis, and ‘love’s sweet arrow’ was one of them.” The Backlins cycled through a list of different names, but kept coming back to Love’s Sweet Arrow.
The phrase had the word “love” in it and was reminiscent of “Cupid’s arrow,” she said. “It was one of those, ‘We know what it means even if no one else does,’ kind of things. It was just kind of fun.”
They opened Love’s Sweet Arrow because there was only one other exclusively romance bookstore in the country, The Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles, California, said Marissa Backlin. “Romance is really one of the biggest arms of the publishing industry,” she said, noting that despite that, she and her mother have had trouble finding popular romance authors in stores like Barnes and Noble. “We wanted to help other people find those books.”
Roseann Backlin told BTW that before opening their store, neither owner had a background in bookselling. “I run a kitchen in a middle school,” she said, adding that Marissa Backlin is a special education teacher who’s taken the next year off to focus on the bookstore. But, she noted, the two are avid readers.
“I do spend a lot of time reading to students, and even though there’s curriculum, I have to pick books to fill up my classroom library,” Marissa Backlin said. “We love books a lot, and we did a ton of research.”
Before opening, Roseann Backlin said, “we talked to other bookstore owners, we got our ducks in a row at the publishing houses, and we watched trends on social media as well as read as much as we could of different authors.”
Love’s Sweet Arrow carries almost exclusively romance titles, with shelves dedicated to young adult and children’s titles, as the store is located in a family-centric area, Marissa Backlin said. As far as choosing books to stock, she said that along with publisher catalogs, they have found Twitter to be a helpful resource. “I’ve been on book Twitter and romance Twitter for a while, and just seeing what other people enjoy helps a lot,” she said, noting that she also checks out what book bloggers are recommending.
“And we’re still working on our backlist,” Roseann Backlin added, noting that Love’s Sweet Arrow carries backlist titles of Beverly Jenkins, Sophie Jordan, Tessa Dare, and Alyssa Cole. “There’s older books that we’re slowly trying to get in.”
Ingram’s print-on-demand service is also helpful, the owners added, as it helps the store support local and independent authors, and Love’s Sweet Arrow carries #romanceclass titles. #Romanceclass is run by Mina V. Esguerra and features English-language romance books written by Filipino authors; Marissa Backlin noted that these titles are very popular in the store because they’re hard to find elsewhere.
In the short time the store has been open, the Backlins have had customers come from as far as Wisconsin and Indiana. “Every week we have five or 10 people who have never been here before, so we’re continuously growing,” Roseann Backlin said. “Just a couple of weeks ago, we had our first publicist contact us about an author who said she wanted to come to our store, and we’ve had some authors who are going to be at a workshop who want to come.”
Right now, Marissa Backlin added, they’re focusing on attracting local customers to the store, as Love’s Sweet Arrow is one of the only bookstores in Tinley Park.
And although every day is Bookstore Romance Day at Love’s Sweet Arrow, the store does plan on hosting a special celebration for the August 17 event, which, among other things, will feature a panel with Jennifer Prokop of Kirkus Reviews, Danielle Dresser of Fresh Fiction, and Morgan and Isabeau from the podcast Whoa!mance; a signing with authors Liz Lincoln, Barbara Keaton, Victoria H. Smith, and A.J. Pine; and swag giveaways from HarperCollins and other publishers.
Their goal for the future, the Backlins shared, is to be bookstore owners long term. Said Roseann Backlin, “It’s so nice when we wake up every morning and we get to do what we love. It’s the ultimate goal for people, and we’re very blessed that we get to do this.”