Friday, February 13, 2009

Drinking the Indie Bookstore Kool-Aid

Indie Bookstore people rock. Pure & Simple. And I'm not talking about Todd and myself (well we do rock, but this isn't about us).

Todd and I had been on the outskirts of the indie bookstore movement for about 3 years, because our primary focus was used books. We joined ABA, then we let our membership lapse. We'd go to the trade show, just to walk to floor, grab some ARCs and see what was coming out in the next few months. Then, last summer, we got a box from the ABA . In it was a bright red T-shirt and some funking looking promotional materials. Okay, they started a new program, cool... then we read it all... and got the giant Eat, Sleep, Read poster... and our world changed. We rejoined ABA and we pledged to ourselves that we were no longer going to be that used book store in Lancaster County... we were going to be THE bookstore in Lancaster County. We dove head-first into IndieBound. We stayed for all 3 days of the regional conference and met wonderful people... and this is where the rockin' begins.

We've spent the past few months meeting other booksellers virtually and physically. Through Twitter and Facebook we've connected with some of the most awesome people we've never met - full of ideas, insight, and a general love of books and bookpeople. So to Vroman's Bookstore, Word in Brooklyn, Maria's Bookshop, Malaprops Bookstore , Ann Kingman & Clinton Bookshop, and so many others, I say "thank you for making us better"! But our little journey of the rockin' indies isn't over with just the virtual kool-aide.... we decided to road trip this winter.

First in Harleysville, PA, Shelley of Harleysville Books spent lots of time with Todd, including helping him digest all that is a school bookfair. Now we feel we're ready to tackle those 2-10 year olds next month! This past week I traveled to Clinton Bookshop in NJ. We had heard the owner Harvey as part of a panel on self-evaluations at the Fall NAIBA conference, and really liked what he had to say about looking at your own operations to better serve your customers. Then I met Rob of Clinton Bookshop on Facebook. If there was ever an indie bookstore kool-aid drinker, it's Rob! We just KNEW that Clinton Bookshop was one we had to visit this winter. Rob spent a good 2 hours with me walking me through their store, talking over changes they had recently made; showing me all their membership programs and incentives; talking about events and author appearance; and of course, he had many words of wisdom. To both Shelley & Rob we will be forever indebted.

What makes this such fun kool-aid to be drinking is that the indie bookstore people are a community. If one of us is struggling, we all are. If one of us has a great month, we all share in the joy of that. If one of us has a great marketing idea or a great way to bring in new readers, we share it. To paraphase that line from tradtional wedding services... what Indies have brought together let no chain tear assunder!

Keep rockin my indie friends. Your tweets, blogs, and Facebook pages make us feel like we're at a mini NAIBA or WI each and every day, fully rejuvenated to tackle bookstore owning with a beaming smile on our faces ... now it's back to shelving books for me in a re-designed store, thanks to you all! :)

1 comment:

  1. It is hard not to get excited with all the great support that is out there. I really don't think I would know where to start or what to do next without all the suggestions and feedback from everyone I have enjoyed meeting - mostly virtually.

    I am still looking for a good way to display my Eat Sleep Read poster. I had it in the window for awhile - I don't know how many people thought we were going to be a bed and breakfast. That must be what happens when the house is in the back, since I haven't heard of this happening to others.

    Anyway, I love reading about and learning from your journey.