Monday, March 23, 2009

The Bookfair Wrap-up

Well, we survived the week! It was a great week in fact. We went into the bookfair kind of blind... only our memories of the bookfairs of yesteryear from our school days in the last century (doesn't that make us sound so old??!!??).

Once we committed oursevles the the venture, Todd met with Shelley at Harleysville Books, who has great knowledge of creating and hosting bookfairs. She gave us an inventory list she uses, and lots of great ideas (including SMENCILS!). We took her list and pared it down, focusing on the K-grade 2 books. Then took the Penguin catalogues and added Caldecott winners to the list.
Then the real inspiration came in the form of a publisher sales rep. We met with our rep. from a group that sells books from several smaller kid book publishers.... and let me tell you hands down these unique books were the hit of the bookfair... in fact we ran out of one series of books before the classes even came in (those early shopping parents). So words of wisdom for any Indie doing a bookfair for the younger set, you MUST carry books from: Gardner & Child's Play (carried with the Empire group, for you bookstore folks). We knew these would be popular, just because of their uniqueness and playful look.

We took a chance on another small publisher, and boy howdy did it pay off! They were so popular we're now going to carry the line full time in our store with a permanent display. We just can't sing the praises of Treasure Bay enough. They publish books to help earlier readers. At each level there is a page for the parent/adult to read, and a page for the child to read. The two reading together tell the whole story. The first level has just a word on the child's page, then the 2nd level has a simple sentence, and so on. They are great. We knew the mom's would like them, but were shocked to find that every child had at least one of the Treasure Bay books on their wishlist. No TV characters, no famous cartoon characters, just fun stories with bright pictures; and the kids loved them.

We went in on Tuesday afternoon and did the intial set up of tables and books. On Wednesday in the morning, each class visited. Teachers, us , and 2 parent vounteers had clipboards and each time a child found a book they like, we added it their "wishlist". After a brief lunch break we moved books around and had the higher level books on display for the visit from the elementary class. Thursday was a half day for kids, and then parent-teacher conferences started. We kept the wish-lists from each class visit to the fair and then had them ready for parents coming in for conferences. Parents could then shop from their child's list or shop on their own. By Friday morning we were out of the more popular items, but offered parents a rain check if they wanted to order things from the list.

Other things we learned... 1) Bookazine rocks with 3pm cut off for next day delivery. We were able to go through all the wishlists from when the classes came on Wednesday, and place an order of uber popular wishes to have there on Thursday by noon. 2) need a computer POS so we don't have to manually enter book sales onto a spreadsheet to track what was wished for and what sold. 3) be more clear to parents about what a bookfair is and how we are running it.... only a few kdis came with money on the class visit day, so we were scrambling much more than we thought with writing wishlists for kids... next year we'll have kids with money be able to come seperately and ask teachers to bring kids in groups of 8 or less (and not set aside time for the toddler classes)

All in all is went fabulously. We are so thankful for the Montessori Academy of Lancasters for allowing us to use them as guinea pigs. The teachers, parents, and children were great to work with, and we were so happy that they were excited to have us there. We'll be back there next year, twice! (and thanks to the NAIBAhood gathering of booksellers in NJ last night, we figured out a way to reach out to the religious schools for fundraisers too!)


  1. What is something you would suggest the school do to advertise or get ready for the fair? We are doing our first ever Independent bookstore fair and I'm nervous. I want it to go well!

  2. Just make sure that the parent know A) that is it happening and B) that it's YOU and not cheap scholastic crapola and C) when their child will be visiting it and D) ask the school to give you feedback immediately... nice thing with indies is we can adjust our stock w/in 24 hours if need be thanks to BT, Bookazine & Ingram :) Good luck! it was a lot of fun to see both parent and child face light up at the books :)