At BEA, Dawn of Bookstore Day

A proposal by Northern California booksellers to create a Bookstore Day modeled after Record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day received a positive reception at BookExpo America.

Northern California Independent Booksellers Association executive director Hut Landon wrote to NCIBA members that he and board member Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, "met with several houses and received pledges of support from everyone we talked to. Conversations with the ABA made it clear that they would support a pilot program produced by NCIBA, and further discussions led to the belief that we should invite Southern California booksellers to participate and create California Bookstore Day."

NCIBA would like to do a pilot Bookstore Day early next year and perhaps make it a national event late next year or early 2015.

Under the plan, as outlined by Mulvihill, publishers would create something "word-based that is limited, unique, and only available for sale at NCIBA stores on a certain day. We're thinking of print runs of 100-1,000, depending on anticipated demand, perhaps a total of 10-15 items from a variety of publishers for the trial run. Not every bookstore will get everything they order, of course. The goal is that demand exceed supply."

Among examples:

  • Signed copies of the book poster or dust jacket from Murakami's recent release in Japan
  • A broadside of a Michael Chabon essay with appropriate artwork
  • An Adam Johnson story, with a letterpress cover, and a simple staple binding
  • An anthology of short stories by Northern California authors with a cover designed by a favorite illustrator
  • A canvas bag featuring art from a children's book
  • The first chapter of a forthcoming Stephen King book with editors' notes printed
  • A Nabokov story with a pressed butterfly

"Anything that's unique in packaging and limited in availability," Mulvihill added. "Think numbered and signed--items to create chatter and inspire that collecting sensibility."

Mulvihill emphasized that the items would be sold at "higher-than-normal ranges," not given away, and, in the pilot, that they would be available only in NCIBA member stores. Customers will have to come into stores to buy these items and will not be able to order them online, reserve them or put them on hold.

Suggested Bookstore Day events could include author appearances, live music, food and drink, storytelling for children, balloon animals, food trucks and poetry slams, Mulvihill wrote. Authors would likely be "very supportive," waive royalties, appear in stores, and more. For publishers, benefits include publicity for authors and titles, "the ability to capitalize on backlist and unfinished works," authors supporting indies and their own writing, media coverage "benefiting the entire bookselling ecosystem" and "love love love from indie bookstores and their customers."

The idea is for no special terms, "just an innovative partnership to drive readers into bookstores and sell more books."

In reporting on the BEA meetings, Landon said that publishers "immediately began thinking of ideas of their own, which was the intention and crucial to the success of the project. We made it clear that any items created could not be offered to Amazon, and that was not an issue for anyone. We also asked them to consider, when thinking of what they might produce, whether customers would line up outside a bookstore for an hour before the store opens on a Saturday morning to make sure they got what they wanted. If not, maybe that item isn't right."

For more information, contact Hut Landon, hut@nciba.com, or Pete Mulvihill, pete@greenapplebooks.com.

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