Booklynn #3: The Open Book Bookstore Is Open!

Lynn Rosen

Lynn Rosen updates us on the bookstore she is opening in suburban Philadelphia. Part 1 is available here, and Part 2 is available here.

I hope you all had a busy and successful holiday season! You haven't heard from me for a while, and I have been quite busy as well. I'd love to fill you in on what's been happening in the ongoing story of creating our new indie Open Book bookstore.

When last I wrote, I mentioned that we were planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign. I specifically said that I was planning to use Kickstarter. Well, a few of you let me know (one person in quite strong terms!) that Kickstarter was NOT a good idea. I didn't quite connect the dots at first and realize that Kickstarter uses Amazon to process its payments. So, a Kickstarter campaign for an indie bookstore? Apparently not such a logical idea. (I will note that Kickstarter recently announced that it is switching to a different payment processor, something called Stripe, which actually looks like a competitor to Square, which we use. But as my friend Scott likes to say: "Too late, Lex Luthor!")

Instead, we selected Indiegogo, which seemed to have the right upstart indie attitude (and which uses PayPal for payments. Did Amazon buy them yet?). Another appeal of Indiegogo is that you can select a flexible funding option, which means that if you don't make your goal, you pay a higher fee (9% vs. 4%) but can still get whatever money you raise. On Kickstarter, if you don't make your goal, you get nothing and all the donations are refunded. Sad.

Open Book interior

Creating the crowdfunding campaign took much longer than we expected. I totally underestimated what's involved in doing this, from making the video (kudos to my husband and bookstore partner, Evan, who taught himself iMovie and did a masterful job) to writing the copy for the page to determining what the rewards will be.

In the end, I'm very pleased with the result. I hope you'll take a look and learn a bit more about who we are and our backgrounds. Here's the link.

I'm thrilled to say we met our goal in 12 days! We started with an initial goal of $5,000, which we explained we would use as follows:

  • Build up our inventory
  • Purchase additional shelving
  • Implement a point-of-sale system that includes printing receipts, a cash drawer and perhaps a barcode scanner
  • Join the regional and national bookselling associations and local business merchant group, securing our role in the community
  • Promote and advertise the store in the region
  • Set up an effective online presence

Once we met the first goal, we set what they call a stretch goal of $8,000, explaining that we would use the additional funds for more inventory and for working capital for things like advertising and marketing.

In the end, we raised $8,790, for which we are profoundly grateful to our friends, our families, our neighbors and many publishing colleagues. (I'm talking about you, Bruce Shaw and Adam Salomone of Harvard Common Press, and you, Angela Bole, David Phethean, Doug Gordon, Andrew Brenneman, Fauzia Burke, Bo & Carol Sacks, Linda Ruth, Margaret Biblis and Judith Appelbaum--you are all amazing!)

We're using most of the money to build our inventory. Even with our very small space (roughly 300 square feet), we really want to have as many books as we can afford and fit. And we are constantly surprised by how much this costs to do, although it won't be news to any of you!

The weekend before last was our official Grand Opening. Friday evening after closing we held a private wine and cheese party for all of our donors who are in the area to thank them, and Saturday we had cake and snacks for all our customers. And now, the real work begins.

More concerted marketing and outreach, as well as event planning, are our next big steps. But little by little, people are finding us, and they seem very pleased to see us in the neighborhood. We have been the (grateful) recipients of a lot of "we want to buy local" support and energy. And our carefully curated collection has also been well-received. A woman came into our bookstore the other day, spent a few minutes looking at our fiction selection, turned to me, and said: "This feels like a list of everything I want to read." What could be better than that?

Another day, a friend of mine came in with her husband and two children, and spent a long time looking at all the books: adult fiction and nonfiction, local authors, and our wide selection of books for children of all ages. She then told me, "When I came in here and saw how small it was compared to Barnes & Noble, I didn't know what to expect. But now I get it. You only have good books. There's no crap." I laughed in appreciation and told her teasingly: "that can be our new slogan: we don't have crap!"

More soon!

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