Bloggers bring an energy about books and authors that's unfettered by the day-to-day concerns of running a bookstore. Even the names—Devourer of Books, Bookalicious, the Book Lady—imply a voracious appetite for books. For an employee discount and an opportunity to interview authors who come to the store, many bloggers are willing to create grassroots promotions by writing about bookstores on their blogs and organizing store events.
Bookseller Margie White at Just the Bookstore in Glen Ellyn, Ill., first met Jen Karsbaek (Devourer of Books) in the usual way, on Twitter. "We [both] love books with a passion beyond an ordinary passion," says White, who invited Karsbaek to store events when she found out that she lived nearby. Now Karsbaek helps plan the annual Glen Ellyn Bookfest and reaches out to authors for the store. Last year, Just the Bookstore created blogger bookmarks similar to staff pick cards for Karsbaek and Rebecca Joines Schinsky (the Book Lady), another Twitter friend, and the store links to Karsbaek's blog in its monthly e-newsletter. In addition to expanding the reach of Just the Bookstore, the relationship is helping the store staff become aware of more books. "I get very different books than they get in their white box," Karsbaek says.
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, former book blogger (as the Written Nerd) turned Greenlight Bookstore co-owner, now relies on Ron Hogan (Beatrice) to organize a monthly series of Blogger/Author Pairings at the store. "It keeps us from getting stuck in a rut with literary fiction," says Bagnulo. "We have to be thinking in a community of book lovers way." Through the series the store has had conversations with feminist bloggers, baseball bloggers, and this month with M.A. Orthofer of the Literary Saloon, the blog component of the Complete Review, a book review site. Longtime blogger David Gutowski (Largehearted Boy) produces a similar series for WORD Books in Brooklyn, N.Y. And he has an arrangement with Atomic Books in Baltimore, which sponsored his 52 Books 52 Weeks review series, to write a weekly comics and graphic novel preview for his blog.
Last year Bookalicious blogger Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg approached Hicklebee's in San Jose, Calif., about working together. Since then she's become the store's resident blogger (at Bookalicio.us) and taken over the teen book club. She also created a Ning Network (hicklebeesbookclub.ning.com) for the store's book clubs, where members can share information and videos. "It's great to have this backup person who knows a lot more about social networking," says store manager Ann Seaton.
Concord Bookshop, in Concord, Mass., is one of the few stores to hire its blogger, Dawn Rennert (She's Too Fond of Books), to create events and write an e-newsletter. More typical is newly opened One More Page in Arlington, Va., which uses suggestions from Jennifer Lawrence (Jenn's Bookshelf) for events and book orders. "For a new store establishing itself in these challenging economic times, Jenn spreading the word and helping us differentiate ourselves is a key part of our success," says owner Eileen McGervey.
When Random House reps and bloggers Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman decided to celebrate the third anniversary of their blog, Books on the Nightstand, last month, 100 readers and nine authors descended on one of their favorite places. Northshire Bookstore, in Manchester Center, Vt., willingly opened its doors, even printing a collection of the attendees book recommendations on its Espresso Book Machine. Says Kingman, who thought 10 people might attend, "We just want to spread the word about books." From general manager Chris Morrow's perspective, "It was a good example of how online activity can drive in-store sales. It was also an encouraging reminder that books are still sold person-to-person based on knowledge, credibility, and genuine communication—not algorithms."
One benefit of maintaining an ongoing relationship with bloggers, says Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Va.—who works with Schinsky on adult titles, Susan Robertson (Wastepaper Prose) on YA, and Hogan for a Civil War Book Club—is the broader perspective they can provide. "It's so good for your little bookseller brain to have people around who are so passionate. You can be too focused on your bookstore and lose your connection to the larger book world."
Justice adds, "I hear from booksellers, 'I don't want to lose control.' This obsession with controlling the image of the bookstore, forget about it. People are going to say what they're going to say. The best you can do is be part of the conversation and bring them into the family." For Schinsky, the partnership is about more than increasing her followers on Twitter. "Indie stores really need to innovate," she says. "For me, it's another way to get involved in the book community."