It’s curious when an idea so obviously relevant to bookselling remains in the back of people’s minds for years before someone finally takes action to make it a reality, but in the case of Pete Mulvihill of San Francisco’s Green Apple Books this year’s BEA was his opportunity to sell publishers on the idea of Bookstore Day.
“I was on a mission,” says Mulvihill, who is co-owner of Green Apple and sits on the board of NCIBA. “I wrote a proposal about Bookstore Day and handed it out to the Big Six publishers and a few other presses on the convention floor. The response was a resounding ‘yes’ across the board. Everyone I approached wants to get involved.” Based on the very successful Record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day, both of which began many years ago, what Bookstore Day will require of publishers is to create something word-based that is limited, unique, and only available at California bookstores on a specific day. In his proposal Mulvihill writes, “We’re thinking of print runs of 100 to 1,000 depending on anticipated demand, perhaps a total of 25 to 30 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, after all.”
Suggested items include a broadside of a Michael Chabon essay, an anthology of short stories by Northern California authors with a cover designed by a favorite illustrator, one-of-a-kind book bags featuring art from a favorite children’s book, and the first chapter of the forthcoming Stephen King book with editor’s notes printed. Since the first Bookstore Day won’t be held until Spring 2014, publishers have time to come up with ideas for special literary products. The stores will publicize the event, and be encouraged to have author events, live music, poetry slams, or any kind of special event on that day.
Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, said that rather than launch Bookstore Day on a national level, it’s best to use California as a test model. Landon invited the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association to participate with NCIBA, and executive director Andrea Vuleta has enthusiastically made that commitment. Until it becomes a national event, it will be called California Bookstore Day. “We have two main goals for this,” Landon says. “One is to sell unique items, and the other is to turn the day into a party, a big retail day. This isn’t a giveaway. We’ll sell these items in the stores, and hopefully they’ll attract new customers as well.”
Mulvihill hopes the publishers will create two items for California Bookstore Day, one for an adult book and the other for children. This year Amoeba Records in San Francisco had 750 people waiting in line to purchase limited release items on Record Store Day, which Mulvihill would like to replicate at bookstores next spring by having irresistible word-related items for sale. “The real key is finding the items,” says Landon. “This will be stuff people can’t buy anywhere else or at any other time.”
Besides the value to bookstores, there is much for the publishers to gain by participating in California Bookstore Day: publicity for authors and titles, the ability to capitalize on unfinished works, media coverage, and the opportunity for authors to support indies and promote their writing. “This all came together in the last three or four weeks,” says Mulvihill, who knows there is much more to be done in order to turn the day into a success. “We’ll find a way to make it work.”