Thousands of people from all over the Kansas City metro area have attended at least one of the approximately 250 author events Rainy Day Books has hosted in the past year. According to Vivien Jennings, who opened Rainy Day in 1975, attendance at Rainy Day events ranged from 50 to a record 3,000 people during Jimmy Carter's most recent visit.
Both local authors and national celebrities participate in these popular events. They take place either in a 300-sq.-ft. space below the store's 2,250-sq.-ft. retail area or, more often, offsite—at auditoriums, in hotel ballrooms, restaurants and various other venues all over the greater Kansas City area that can accommodate large crowds.
The secret to Rainy Day's success just might be that the bookstore is innovative and imaginative in presenting authors and their work to Rainy Day audiences.
The list of businesses and nonprofits affiliated with Rainy Day Books is long, diverse and impressive. Rainy Day partners include the Harry S. Truman Library, the Kansas City Independent Restaurant Association, Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Star, Metropolitan Bar Association and the Women's Foundation.
"We have a waiting list of organizations who want to work with us and contribute items to be given away," Jennings told PW. "Our partners have positive experiences with us and get wonderful exposure. Word gets around."
"We always try to deliver more than we promise. When we participate in an event, we put our best foot forward, and make sure our partners look good. It's a lot of hard work, but we are capable," she added. With military-like precision, Jennings, her life partner and COO, Roger Doeren, and her 15 employees meticulously plan each event. They tailor it to each author's audience, partnering with one or more organizations and drawing upon each partner's strengths. They strive to create a festive atmosphere, often with food, drink and even door prizes, all donated by the store's partners.
When Kate White, Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief and the author of mysteries set in the fashion world, recently came to Kansas City to promote her latest, 'Til Death Do Us Part, the store organized several events promoting her and her books.
The day started with a luncheon for 125, held on Sprint's campus. Later in the evening, a cocktail party (featuring cosmopolitan drinks, naturally) was held on the rooftop terrace of the Fairmont Hotel Kansas City at the Plaza. It was followed by a fashion show sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. There were drawings for dinners at the city's most popular restaurants, spa treatments and gift baskets. The 100 attendees each received a gift box of gourmet chocolates and a gift bag of perfume samples as door prizes.
By the end of the day, Rainy Day had sold 175 copies of White's three mystery titles, including 75 hardcover copies of 'Til Death Do Us Part. This was the same day the store sold 1,300 copies of Bill Clinton's My Life to patrons who had ordered the book before publication.
"Kate was very happy, she had never seen anything like this before. I am a happy although a tired camper! What was important was that the different events did not take away from the other things going on that day. Sometimes you just have to do it all," Jennings told PW.
"Like it or not, we're in the entertainment business," Jennings said. "We have to compete with others to capture people's time. It's not the money, it's the time. It's harder and harder to grab people away from their family, relationships and work. We make sure that the Rainy Day experience is worth people's time. And our event partners help make that happen."