This column grew from first-hand experience that many of the best bookselling ideas come from other booksellers. Each tip offers an inventive way to solve problems that you may not have even been aware of in your store: like getting more mileage out of writing contests and giving old spinner racks another spin with different books.

Book It

One way that Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Bookshop in La Verne, Calif., has made its annual children’s writing contest, which it established two years after it opened in 1985, stand out is by publishing the prize-winning entries. “It’s kind of convenient because we have a bindery,” says general manager Andrea Vuleta. At a ceremony each May, the store gives contest winners in each age group—6 to 9, 10 to 14, and 15 to 18—gift certificates along with two 60-page books with all the winning entries. One book is for the student to keep, the other for their school library.

The books, which have library binding, contain a list of judges along with information about the store, artwork, and bios and color photos of each of the student authors, as well as the entries, which range from poetry to essays and short stories. Mrs. Nelson’s uses the back cover and any extra interior pages to promote shopping local. Additional copies of the book are available at cost, $12.95, for family, friends, and libraries.

“The contest, promoting literacy and working with kids, is one of my favorite things,” says Vuleta, “especially in this area. We have school districts that have foregone literature. They just want kids to understand technical material.” Plus, she adds, that it’s been nice to see 2010 contest winner Paul Nnaoji, who is now in college, go on to have two pieces published in Northern California newspapers.

Let the Dover Books Spin

Betsey Detwiler, owner of Buttonwood Books & Toys in Cohasset, Mass., holds on to all her spinner racks. She’s found that one from when the store first opened more than two decades ago holds picture books better than anything currently available. Another, originally for crossword puzzles, holds Dover coloring books. “We don’t use the one they [Dover] have. The old spinner holds more and keeps them in better shape,” says Detwiler, who does use a large Dover spinner for the press’s smaller-sized books. Both Dover spinners are close to the register.

“We make sure to cover all ages and both boy interests (jet fighters, cars, knights, pirates, dinosaurs) and girl interests (ballerinas, horses, costumes, kittens), as well as a selection of natural science subjects,” she says. “You can order in ones and twos, so this doesn’t require a huge outlay. In terms of return, Dover is not huge. But as one more way to serve customers, it’s well worth doing,.”

If you have tips you’d like to share, please e-mail them to Judith Rosen.