At a Winter Institute seminar called A Year of In-Store Promotions, coordinated by the ABC Children’s Group and held on January 23, panelists Mara Lynn Luther of Chapter One Book Store, Sara Hines from Eight Cousins, and Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops led an overflow crowd of booksellers on a tour of the seasons with ideas about holiday-specific children’s book promotions.

Hines said that January is a good time to feature a display of the IndieBound Debut Authors books for customers who may not be aware of these titles, selected as they are by indie booksellers. Anderson’s store hosts regular game nights during the winter months, when customers watch demonstrations of new digital games aimed at kids. Valentine’s Day, she said, is an especially busy time for promotions. “We send special customers We Love You gift cards in the $10 to $50 range. This shows our appreciation and brings customers in to shop, too.” She also holds rep nights, or galley giveaways to shoppers, in February, and features a “blind date” promotion: staffers wrap books in plain brown paper and write clues to the contents on the wrapping. These books are fully refundable if the customer isn’t happy with them after the holiday.

Spring brings April’s National Poetry Month, when Luther schedules local poets to come in and give readings; Children’s Book Week in May inspires special displays in all the panelists’ stores. But summer is perhaps the season with the most energetic promotional ideas. “We started having book camps last year,” Luther said. “I brought in a tent for the kids to read in, and they loved it. We had 10 events like that, including a Percy Jackson camp.” Anderson said her store hosts science camps “where the kids have fun blowing things up in the parking lot of the store.” She also prints up bookmarks that promote summer reading. “We pick six titles, K to YA, to put on the bookmarks,” she said. “If a customer buys at least two of the books during the summer, they get rewards of “book bucks” and ARCs.”

Come fall, Hines organizes “kindergarten socials” for children who may be anxious about starting school. “I have a real kindergarten teacher there who guides the kids, and story time and snacks,” she said. “It helps the children to meet each other and see they’re not alone. Kindergarten seems less scary to them afterward.” When the discussion turned to Halloween, audience member Sheryl Cotleur of Book Passage talked about the trick-or-treat event the store organizes for young customers and their parents; it takes place every year in downtown Corte Madera, Calif., where the store is located. Anderson’s creates “haunted trolley rides” for its customers during Halloween. “I’m one of those sick people who likes to wear costumes,” Anderson said, “so I love dressing up for the Halloween trolleys.” Because the panel started 20 minutes late due to set-up issues, a comprehensive discussion of the holiday season wasn’t possible. Still, the booksellers left with plenty of new promotional ideas to ponder.