Points of Sale is an occasional column that shares bookselling tips and ideas from booksellers for booksellers.
“Independent bookstores that are doing well are all doing books and something else,” said Tom Holbrook, owner of 16-year-old RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H. In his case, that means selling new and used books as well as buying, selling, and repairing typewriters and publishing books through the store’s Piscataqua Press. While the store’s main promotion used to be 100 author events a year, in recent years RiverRun has cut way back. The 20,000-person town can’t support that many author events, noted Holbrook, who has found that now they’re only successful if the author is famous, hyperlocal, or both.
In casting about for another way to engage customers—and to get more shelf talkers for new and backlist titles—Holbrook launched the RiverRun Rex campaign earlier this month to encourage the store’s customers to write about their favorite books. Between the beginning of August and the end of September, Holbrook is hoping to get 500 book recommendations for both kids’ and adult titles. If the store reaches its goal, RiverRun will donate $1,000 to the Children’s Literacy Foundation, which promotes literacy in New Hampshire and Vermont to at-risk children up to age 12.
In addition to bragging rights for shelf talkers posted in the store and/or on Twitter and Facebook, there are added incentives. For every five unique recommendations (the store is only accepting one recommendation per book) that RiverRun receives from the same person, their name is entered into a weekly drawing for gift certificates to the bookstore and/or other local businesses. A final drawing will take place on September 30 for a $200 gift certificate.
For the store, Holbrook sees the program as a way to engage with customers and to make RiverRun more engaging once all the shelf talkers are posted.