As independent bookstores continue to work to deepen their ties with romance readers, a group of enthusiast booksellers has announced the first Bookstore Romance Day to be held on August 17, 2019. Organizers have billed the event as a “soft launch” for what they intend to be an annual celebration of romance books by independent bookstores nationwide.

The event is the brainchild of veteran bookseller Billie Bloebaum of Third Street Books in McMinnville, Ore. Bloebaum proposed the idea on The Romance of Bookselling, a Facebook group she founded in June 2018 as a forum for new romance booksellers to learn from and share ideas with longtime romance booksellers.

“There is a perception—and it’s not always false—that indies are snobbish toward romance and one of the primary goals in creating this day is to work toward changing that perception,” said Bloebaum. Around 30 booksellers, authors, and publishing professionals have joined her in organizing the day, which will be modeled after Independent Bookstore Day and Free Comic Book Day. “If we get 50 stores participating, I’ll consider it a raging success,” said Bloebaum.

One bookseller who intends to participate is Paul Swydan, owner of the Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass. “I’m very excited for it,” said Swydan, who launched a romance book popup bookstore in nearby Somerville before Valentine’s Day with fellow bookseller Clarissa Murphy.

Swydan intends to host either an author or community-based event on August 17, and said that he believes the day will also get booksellers who do not currently have romance sections to consider creating them. “We need to keep breaking down the stigma that romance books aren’t real books,” said Swydan, “They absolutely are.”

Pamela Jaffee, senior director of publicity and brand development at Avon, called the announcement, “an exciting initiative,” adding that it is a sign that publisher efforts to support romance booksellers and encourage new ones are paying off. “We’re experiencing a rising tide,” said Jaffee. “Hundreds of booksellers have come forth as impassioned romance advocates; authors and readers are working with bookstores to curate and build collections on a local level; and imprints are looking carefully at the types and formats of books that work best for these customers, and providing support directly to booksellers looking to build romance collections.”

Bloebaum said that a website and marketing materials are forthcoming, and all will be informed by the same community-based approach that she and others have taken with The Romance of Bookselling. The group is collecting feedback through a Bookstore Romance Day Facebook page and Twitter handle, and by soliciting ideas, she said she hopes the event will, “raise the visibility of romance-friendly bookstores to the community of romance authors and readers.”

The headline of this article has been updated.