Last year’s inaugural national Independent Bookstore Day, which coincided with Free Comic Book Day on May 2, was a huge success. More than 300 of the 400 participating stores reported average sales increases of 70% and a significant uptick in foot traffic over a typical day, according to IBD program director Samantha Schoech.

This spring IBD returns on April 30. The slightly earlier date was prompted by concerns about competing with Mother’s Day, which falls on May 8 this year.

Schoech predicts that even more booksellers will participate in 2016. Sponsorship has already increased. In addition to the American Booksellers Association and Penguin Random House, Ingram has joined in, and its support enabled IBD staff to visit the fall regionals to talk with booksellers one-on-one.

“That was great because we got to take our message to the people,” Schoech says. “We are figuring out ways for smaller, slightly more geographically isolated stores to participate. There’s a lot of stores that fit that description that did really well in 2015. Where larger stores can draw huge authors for big events year round, smaller stores don’t have that pull. In some ways Independent Bookstore Day can be that giant boon for them.”

Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., definitely benefited from participating last year. It reported a 57% year-on-year sales increase on IBD. “That’s fantastic,” events coordinator Carson Evans says. Last year the store gave away free books on the street to draw people in and Evans set up activity stations, including a crafts area for kids and a writing space with a typewriter. “It was great because I could set them up in the morning and not have to fuss with them much for the rest of the day, which I think is important for a store with a small staff and limited time resources,” she says.

To help boost sales for participating bookstores, IBD offered 15 exclusive items last year. For 2016, it has cut back to a dozen exclusives with lower price points, including a Curious George plush doll with an IBD logo on his shirt, a Neil Gaiman coloring book, a vinyl record to accompany Rad American Women A–Z, and IBD’s signature item: a Bad Citizen stencil featuring a quote from Fran Lebowitz. At WI 11, IBD will announce its first “Author Ambassador,” who will help with promotion this year.

Schoech says it is often the little things that make a difference on IBD and encourages booksellers to get creative. Last year Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company offered a behind-the-scenes tour, for example, while other stores tweeted out secret passwords that customers could mention in exchange for prizes.

“Join the Party” is IBD’s tagline, and Schoech encourages stores to embrace it. “Throwing a party is a huge part of the entire thing,” she says. “We want this to become known as a day that celebrates books, bookstores, booksellers, and authors—and the party is a huge part of it.”

The party has begun to spread northward. Booksellers in Canada are finalizing plans for a second Canadian Authors for Indies Day, which will be held on April 30, as well.

See Schoech moderate the panel “Independent Bookstore Day and the Power of Alliance”—featuring Country Bookshelf owner Ariana Paliobagis, Pegasus Books owner Amy Thomas, and Calvin Crosby, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association—on Monday, January 25, 4:30–5:30 p.m., Governor’s Square 17.

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