Children's Book Buyers Retreat Recap


THANK YOU to all the children's book buyers that joined us in Rhinebeck last week. This retreat always has its own special magic and this year was no exception.

Patty Exstein of Three Wishes Bookshop brought the store with her! The group got to visit her bookmobile in the parking lot and see all her inventory and discuss her operations. What a treat! She even has a "sunshine box" of books she'll give away to children. So sweet, and each gift has a special story to go along with it.

So many great ideas were shared and we have a list of some gems for you:

Nichole Meyers, Word: Work with local Farmers’ Market bring an author in—they read and kids gather and your store can either sell at a booth or, depending on geography, drive customers to the store itself. Teacher wish lists: talk to head of literacy or librarians at schools and post wish list by the register. Parents buy, kids design their own bookplates. Give 10% of the sales to the schools. Nice alternative to in-store book fairs. 

Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books: Store staff wanted to get books to prisoners and they’re working with the Beacon Prison Books Project. Individuals request, customers buy the books, and then the store ships to the prisons using the BPBP logistics. A beautiful thing to be a part of, and you can deduct staff time from what you donate back.

Candace Rivera, The Book and Nook Store: Double down on social media reels and memes. They’ve had memes go viral with 60k views. Humor is key for engagement. The CapCut video editor app has templates you can use to do this.

Hillary Smith, Black Walnut Books: They have 7 book clubs, and combine subscription boxes with book clubs: up to 100 subscribers, club is virtual. They also have an in-person club 4x/year where they read a queer book and do a pottery craft, including a custom pottery stamp. What started as a one-day activity has expanded to a whole weekend. Ticket price is $25 which is basically the cost of the pottery.

Amy Andrews, East City Bookshop: They read picture books to each other to engage staff to get more interested in children’s books - basically a staff story time. The goal is a kid’s only staff picks display.

Sandie Angulo Chen, Loyalty Booktore: They partner with An Open Book Foundation (Kelly Yang coming to speak to a Title 1 school, store has a poster asking community to donate books); it’s a win for for author + community. They also do handselling recs on the store Slack channel - 2-minute "ted talks" by staff about their favorite titles.

Claire Van Den Broek, Huxley & Hiro: They work with a local banned books advocacy program that holds 6-week programs to talk about banned books.

Hannah Peterson, Inquiring Minds: Customers buy sticky notes to put on a board that they want to donate. They’ve incorporated this into the bookstore business; it’s based on a program at a local marketplace that has a Salu Salo board.

Kira Wizner, Merritt Bookstore: Reach out to teachers to have teacher nights and learn about new books. Target to summer reading list building, with teacher Friday afternoons every week. Consistency is key. Also, leverage the older teens who work at the store to create marketing materials.

Jen Matthews, Growing Minds: Their logo is a tree with books as leaves and they used a Cricket machine to cut out leaves for customers for put up their favorite books. Kids are changing their books as they are growing. Also, think through what makes kids comfortable: stool in the bathroom, toys in the sections. Make the kids welcome. 

Rebecca Kinnie, The Little Bookstore: They do a birthday wish list for kids. Basically a wedding registry for kids’ birthday parties, but also good intel about what kids themselves are interested in.

Adriene Rister, Spark Books: Their children’s only store specializes in experiential shopping. They have a craft table, a sensory table, a waldorf arch, costumes. Customers come to the store and stay longer and it enforces the idea that the store is a community (and an entertainment) space. Plus, the store ends up as bait on behavior charts.

Additional wonderful ideas:

  • Ikea has an egg chair, kids love
  • community growth chart on the wall that has been a “A fountain of joy.”  
  • a craft activity table
  • dog hall of fame on the back wall:  Take polaroids and post. Lots of social media engagement as a result.  Cat hall of fame has been added.  (dog wall + cat corner)
  • use tags on Edelweiss!
  • hand books to customers to compel a purchase…works more often than you’d think and turns browsers into buyers.