On Saturday, more than 90 bookstores across the state will celebrate the inaugural California Bookstore Day with readings and signings, cocktail hours, food trucks and music. Each participating store will also offer up to 13 items created for the event.
Green Apple Books co-owner Pete Mulvihill modeled Bookstore Day after Record Store Day, when he noticed last year’s steep increase in LP sales. Saturday’s event marks a first-of-its-kind collaboration between publishers, authors and bookstores.
“Part of the reason to do this now, I think, is that stores can,” Mulvihill said by phone. “Five years ago, this would have never gotten anywhere because people were just struggling to make payroll or pay the rent. But indie bookstores have really not just survived but thrived in the last few years. More and more stores (are) opening.”
Mulvihill, who serves on the board of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, received enthusiastic support from that organization. But it didn’t have the resources to make the idea a reality. Mulvihill’s wife, writer and editor Samantha Schoech, took on the job of producing a logo contest and an Indiegogo campaign, even becoming a publisher to create some of the items. These include a full-color, 68-page hardcover book of Lisa Brown‘s 3-panel book reviews and a wooden graffiti stencil with a quote by Don DeLillo (“California deserves whatever it gets”) – for which they sourced their own wood.
“I don’t know that another state could have pulled this off quite the same way,” Schoech said, noting that every author they reached out to said yes without hesitation. “We just wanted the items to be cool, but we did end up with a lot of specifically California stuff, and the reaction we’ve gotten has been one of pride.”
Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, said: “Any publisher will tell you this region is the strongest independent bookstore market in the country. We don’t have better stores than other areas, but we do have more good stores within 50 miles of each other than anywhere else.”
Bookstores from around the country have expressed interest in participating and have requested that the American Booksellers Association make the event national next year. He’s quick to point out that, if that were to happen, the association could be managing up to 10 times the number of stores participating in this year’s event and that “they are offering so many extraordinary programs and benefits for their members – to take on a national bookstore day without impacting what they now offer would be a challenge.”
But the association, along with booksellers across the country, will be paying close attention to what happens in California on Saturday. Landon says he’s optimistic.
“This is the time to celebrate,” he says. “Everyone is really jazzed. The stores are only worried they may have under-ordered some of the CBD books and art pieces. Publishers that created one-of-a-kind items for the event are very pleased. And authors are either excited or want to know why they weren’t given an opportunity to contribute something. Wait till next year.”
Photo by California Bookstore Day Publish