7 Survival Secrets for Independent Bookstores

By Jason Boog Comment

At the Los Angeles Festival of Books, some of the best booksellers on the West Coast shared strategies that helped them survive during these challenging times for local bookstores. Below, we’ve collected seven tips from these innovative booksellers.

The panelists included: Vroman’s Bookstore president Allison Hill, Powell’s Books president Emily Powell and owner Michael Powell, and City Lights chief book buyer Paul Yamazaki.

1. Sell personalized children’s books. Hill said children’s books sold well at her store, and customizable children’s books were very popular as gifts.

2. Create special book bundles. Powell’s created special “Indiespensable” bundles for readers, assembling special packages of books with limited edition items.

3. Team up with other local businesses. Yamazaki explained how City Lights joined other local businesses to remind Bay Area shoppers to buy local. “Reach out to other local sellers to remind people that if you don’t support these businesses, then your neighborhood will be different,” he noted.

4. Work with print on demand companies. Michael Powell said he found success partnering with POD experts Lightning Source for some books in his store.

5. Partner with local self-published authors. Hill connected with local indie authors, helping them sell their books to the community through Vroman’s.

6. Start a membership program for your most dedicated readers. One audience member asked the booksellers if they had any sort of a subscription plan–“I pay 10 a month for NPR and I’d love to do that for my local bookstore,” he explained.

7. Treat books like vinyl. Hill said a collection of special edition Penguin Classics sold out at the last book festival, purchased primarily by teenagers shopping for stylish books the same way they shopped for classic records.