Paying It Forward: Book Club Mixer Boosts Sales & Goodwill

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Susan Richmond of Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Washington, knows a good idea when she hears it. At this past Winter Institute in Salt Lake City, Richmond attended the "Book Club Brainstorming" session, where panelist Debra Linn of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida, described the store's popular book club mixer: customers are matched by reading preferences and are given ARCs to start their own book club. Richmond recently held one at Inklings and had "about 35 very happy customers."

Richmond's book club mixer followed the plan outlined by Linn at Wi4. She asked publishers for five copies each of new galleys. At an in-store event featuring Molly Gloss (Hearts of Horses, Mariner), Richmond gave each person a specially marked nametag according to their reading interests. Four other people with like taste were given similarly marked nametags. "When those people found each other, they were each given a copy of an ARC and Voila! -- instant reading group," explained Richmond, adding that customers were matched in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, cooking, Christian fiction, and historical fiction.

When she requested the galleys, Richmond said she did so timidly, "but was pleased to find that every publisher's rep that I approached gladly sent what I asked for." She passed along the windfall to her customers. "We gave them the sets of galleys with no strings attached -- they didn't have to buy anything. Even so, our sales for the day were significantly above a usual March Wednesday."

Linn, who has developed several book club mixers at Books & Books, told BTW that she was pleased about Inklings' success.

In addition to the Molly Gloss reading and book club mixer, the Inklings event offered customers a "rainbow of Bundt cakes," a raffle, and an ARC giveaway. "We read a lot of [the ARCs], but can't read them all," said Richmond. "So we had what we alluded to throughout the evening as 'The Great Unveiling,' when we uncovered a big bookshelf full of ARCs for people to take home free. We did ask them to bring us a couple-of-sentences review if they liked the ARCs they took. We raffled off a few $5 IndieBound gift cards and Inklings tote bags."

Richmond was appreciative of Linn's suggestion, as well as the publisher assistance. "The main reason this event was successful because of the great support we received from our publisher friends," she said. "We are very grateful. We also have a whole bunch of really, really happy and loyal customers."

For more book club suggestions, check out the Winter Institute session handouts on --Karen Schechner