This is a guest post from the staff of WORD Bookstores. WORD is an independent bookstore with locations in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Follow them on Twitter @wordbookstores!
The first ever national Independent Bookstore Day is this Saturday, May 2nd! Spend the day browsing the shelves at your local indie using the tips below, and if you’re in NYC, join us at 9 p.m. in Brooklyn for an Indie Bookstore Day Afterparty hosted by Emma Straub, Jammi Attenberg, and Angela Flournoy! Get more info here, and/or go ahead and RSVP on Facebook. Party on, Wayne.
So you’ve found your local indie bookstore — hurrah! Welcome. Come in, browse around, stay awhile. (Just don’t spill your coffee on the books.) Don’t mind us if we coo over your dog. We’re here to make everyone welcome — and to help everyone go home with the right book. To that end, here are six tips for making the most of your local bookstore.
1. The number one, all-time, no-seriously-we-mean it tip is simple: Talk to your booksellers. We’re not here to sell you the season’s hottest, most expensive garment, and then upsell you on some dangly earrings to boot; we’re here to help you find a book you’re going to love. (If you also go home with a literary matchbox, all the better.) Sometimes that’s a book we’ve only heard great things about; sometimes it’s a book that changed our lives. If you talk to us about what you’re reading, what you love, and what you’re looking for, we will remember you, and then next time you come in, we’ll have a whole new slew of things to recommend. If you’re shy about in-person interactions, you can also email! Giving recommendations is the high point of a bookseller’s day, whether in person or via email or Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or … you get the drift.
2. Sign up for your local store’s newsletter! We’re not going to spam you, promise, and it’s the best way to find out what’s happening in the store and get easy-peasy recommendations. You don’t want to come in a week after an event and see that you missed your favorite author. You want that email. (These are the droids you’re looking for.)
3. If you just want to poke around on your own but aren’t sure what you want, the shelf-talkers — bookstore lingo for the little slips of paper with handwritten recommendations that cling to the shelves — are your new best friends. They have booksellers’ names on them for a reason, and it’s not just because we want the world to know how much we love these books. It’s because once you realize that you really like one bookseller’s picks, you can find more of them, whether or not that bookseller is at work that day. And we promise, we will never find it creepy if you say, “Oh, are you the one who recommended this?” We not-so-secretly love that.
4. If you’re shopping for a gift, we will do our best to find the right book for your friend/aunt/grandma/dad’s second cousin/best friend from college. But it really helps if you have a few details to give us. “I need a book for someone who is turning 30” is very broad. “I need a book for a guy who is turning 30 and loves to bake and mostly reads fiction and is traveling to Argentina next year” is very helpful.
5. We love a challenge. You only remember that the book was probably non-fiction and might have had a stamp on the cover and had a really great NPR review? We will use arcane bookseller practices and/or the contents of our colleagues’ brains (and possibly Google) to hunt down the title for you. It is the bookseller version of a quest and leaves us quite satisfied at the end. Never feel bad about sending anyone on a quest. Especially a bookseller.
6. Whatever else we might do — host events; make faces at your baby when it starts to cry; post flyers for your band’s show on our community board; use eight different colors of ribbon on a package to please a particular 8-year-old — we are here to put the right books in your hands. You are never bothering us. There are no stupid questions when it comes to reading. Don’t see the book you want? Maybe we have it shelved somewhere peculiar — or maybe we’re just out. In that case, we will happily order you a copy. We call special orders “special” because they’re just for you, not because they’re difficult. We do them every week. You too can get in on the fun.