I imagine it’s a different cycle for stores in resort communities, but for us the bulk of our kids events programming tends to correlate to the school year—whether that’s school events, book festivals put on in partnership with librarians, or bookfairs. Even our in-store author events calendar calms down a little bit for kids, as attention turns to stocking up on books for summer camp and vacations. Even though summer is always a shorter season than it seems, I find that this slower programming season offers an opportunity to step back and make sure that we follow through on all the things we’ve started along the way.
While it’s scaled back, our public author event schedule for kids isn’t totally on hiatus. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to host astronaut Clayton Anderson for more than 100 budding explorers—helping us test our new 4PM picture book event slot for the second time since we piloted it, and supporting the idea that this slightly earlier time just might be the solution to getting families through our area’s after work traffic crunch. It was an awesome, space-tastic event that let out in time for everyone to get home to dinner. I even picked up my own kids from camp early to join the fun. Although as this photo of my little astronauts proves, any well-planned event photo op is only as good as its participants!
In other programming progress, this year also saw our first full school year operating our growing bookfair program out of a stand-alone warehouse. On Tuesday Ellen Greene, our Bookfair Manager, and I mapped out a summer schedule for title curation and staff expansion plans. Ellen walked me through some incredible work she’s done to redesign our Excel tracking sheets with pivot tables, which is honestly pretty game-changing in terms of sorting all the data we look at. (Any other Excel nerds out there nodding along?)
We recently hired a new round of booksellers for the summer, which offered a perfect chance to implement the new 201 Kids and Gift Department training idea I wrote about in February. After actually trying it (because you never really know), I think it’s a useful format for giving non-specialists a few more tools to start with and we’re going to keep going with it. I’ll have to see over time what information proves most valuable here, but for this one I highlighted some key books to know and introduced some tools for answering common questions, including:
- an overview of our citywide summer reading program
- general age ranges breakdowns by section with a couple go-to books in each category
- Tips on using our Irresistible Reads section to engage reluctant readers and an “in-between” display we’re experimenting with to highlight that ever-growing age 10-14 publishing category that straddles middle grade and teen audiences
- Harry Potter / Rick Riordan next reads
- a spotlight on some excellent examples of diverse books to handsell and an overview of our curated Modern First Library program (a new iteration of which we’re currently working to launch with our local newspaper later this summer)
Last month I wrote about a new effort to try to facilitate relationships with the authors in our neighborhood. So tonight Eugenia Vela, our Kids Events Coordinator, and I hosted 14 authors from the SCBWI with 2018 projects to hear about their books and answer any questions they might have. It was great. We covered everything from consignment options to first contact procedures to the logistics of pre-order campaigns to launch party best practices. And everyone got to talk about their projects. I learned about a lot of exciting new books! And it’s never too late to make a connection or ask a question. One illustrator on her 30th book talked to us about setting up her first ever release party. The small group setting fostered an informal, candid dynamic that hopefully will help authors cut through the intimidation factor of reaching out to someone they don’t know. I talked with Samantha Clark, SCBWI Regional Advisor, afterwards, and we think it’ll be a valuable annual event.
Oh, and we’ve been missing an “S” from our “TORYTIME” amphitheater wall for months. It’s probably about time to circle back and refurbish. Tomoko Bason, our Art Director, says there’s something called a cricut maker that might really help us out for these kind of projects. I’ve never heard of a cricut maker, but for me as a bookseller, summer offers a perfect time to learn.