Background info about yourself and blue house books
BHB: I have always been a big reader, and I always wanted a career in some type of writing or editing field. I first explored journalism, because I loved the research and meeting all kinds of people, but realized in my senior year of my undergrad career that it wasn’t what I wanted to do day-to-day. After working in the industry for a year and still not loving it, I decided to explore the world of publishing. I attended Oxford Brookes University in the UK and earned my Master of the Arts Degree in Book Publishing in 2016. After returning to the states, I was struggling to find a job in the Midwest, and so I began Blue House Books as a pop-up shop with the intention that it was just to stay in the industry while I searched for a way to start my career in publishing. Jobs still weren’t becoming available, and so Blue House Books ended up slowly growing.
Without even realizing it, I fell in love with bookselling! I was working with people again, researching what great books were coming out, interacting with publishing companies, and eventually started hosting literary events. I was a micro-bookstore for a few months, open nights and weekends as I still had a full-time office job–then COVID hit. It was a very unsure time, and I wasn’t confident that a bookstore was the right move at the time. But to my surprise, I got busier! People were craving entertainment at home in those early days of stay-at-home orders and quarantine. Schools closed and parents looked for ways to fill the gap. All this led to the need for books, puzzles, study aides, and more items that I was able to provide.
Blue House Books turned into a pickup and delivery service–sometimes making more than a dozen deliveries a day while still working a full-time job–and the increase in business gave me the capital and confidence to open my first brick-and-mortar location. I quit my job in July 2020, opened Blue House Books in September 2020, and moved to a bigger location in September 2021.
What kind of reading trends do you see with your customers?
BHB: BOOKTOK! Booktok is definitely the big trend right now for bookstores. If a book goes viral on TikTok, we know it will be a big seller and we need to get in as many copies as we can! It could be a steamy romance, a psychological thriller, or the latest book-turned-movie. With our customers specifically, we see a lot of sales in fiction both in adult and kids books.
What other services and/or products do you provide for your customers?
BHB: We also offer a wide range of events for our community. We recently held a used book exchange, where customers brought in their books from home and exchange them with books from someone else’s library. We also recently held a workshop for guests wanting to becoming better plant parents.
Our favorite events to host are author events, either launch parties for new books or guest appearances to talk with readers. As we have grown, we have been able to get in some great writers, such as Christina Clancy, Hannah Morrissey, Greta Kelly, Jeneva Rose, and more. We have some big events coming up that we can’t wait to share with our customers and followers!
What do you like most about owning and working in an indie bookstore?
BHB: I absolutely love coming to work everyday, although it’s not always as glamorous as some people think. People have a very romantic idea of what owning a bookstore is like, and a lot of it is true: I’m surrounded by books all day, I get to talk about what I love, I get a TON of free books, and I get to meet authors! But there’s also a lot more to it that’s not so romantic: lots of spreadsheets, financial planning, marketing, and cardboard cuts (which are WAY worse than papercuts!). But no matter what task I’m doing–whether it’s something exciting like planning an author event or something tedious like bookkeeping–I still love what I do, because it all contributes to bringing books to my community.
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Article originally Published in the August / September 2022 Issue: Indie Debuts.