Ten bookstores in the Twin Cities teamed up to create a passport program for Independent Bookstore Day on April 30, 2016. Featuring Kevin Cannon's wonderful artwork and hand-drawn illustrations of each of the stores, the passport awarded anyone who visited all 10 participating stores a $10 gift card to all 10 stores. Media outlets from CityPages to MPR and the Pioneer Press reported on the program leading up to the event, and the turnout and participation surpassed our expectations.
The passport was based loosely on a similar program held in Seattle in 2015 encouraging book lovers to visit 17 stores. Only one individual accomplished the task, so bookstores in the Twin Cities had modest expectations--that is, until doors opened and passports started flying off of counters. When the dust cleared, more than 100 bookstore customers had tweeted us photos of their finished passport, with the vast majority having completed the challenge of visiting all 10 stores over the course of the day.
The responses were colorful and heartening. A mom and her two kids completed the whole passport and took colorful photos at every store. Some people bought a book or two (or three?) at every store and included photos of their loot. Others completed part or all of the passport on bike, notably Tracy Mumford, the Minnesota Public Radio reporter who shared photos of each stop and even a map of her route.
Participating bookstores were thrilled at the success of the program. Angela of Moon Palace Books, whose store created a Twin Cities Bookstore Map that was given out alongside the passports, said, "100 winners is awesome! The more the better, as far as I'm concerned. I consider it some of the best money we could spend for advertising since it got people to walk in through the door. If we do it next year let's try for 200--that's how excited we are."
Holly of Red Balloon Books added, "Wow! That is great! We had a fantastic day. Sales were way up from last year and lots of people came in with the passports." Matt Keliher from Subtext also saw an exceptional sales increase. "The passport was a SMASHING success. It really made the day a lot of fun, and it will continue to bring people into all of our stores for the weeks and months ahead. Yes, 100 $10 gift cards sounds like a lot, but honestly, if even half of the people who succeeded in getting the reward return to all ten stores and buy another book, that is fantastic. This was a tremendous success. Subtext had our best sales day in history!"
While not every community can support a campaign like this one, MIBA is hard at work conceiving of how best to support similar efforts in other metropolitan areas in the region.
One wonderful aspect of using Twitter to track participant's completed passports was getting to see the enthusiasm for Independent Bookstore Day and for each bookstore they visited. Take a look at some of the tweets MIBA received below.