Story of Our First Pop-up Bookstore Event
This is First Draft, a hidden gem in the Printer's Row neighborhood of Chicago. The bar's described as "warm and cozy with a Cheers vibe."
The Printer's Row neighborhood has been around since the 1880s and was once the major printing hub of the Midwest. With a name like "First Draft," all the history of Printer's Row, AND the fact it's owned by one of our authors, it felt destined to be the perfect literary spot for our very first pop-up bookstore event.
Getting the Word Out
In terms of promoting the event, we tried everything. Instagram. Facebook. Bought a small ad in the Chicago Tribune. We created an event on Eventbrite and did some good ol' fashion taping posters to streetlights, which 1) that's no easy feat on a windy day in Chicago and 2) I'm still secretly worried the Chicago police are gonna show up at my door.
Hey, was this you?!
Mind if I order a few books?
I went to Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview, they let me put out a few flyers. Stopped by Sandmeyers, a great bookstore right around the corner from First Draft that's been around for 40+ years. Met the new owner. She's lived in the area for decades and dreamed of owning a bookstore someday. Talk about a "long overdue" endeavor! She also let me pin up a flyer on the announcement board.
Optional Soapbox, feel free to skip or skim over - I get on this soapbox occasionally, so bear with me. I promise I'll keep it short. But this is how bookstores should be. Local. Independent. Mom and pop. Family-owned. Run by someone just starting a literary dream or someone freshly retired pursuing something they always wanted to do. And to have this helpful spirit where my pop-up bookstore isn't seen as competition but as another friend in the space.
Amazon has almost everything in their favor. They're huge. They're fast. They've got an endless supply of inventory and can go lower on pricing than anyone else. And yet, local bookstores still remain. They're roaring back. Google "local bookstores opening," it's amazing to see all the new storefronts. Even Barnes & Noble is no longer closing but opening stores. Places that don't have a local bookstore (yet), people are building little free libraries in their front yards. Long live the local bookstore!
Amazon has a lot of advantages, but they don't have as good of a story. In the world of books, it's good to have story on your side.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Alright. Soap box over. Where were we?
We had 7 of our authors and illustrators representing 7 Long Overdue books descend on Chicago. Vicki Toups Sheaffer and Kristie Kaiser Frudden flew in from Minnesota. Kate Buss, also from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, drove in with her parents and her new baby. Logan (aka T.C. Pendragon) took the train from Lansing with his mom. Kim Jockl lives in Chicago. Melody Smith made the "long" drive in from Arlington Heights (for those unfamiliar with the area, that's about 45 minutes away). And Jim Borchers, well, he owns the bar. Pretty short commute.
Friday, I met with Kim and Jim for lunch at First Draft, mapped out how we'd set up the tables (Side note - had a phenomenal reuben sandwich. And a Guinness). Saturday, I had the chance to stop into Sandmeyers again, this time with Vicki and Kristie. We also saw the library at the Union League Club, also not far away from First Draft. Maybe a future pop-up bookstore location! And then we stopped by First Draft, photo op with the event poster on the door.
Head home. I started getting some of those childhood Christmas Eve butterflies in the stomach. One sleep away from the big event.
Pop-Up Bookstore / Party / Reunion / Wait, we've never actually met in person??
My wife (Ashley) and I got there an hour early or so, started setting up, putting books out on the table. I've got my little card reader thing for checkout. We're ready to go.
For the last few weeks leading up to the event, I was saying to our Sr. Creative Director (Annie Leue) how she'd get to see all her book creations in person and, finally, meet the authors and illustrators. Everything's been done over Zoom and email. The authors were all excited. "I get to meet Annie!" "She's a real person!"
And then it hit me: I've never actually met Annie in person either! Just one of those crazy things about building a business together during the Covid years.
The authors got their displays and tables set up.
Kim Jockl, Melody Smith, Jim Borchers. Authors of Safe Landing
T.C. Pendragon. Author of Martin Blackbriar and the Necronomicon
Kate Buss (author/illustrator). The Gobblerwobbly, The Book of Monsters from A to Z: A Field Guide by Professor Edelgeezer. And my 18-month-old son's personal favorite, The Horners.
It was an incredible time. So much fun to meet all the people who dropped in and grateful for their support. Some were authors, some were working on a first book. Some were students from Northwestern, some were people just looking for a good read and were out to support local authors. I think my favorite story was from the woman who said she saw the poster on a random street light and read it as "long overdue," like it's about time someone did a pop-up bookstore.
Or seeing aspiring authors chatting with Logan, getting tips on the editing and publishing process. Readers having a chance to hear the "story behind the story" with the Safe Landing siblings and learn how our children's books came together from Vicki, Kristie, and Kate. We had people checking out at our front table with books in hand from different authors.
Or how about Vicki and Kristie running into some of their friends and finding out one of the bars they used to go to 20+ years ago was The Lodge, a bar Jim owned before First Draft and shows up in Safe Landing. What a random and awesome connection!
What was so cool about the day was seeing that on one level, yes, it's about the books. But it's also about this growing community that the books are creating. I'm bad at staying in the moment, and I'm always chasing some new idea or future goal, but I can't help but think if this is what it looks like with 7-10 authors/illustrators. What's it gonna look like at 50? 100?
Exciting to think about, but I'm gonna take a moment to bask in this event. Thank you to our authors for making the trip. Thank you to Jim for allowing this to happen at First Draft (it really was the perfect venue) and Kim and Melody for all their help planning. And thank you to everyone who stopped in and supported our work. Means the world to all of us!
Alright. When's the next one?
"He's gonna be done writing that newsletter any second now. Annnnnnnny second."
- Crash, Team Dog
Keeping up with Long Overdue
Best place to keep up with all things Long Overdue (including our authors' events like the one above) is a tie between our monthly newsletter and our Instagram page. If you enjoy this newsletter and know someone who might enjoy it as well, let us know, we'll make sure to add them to our subscriber list. We also got back on Facebook recently, you can follow us here.
And check out our website - Long Overdue Books. Long Overdue Books is a community for creating books. It's a place for authors (and soon-to-be-authors), readers, editors, artists, and designers to come together and move their stories from ideas to finished books.
Excited to share new stories with you this year. I think 2023 will be another memorable year. Also, if you have any questions, ideas, stories to tell, you can reach Cal the Librarian at - email@example.com