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“I Love My Independent Bookstore” Contest

I Love My Independent Bookstore Contest
by Fern Reiss, CEO,

“To really get bookstore attention, you need to do a fancy PR campaign,” someone advised me. “It can cost $10,000 a month!” But I got attention—and sales—from every bookstore in the country. My monthly expenditure? $50.

I announced the first, national, “I Love My Independent Bookstore” contest. The idea was to give a prize (that’s the $50) every month for the best customer answer to the phrase, “I love my independent bookstore because…”

Because it’s warm and squishy. Because the chains all look the same. Because you can’t get a feel for books on Amazon. Because my local bookstore lets me curl up and read in peace and quiet.

Booksellers hung up simple posters announcing the contest. Each month they picked the best entry from their store and emailed it to me. And I picked the best response out of the national finalists. Each monthly winner got a $50 gift certificate from his local bookstore.

Customers loved it. For 15 words or fewer, they had a whack at winning $50. Every month.

Independent bookstores really loved it. It branded them in exactly the way they needed to be positioned. And it reminded their clientele why, exactly, the independents have to be supported—and why it was worth supporting them. (Also, the winning stores sold an extra $50 in books.)

And me?

It was the best money I’ve ever spent. For $50 a month we achieved national visibility. We were mentioned in all the review journals, from Publishers Weekly to the American Bookseller Association newsletter. We got press coverage in every single independent bookstore regional association newsletter.

Even today, when I go to a book trade show and booksellers meet me, they say, “Peanut Butter and Jelly Press? Oh, you’re the ‘I Love My Independent Bookstore contest!’”

That contest was four years ago, and it’s still providing me with effective PR. So much for fancy, expensive publicity.

So here’s my suggestion. Let the rich hobby publishers go for the fancy PR firms. Instead, think guerrilla PR. Think out of the box. Think small and wiry and cheap.

I hate to retire a good idea, so I’m gonna run this one again. Watch the website (it’ll be in the section for booksellers.) And then go check out your local neighborhood independent bookstore. You, too, can win $50 this month.


Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.  She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers ( providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at  Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at

Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss


Copyright © 2010 Peanut Butter and Jelly Press LLC, PO Box 590239, Newton, MA 02459
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