Cat in the Hat in the Hat in the Hat

R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT celebrated Dr. Seuss Day by attempting to break a Guinness World Record. Sunday, March 2, was the 110th birthday of Dr. Seuss, and the R.J. Julia community joined together to break the record for most Cat in the Hat hats worn at a single venue. The current record is 281. And although they haven’t been deemed the official record holders, more than 1000 attended in hats.


But this success almost didn’t happen. Almost. Courtney McCarroll, Marketing & Communications Manager for R.J. Julia Booksellers, told me that as of last Wednesday, 330 customers had signed up to take part in the event. A customer alerted the bookstore that another group in Texas was also going for the record, and 700 were expected to attend.

Pocket Marketing: Managing Multiple Accounts

If you’re like most social media managers, updates and posts are made directly from your smart phone. And it’s probably your personal smart phone. Facebook has made it easy to switch between your personal page and the organizational pages you manage with their Pages app. And tweeters can toggle between multiple accounts with the Twitter app. But if you manage an Instagram account for your bookstore, you log in and out (and in and out) between personal and business accounts, right?

I haven’t found a total fix for this, but a “better than nothing” fix is the Fotogramme app. With this free app, you can add multiple Instagram accounts and toggle between them. And while you cannot upload photos, you can view, comment, and share through Twitter or Facebook. You can also search by hashtag, location, popularity, and photos you’ve liked.

And when Instagram does finally add a multiple-account function to their app, you’ll know. You won’t be able to mistake my shout for joy.

Sign Branding

bluewillowButItsBlueThe February 21 issue of Shelf Awareness featured a piece by Robert Gray titled “That Elusive ‘Red Cover’ Book, Revisited”. The article explored how booksellers serve as “customer request decoders” in the “Who knows?” game. It’s a great article, but I want to focus on one aspect in the piece: a great display photo from Valerie Koehler’s Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX. It features table full of books with blue covers and a fantastic sign that reads, “I don’t remember the title, but it’s blue.”

The image of that display showed up on Reddit today, which means that we’ll start seeing it shared through social media for a while. But it’s only the image, with no attribution to Blue Willow Bookshop. Don’t get me wrong; to have a positive image that we’ve created go viral is good. But think of the hits Blue Willow would be receiving over the coming weeks if the store name was attached in some way.

One way to do this is to attach a watermark to the images you post. But an easier

Pre-selling “Show Your Work”

I’m an Austin Kleon fan. Do you remember Steal Like an Artist and found poetry collection Newspaper Blackout? He has a new book scheduled to be released on March 6th called Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. 

The “300 Second” version of pre-selling this title is to look at your database to see who purchased Kleon’s previous titles and give those customers a call.


If you have more time, share the trailer on Facebook or on your website. I captured the code from embedresponsively.com. We’ve pre-coded the code to make it ease to share. Click here to get the code to copy and paste and share on your website.

I think Show Your Work is just begging for an authorless event. Kleon doesn’t discriminate when it comes to artistic medium, so you may reach out to a wide range of groups: graphic designers, poets, painters, sculptors, novelists, bloggers, etc.

Several potential ideas come to mind:

The Brilliance of the Auto-Reply Message

One marketing opportunity that has been sorely overlooked is the auto-reply message. Typically, it reads something like this: “I’ll be away from the office through February 21 and will have limited access to email. For an emergency, please contact this other person at [other_email_address].”

But there are no rules for auto-reply messages. One person who has mastered the art of the auto-reply is Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, WI. Here’s one of the first messages I received from him:

I’m out of the store at Winter Institute in Seattle through Jan. 26, though I’m checking email daily. If you need immediate help, please call Boswell at (414) 332-1181. I’m reading Cara Black’s “Murder in Pigalle” on the plane and will be back in time for Greg Kot’s event (for “I’ll take You There”, his great group biography of The Staple Singers) on Monday, January 27, 7 pm. I’m very excited!”

Daniel’s message had hints of the traditional format, but he was able to include what he’s currently reading as well as mention a store event. Nice, right? But it was the next auto-reply message I received from Daniel that captured my attention.

Due to our sold-out event with Malcolm Gladwell tonight, I will be particularly remiss on answering messages today. Apologies in advance.

This message was brilliant. It mentions an event at the store, it alludes to the success of the “sold-out” event, and it explains why you will not be hearing back from Daniel today.

The best part? Daniel told me he hadn’t received a single complaint. “My rule of thumb is that above 300 people, no matter what you do, you get about 1 complaint for every additional 100 people (and for the most part, I have to just accept it),” he said. “But it didn’t happen this time. Go figure.”

So you do not have to be away from the office to implement an auto-reply message. You might just need scheduled time away from the distraction of email. Here’s another example:

Alas, I love getting your email so much that I’m not able to get out our own email newsletter. I must temporarily nip this in the bud by focusing on our February and March events for the day, and will reply to you when our newsletter is successfully launched. I then also get to finish Chip and Dan Heath’s “Decisive,” which I started reading after our Winter Institute Meeting.

And another:

I’m out of email range on Friday, February 14, partly to prepare for a big meeting, and partly to finish reading Michael Hainey’s “After Visiting Friends,” his memoir of growing up Chicago and finding out the truth behind his father’s death. Boswellian Jannis is a big fan and encouraged me to dig in. Our event is Thursday, February 20, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Daniel admits that even with the message on, he doesn’t necessarily avoid email. “I’ll probably still procrastinate and sneak a peek.”

Do not be afraid to change up your auto-reply message, but then don’t let that change become rote. On occasion, include books you are reading and upcoming events at your store. The next time, mention what you’re working on that has you away from your desk.  Just remember, if you’re conscientious enough to mention that you’ll be away from email through a certain time, be just as polite and remember to turn off the message.

Editor’s note: After seeing the piece, Daniel sent me a note which read: “I should note that one reason I don’t mess up turning off auto-reply messages is that our mail service lets us set an end date and time.” Be sure check the features offered by your email service. The ability to set up an automatic end time is a beautiful thing.