Today I’m talk in with Cathy Klein. Cathy started an independent bookstore that is a popup. Meaning, she travels to various places and sets up to sell books. She was on recently to talk with us about new books coming out and she should be on again soon.
We talk about what books she likes and how she chooses books to be in the store. This is interesting, because she is usually limited in space and doesn’t want books that will sit without selling.
So today I’m excited. I have a friend of mine, Kathy Klein, on the on discovered word Smiths. I’ve known Kathy for a decade ish, decade and a half, something like that. Our girls were in Girl Scouts. We were both Girl Scout leaders.
Kathy, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today? Thank you. I’m doing good. Thanks. And it’s a nice warm day here in Ohio, so Yeah,
Cathy: surprisingly for February.
Stephen: Yeah, that worries me. I wonder what March is gonna be like, exactly. All right, so this is going to be an interesting discussion and podcast because.
I’m not talking to Kathy about a book she’s written. I’m talking to her about an endeavor she’s involved in where she has started a pop-up bookstore. And I think that is something I’m very excited about. Cause I always ask the authors, do you have a favorite bookstore? And I try and push people in the libraries and push people to bookstores, support them.
Don’t just order Amazon, don’t just go to the chain, go find the local and that’s exactly what you are. But instead of saying, Hey, this is my relocation. Come visit me. You’re like, Hey, I’m gonna be all over and I’ll probably be close to you. So where did this idea come from and why did you wanna do.
Cathy: It actually came from another pod, a podcast that I listened to and they had a guest on there from North Carolina and she had a papa bookstore called Shelves.
And I started following her on social media and looking at what she did, and I thought, you know what? I can do that. And I always wanted to get back into the book business cause I used to manage border. Store and before that Walden books, when that was still a thing in malls, my
Stephen: gosh. I probably ran in you at some point.
Cathy: Oh yeah. Cause I was at Walden Books, I don’t know, for a number of years. And then I opened the Borders bookstore that was local, more, most local to us in Kga Falls. Until I had my oldest daughter and I always wanted to go back to it. And now that my, both of my daughters are in college, I thought this is a good time to get back into the book business.
So when I heard about the popup idea, I’m like, that’s something I’d never thought of, but I can do that.
Stephen: So I love that. Yeah. A large part of what I do is I. I work with kids and parents showing them that, hey the future is not the fifties. Getting outta school and getting a easy job while you pay for college and then getting a job at a company that will eventually give you the gold watch, it doesn’t exist there.
There’s too much turmoil and things changing and the telling our kids that, Hey, there’s gonna be a job for you. Is lying at times. And I encourage people to look into avenues. I’m not saying go do something and that’s your full-time career, but something you could do on the side. So how full-time is this for you?
Cathy: It’s actually ending up being more than I anticipated, but it’s a new business I have to spend my time, I teach preschool as well, so that’s my more of a full-time job than this. But this takes up just as much time. At home, getting everything prepared and advertising, and learning social media and algorithms and how to get my name out there, that’s a whole new ballgame for me.
So it’s taking up a lot of time, but I have fun doing it, so it’s not working.
Stephen: Exactly. Yes. I love that you just said absolutely everything. I’ve preached to others in that a lot of new authors are told that you’re running a business. You may write a book, but you have to run the business. If you don’t wanna run the business, then either you’re doing this as a hobby or you’re going to spend a lot of money hiring someone to do it.
So when you say get prepared and that, give us an idea of some of the things you’re doing. I know some of the things you’re doing, but the listeners, what they wanna hear from.
Cathy: So when I started, I just started contacting local businesses and asking if I could come to their business and set up to sell books.
And most everybody was very welcoming and were like, yes, you can. You let us know when you wanna come. And I would set up and I would advertise for them. They advertise for me and people know that they can find me to purchase books. And I carry mostly new. Then I was wondering, and I’m still working it out, so it’s all a work in progress, is moving from space to space, the best idea, or should I focus on a couple of businesses?
So Holiday’s, winery, that’s local to us, they contacted me and said, would you like to come once a month and start a book group for us? So I’m like, yes, that would be great. And then Lost Trail in Canton has also done the same thing. So now I’m at Holiday’s, winery and Lost Trail Winery and Vineyard in Canton once a month doing a pop-up book sale and once a month doing book clubs.
So now I. Kind of permanent spots where people know for sure I will be. And then I also wanna be available at other times. So I offer porch pickup. If you have a book you want me to order, I’ll order it. I’ll I say I book dash it to you. So I’ll bring it to you. You can come to my porch and pick it up.
I will have it available at a popup. So there’s all different avenues that I can get books to. And we don’t have anything locally to sell,
Stephen: Books right here. So lemme set that picture for people that don’t know where we live. Cuz we live in the same small town. Yes. We used to only have one traffic light.
We do not have a post office. And I think there are still more cows in the town than there are people. So that, that, that’s the mood. Yeah. I lived in California and they said, oh, there’s a. Grocery store, but it’s way out of the way. And I’m like, okay I don’t have the money. Tell me where it’s at.
I’ll go to it. It was literally 1.2 miles away. Oh my. And nobody went. It was too far. Our closest is eight miles away. Exactly,
Cathy: exactly. And for us, the closest bookstore, if you don’t, if you wanna go to an indie bookstore, you have to go more into Cleveland for New. There is a great use bookstore in Kent last exit, and I love them.
To have an indie bookstore, you have to go more Akron or Cleveland, which is a pretty good drive for us.
Stephen: Yeah, so I, there’s just so many parts of this that I love, and I love things you’re doing in the market and thinking about that, trying to think outside the box and pushing it, and you realize that they are, it’s a new business and all of that, right?
So what’s your success been like? You don’t have to give us numbers, but have people been receptive? Are they coming back? Are you like knowing you can set up and sell?
Cathy: Yes. Yeah, so it’s been very successful so far. In my eyes, have I made a profit yet? No, but you have to put in, to get outta Other than that, I’m happy with how things are going.
People have come back. I’ve had return customers. I offer a loyalty card, so I’ve seen those coming back to get punches. So I know, even if I’m not remembering you. Exactly. I know you’ve been here because you’re bringing your loyalty card back, which is great, and. People have been very receptive business for the most part.
Business owners have been extremely receptive. I’ve been invited back everywhere that I’ve been so far and I’m actually think starting to think about that. The last couple months I’ve tried just staying at the two wineries that I mentioned and it’s been great. However, what if people don’t wanna go to a winery?
Maybe I should think about going to some of these other small businesses. Again. There was an ice cream shop in town that was great for me in different places like that.
Stephen: Yeah. And you not only are running the business, but you’re a reader, so I know you, you make a lot of comments on good reads, and you’ve mentioned a lot of books that you have read.
Oh, So what, how do you choose the books? I assume it’s not just what you enjoy,
Cathy: right, unfortunately, probably more of that than not. But I do have other people that I go to and say, What do you suggest for the horror genre? Because it’s just not my thing. You probably, I have a ton of Stephen King behind me because when I was a kid, I started on Stephen King and I loved it.
Awesome. As we grow and our tastes change, my reading style tastes have also changed. And I’ve not, Focused on the horror genre as much as I used to. So I have people that I know that do read it and so I’ll ask for their suggestions or if they have children that are in middle grade or young adult age range.
I’m not reading those. So what’s the most popular thing right now? And I’ll get other people’s advice on what to get. For those things. Plus, I am a big listener of podcasts, so I’m always listening for new authors, local authors anything that podcasters are talking about that are more, maybe not necessarily New York Times bestseller list titles, but things that they know that everybody enjoys reading just because they have read it, their followers have read it and recommended, as a matter of fact Brendan Slum wrote The Violin Conspiracy, and I heard about that book on a podcast.
I read it and I loved it. And so I had chosen that for our first book club title in February at Holidays Winery. And so many people had told me, I would’ve never picked that book up if you didn’t tell me about it. And they ended up loving. Almost as much as I did for the most part. I think they all really enjoyed it.
And so hearing about these books and he, I actually heard him on a podcast not too long ago and his paperback just came out and that’s what I had purchased for our book group. But as far as his hard cover, he did not have terrific sales. He wasn’t that New York Times bestselling author, I don’t believe for the hard cover that could have that.
I could be wrong on that. But now people are, Discovering him and his book. I had a hard time getting enough copies for everybody because my distributor just kept running out. He’s I like to get different ideas from all different places.
Stephen: And you do have a big variety. I know you set up like a Christmas time at the school.
They always have a craft fair, which a lot of places do in schools do. And you also coordinated with the library for an author event, which I went to and several others. And a teacher that I had in high school was there and she’s was on my podcast. I interviewed her last week. She’ll be on soon. You’re, I, the attitude I see is it’s not just me and everybody else is, stay away.
You’re really embracing the whole environment and culture and everything around books, but also reaching out to hey, the schools and hey, other authors and the library and so many things. What are some things that haven’t worked for you? Have you tried anything that was like, okay, that’s just not working?
Cathy: Not really. I’ve had good reception at most places and I think it’s just a matter of. People discovering me and the things that I’m trying to do in the community, because I had that idea for the author event because I love going to author events, but I go to Cleveland, which you know, I’m fine with doing because I wanna meet these people.
I wanna get their autograph and. Hear them talk about their writing process and their books. And so I love doing that, but not everybody can do that. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we can start doing that in our community and having authors and my family was like, mom, you’re just getting started.
Why don’t you just wait? Instead of, you just started having these pop-up book sales and you’re gonna plan an author event. And I’m like, you know what? I’ve got the idea now, so I’m gonna run with it and if it works out, I can do more of. And, I think that it went fairly well. We didn’t have a turnout like they do in Cleveland, but we’re a very small area.
So I think that once our, in my presence is more well known and people know that these things are more available locally, that it could become, something that people look forward to in our.
Stephen: Absolutely. And they all gotta grow. And I like that instead of oh, we tried it once at the library, it didn’t work, so forget it.
You can’t have that attitude. Because not every author has a successful book till they’re fourth, they’re eighth, they’re 12th. Yeah. Sometimes, sure. So the same thing with running other items for business. Now I forgot where I was going. What question? You say all this stuff and I’m like that’s like the rule book of running a new small business.
Everything you’re saying is Yes. What you know you should be doing. I keep thinking of all these things and then I think of something else and my brain goes, frizzled. So do you have any upcoming events besides the winery and all that? Are you looking at now spring, are you looking for beach reads?
What changes as you do these throughout the. Yeah,
Cathy: so I, I get people that give me suggestions on different things and then other ideas will pop into my head. So for Valentine’s Day, a friend of mine had said, why don’t you do blind date with the book? So I had wrapped up books and people that came to popups, or if they saw it online, they could.
Pick out a book that, and I just, as if you’re not familiar, you just give a short description, but they don’t know the title, they don’t know the author. They’re just taking that chance on the blind date. And so that worked out well. And then in March, I thought March is St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ll have a Lucky Day sale.
So if people visit me, they can pick a coin out of the bin and it’ll say, 30% off your entire order. Or a tote bag for. If you spend this much money, you get a free tote bag, things like that. So I’m trying to offer people different discounts because I know that books can be expensive.
So however, if you think about it too, when you’re buying a book, even if you’re paying full price, if it’s a trade paperback, let’s say those are around $17. It might take you 17 hours to read it. Maybe it’ll only take you eight hours to read it. Regardless. That’s only a dollar or $2 per hour for your entertainment where you’re paying how much money to go see a movie these days.
I have no idea. Even anymore $12 or whatever it is locally, which is a lot. Yeah. To me, but obviously inflation is everywhere, so I think I get a lot more bang from my buck in the entertainment of reading a book.
Stephen: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
Cathy: But yeah we’ll, and as far as bee treats, I think that’s a great idea and different, different thing, promotions and things like that to get people interested in realizing what is out there
Yeah. Absolutely. Do you have any particular books that you mentioned the one you found, but do you have any particular books coming up that you’re looking forward to?
Cathy: Yeah, actually the Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake, I have. Not read any of hers. It’s actually two women that write together and they put the name Audrey Blake together and we’re doing this one for book club for March at both wineries.
So I’m really looking forward to that. It’s not it is historical fiction, which I do read, but it’s a little bit different. So I’m looking forward to getting into that. And it’s an author I haven’t read before, so I always love doing that. Reading something by somebody that I hadn’t read.
Stephen: Nice. Okay, great.
All right is there something else that I haven’t asked about doing this? Oh, there, that’s what I was going to ask you. You say you have a distributor so you’ve have somebody that I mean any other bookstore, that they have a warehouse and you tell ’em what you want and they deliver ’em to you.
Okay. And that’s how you get what you want. What do you do? If you buy five of a book and only one of them sells, and you know it’s a year and a half later, what do you do with that? Yeah,
Cathy: yeah. So I haven’t, obviously I’ve only been in business about six months I can return them if I would like.
But I have to pay them to send them back. I have to ship them on my cost, and I have to pay a 10% penalty for returning them. So to me, that’s not worth it. I’m just going to keep the books and run my own sale. I would rather just recoup the money that I paid for it than paying them more money. To take the book back they’ll just say all items and you never know. I was actually thinking about that just the other day. If I have titles maybe that I’ve had for a while that aren’t selling, if I put them away and then bring ’em back out, say in the summertime, people aren’t used to seeing them, it could be something new to them.
You never know.
Stephen: Exactly. Or hang onto it. And a year later you find out they’re turning it into a movie. So hey, get the cover before you get the MO movie cover.
Cathy: Exactly. And then I just went to Cleveland a couple weekends ago to see Marie Benedict. I like her a lot. She writes historical fiction about strong female characters that aren’t as well known in history.
And we’re doing Lady Clementine this month for one of the book. Which she writes, and then I saw that she was coming she has a new book out, the Mitford Fair, so I got in a few copies of that. I brought it with me. She signed them. She was more than happy to hear about the bookstore and to sign those so that, that’s a little bit something extra if I can give to customers that maybe they weren’t able to see.
You know her or go to visit, then they can still get an autographed copy of a book. And same with Celestine in the fall. I met her in Cleveland and she said, I will absolutely. And she signed every book I brought for her and they all sold. Cause people were like, I love this author. And they wanted to have an autograph book.
Stephen: That’s awesome. I love that. When you texted me about the whole idea and what you were doing. Yeah. I was like that. I love this. This is so perfect. I wish with it, it’s the answer to bookstores closing down. We can’t afford the rent on this whole big building. But you know this.
Yes, it’s a little smaller, but people can still order through you. Yeah. And if you should build and, yeah. That’s what it is there anything,
Cathy: lots of people were ordering through Christmas books that I wouldn’t have fought to carry and, but they wanted them as gifts. I said, just give me a few minutes.
I would look it up. Yes, I can get it. I can have it. And usually I can have it within a week, if not within a couple days.
Stephen: Nice. And. I’ve always encouraged that because people are like, oh, I’ll just order it on Amazon. It still takes a day or so and Right. You’re help with you, you’re helping someone local a small business rather than Amazon doesn’t need our money anymore.
Yeah. Always encouraging that. And I do love that you’re working with the library and doing things with that. Yes. And by the way, the writer’s fest over the weekend wet fairly well. Oh, yes. Oh, good. Yeah. I’m hoping they do it again next year. And I told ’em, I, here’s my card.
Gimme a call when there’s other events going on because at Christmas, I know the black Friday, the library, they were doing readings for kids and stuff. And I’m like, I’d love to do that. You doesn’t have to be my book. I, other kids Christmas stuff that’s. Hopefully we’ll start bumping in each over the place.
Cathy: Yes. I was supposed to be at the Writer’s Fest, but my youngest daughter had bowling tournament, so I was in Indianapolis over the weekend. So I said I can definitely give you some information on local authors
Stephen: yeah. Yeah. Awesome. I appreciate it. Yeah. Alright, any last comments about running a bookstore?
Cathy: It’s a lot of fun. It’s hard, but it’s a lot of fun at the same time, and I’m glad I’m doing it. Nice. That’s the short of
Stephen: it. I’ve said before I started writing, I said, authors are way cooler than actors because actors are a little separated and not standoffish necessarily, but they’re just separated from.
People, but most authors could walk down the street and they’re not getting mopped. Even though the people that know ’em may go, all over ’em and like crazy and stuff. And authors are much more willing to, let me tell you, and let me give you a hint. Oh yeah. I’ll sign that. Or, things like that.
Yeah. Exactly. I love that about that. I love that you’re doing this to help local authors help, big name authors too. That’s wonderful. Yeah. Thank you, Kathy. I appreciate you being on.
Cathy: Thank you.