Beep Beep! The Cincy Book Bus is in town! I first met Melanie from the Cincy Book Bus at one of her Pop-Up Shops last month in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was immediately intrigued by this traveling bookstore that I had to introduce myself and learn about this genius idea. During the pop-up shop, we exchanged business cards and chatted briefly about the store. Later, I emailed Melanie to set up a time to chat more as I wanted to do a feature about the bus as well as talk about books with someone just as enthused as I was. We met up a few weeks later and talked for a few hours about everything book-related. Check out what I learned and how you can catch Melanie at her next Book Bus event!
Melanie was a teacher for 25 years before retiring with being an empty-nester along her husband as they travelled the world for his work trips. She has always been passionate about books and considered opening a brick and mortar store. However, Melanie had also owned a cafe and the idea of itself is romantic but a lot of work that could make her love of books deteriorate. Looking outside her window, she saw her husband’s VW truck and knew that that was it! A traveling bookstore that is flexible, can be taken anywhere, and has all the fun parts of owning a bookstore! The bus transports all the bookish goodies to events both indoor and out – setting up the shelves inside or displaying them right off the bus when the weather is nice.
As this idea came to fruition, Melanie then share with me the process of starting the business and what goes into it. She attended a Bookseller’s Workshop (ie. Boot Camp 🙂 ) in Florida where future booksellers learn the ins and outs of the bookstore. Last September, she finalized the logo, applied for a vendor’s license along with the financial process of taxes, and had her first pup-up shop in December!
Melanie expressed that one of her favorite parts of the Book Bus is searching out books! She prides herself on providing books in wonderful condition. Any place that sells books, you can find her digging through the shelves for quality books, always being drawn to new, debut novelists. Her goal is to have read 100% of the books that are on the Book Bus. This is what she terms as her ‘office hours’ 🙂 reading up on what will be (or currently is) displayed on the bus.
The top books that ALWAYS have to be on the bus?
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Curating the selection for the event she is hosting is another exciting part of the bus. When I came across her pop-up shop in February, the selection was Valentine’s Day and love themed. For upcoming events, Spring will be the theme of the selection available. It is always something different for each event, even when there are repeat customers, they will always find something new. Melanie also loves to be able to connect with the people who come to the events, to be able to speak on the books on the bus beyond what the synopsis says. I appreciate that as I personally love knowing more about the book and what it is similar to that I may have read or themes and messages I may get by reading that particular book.
As someone who is hoping one day to work in the book/publishing world, I asked Melanie if she had any advice or words of wisdom to pass on for any other future book enthusiasts. Here are a few tidbits she passed on:
- Hang out with booksellers/librarians and the owners/managers of book establishments. They are sweet people who are open to sharing their knowledge! Learn from them about their selection and how they pick their books. If there is a chance, shadow or volunteer to know the behind the scenes.
- Subscribe to newsletters like BookPage and ABA (American Booksellers Association).
- Find your niche. You can’t just put shelves up and expect people to come. Readers want an experience. This goes for the name of the store, the aesthetic, design, and the sidelines (bookmarks, stationary, t-shirts).
- Join Bookseller groups on social media. We are all out on the same mission: to get books into the hands of others 🙂
I don’t know about you all, but I am PUMPED to see Melanie and the Book Bus out and about as the weather gets warmer; fairs, markets, city fleas, pool-side, pop-up shops, you name it! She has even considered book clubs! I am still in awe with how Melanie has created this fantastic book experience and the progress she has made – I’m anticipating it has a long shelf life :).
Interested in meeting up with the Cincy Book Bus? Melanie will be driving up to Deeper Roots Coffee in Cincinnati, Ohio this Saturday, March 30th from 9am-1pm! Don’t miss this Book Bus Pop-Up Shop event as she brings her books and love of reading to the outdoors.
What kind of niche bookstore concept would you have?