Sharing compelling displays: An ABA bookseller collaboration

ABA logo

The American Booksellers Association Winter Institute last month in Seattle was all about sharing and education. Sometimes sharing ideas is enough to create new ideas along the way, and that’s just what happened to me. I attended some wonderful sessions about merchandising and decorating, and when I was telling someone about it later, I wished I had copies of all of the slides I had seen.

Creating Compelling In-Store Displays was a panel featuring Arielle Eckstut and Joann Eckstut, authors of The Secret Language of Color; and Jonah Zimiles of [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ. In this fascinating discussion of color and theme, they showed a variety of displays, store windows, tables, and fixtures, including some amazingly inexpensive and quick ideas that were still professional and eye-catching.

Gifts 101 wasn’t really about merchandizing, but panelists Linda Marie Barrett (Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café), Monica Holmes (Hicklebee’s Children’s Bookstore), and Jan Hall (Partners Village Store) showed a lot of pictures, including tables and racks that meshed books and gift items.

Identify and Cultivate Your Store Brand was all about making the look and feel—the “experience”—of your store together. Like the gifts session, its focus wasn’t merchandizing, but there were some amazing ideas. The panelists represented a diverse collection of bookstores. Nicole Sullivan (BookBar Denver) showed an amazing bar made out of books, Bradley Graham (Politics & Prose) has displays bigger than some of the sections in my store, and James Adams (5ive Creative) talked about case studies where he’d helped bookstores with their branding.

At the cocktail reception the last night of Winter Institute, I ran into Sydney Jarrard from the American Booksellers Association. Always eager to create more work for other people, I suggested to her that the ABA should create a Pinterest board where bookstores could share ideas for displays and window decorating. She enthusiastically agreed, talked to the boss, and dropped it back in my lap last week. I really have to work on saying “no” more often.

The Collaboration

I have now created not one, but two Pinterest group boards, one for in-store displays and one for windows. I started them with a few humble (very humble) pictures from my own store, and this blog post is the beginning of an effort to reach out to booksellers across the country (heck, around the world: I met book people from six countries at Winter Institute) and get everyone else sharing.

To join in the process, visit the board(s) you are interested in and follow them. Then leave a comment here on this blog post using the same name you used on Pinterest. I’ll authorize you to pin, and you can start adding pictures from your own store.

You do not have to be a member of the ABA to participate, but why on Earth would you have an indie bookstore and not want to join? They provide an awful lot of benefits for a very reasonable level of annual dues.

It’s a two way street! There are a lot of good ideas out there, and we want to get as many people participating as we possibly can. Here are the pictures I started things out with:

Effective Bookstore Displays

UPDATE 2023: Since we sold our bookstore in 2016, this board is no longer hosted on my Pinterest account. I’m not sure where it is now.

Store Display-Benjamin

Who could possibly sell cat books better than a cat? I put copies of various cat-related books next to our bookstore cat Benjamin’s bed, so he’d attract attention and people would pick up the books when they stopped to pet him.

Store Display-Maps

Red Lodge is right up against the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. We are surrounded by millions of acres (literally) of wilderness areas and outdoor activities. We decided to set up this display to keep the hiking guides, maps, atlases, and outdoor activity books all together. People coming in for a copy of Day Hikes in the Beartooth Mountains just might want to pick up a hiking map to go with it!

Creative Bookstore Windows

UPDATE 2023: Since we sold our bookstore in 2016, this board is no longer hosted on my Pinterest account. I’m not sure where it is now.

Store Window-Computers

When we first started selling computer books, we tried to come up with a good way to show them off. Being quite a packrat, I have saved up computers since I got my first one in the 1970s, and I built a mini-museum in the front window. People stopped to look at the old acoustic coupler modem and Apple ][, and ended up coming in to pick up a Mac or Windows book.

Store Window-Halloween

Last Halloween, we decided to take the store right out onto the sidewalk. As you can see in the picture, the local high school had decorated the windows for the big game, and we put this inflatable black cat in front of the door, moving his head back and forth to watch people go by. You can’t always see into the store well due to glare on the windows, but you could sure see this fellow!

Okay, your turn!

There are a few of my pictures to get the ball rolling. Let’s see how many more we can get on here in the next month. Challenge issued. Challenge accepted?


  1. Hi, I do all of the store displays for Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, and I would love to be able to post to these boards. Thanks so much for organizing these boards! Always great to have a resource for ideas when I get stumped on a window.

  2. Hi Gary,

    Thanks for coming up with the idea for bookstore display posts. I followed the Bookstore Display board, and have at least one idea I hope booksellers will like. More to follow…

  3. We are Porter Square Books and would love permission to pin on these boards. Thanks for organizing this, Gary.

  4. Hi, Gary! I’m the visual merchandising manager at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA, and I’d love to have permission to pin to both of your boards.

  5. Love this idea! I’ll see if I can’t dig up some photos to share and am looking forward to seeing what others have to offer….booksellers are a creative bunch.

  6. Hey Gary!
    I’d like to join your Pinterest board for sharing thoughts on Effective Bookstore Displays.
    We’ve been making point of purchase displays for publishers for over 25 years, and have daily discussions with marketers, promotion execs and authors about how to get people to see and buy their books.
    I think we can bring a professional merchandising side to the conversation.

        1. I’m following several of yours, too, but Pinterest is giving me the message, “You can’t invite this person until you’re following each other.” I shall goof around with it more tomorrow and see if I can make it work.

  7. Books on the Common, just followed the 2 boards you set up for Creative Bookstore Windows and Effective Bookstore Displays. Thanks.

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