Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bookstore Tourism: An Income Stream

Looking for a Literary Sideline to Supplement Your Writing Income?
Consider Leading Bookstore Tourism Road Trips! -- by Larry Portzline

Making a living as a professional writer often means finding part-time or temporary non-writing jobs to supplement your income. It’s sad but all too true.

So, when the need arises, do you look for a gig that’s related to your chosen profession, such as teaching a writing class or proofreading a local magazine? Or are you forced to take what you can get, like flipping burgers or moving pianos?

Why not lead a Bookstore Tourism road trip? Bookstore Tourism is a hot new travel niche for bibliophiles that started out as a grassroots effort to promote independent bookstores and support literacy efforts. It encourages booklovers to organize day-trips and other literary outings to cities and towns with interesting, fun and unique bookshops that people in their own communities may not get to visit regularly.

In 2003 and 2004, I led six sold-out bookstore adventures to New York City and Washington, DC for two colleges in central Pennsylvania. I made some money as the organizer and tour guide, but I got something else out of the bargain: based on this experience, I wrote a how-to book called -- naturally -- Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict’s Guide to Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips for Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies.

The guide tells how to plan bookstore road trips with friends, schools, libraries and other organizations, whether the group numbers 5 or 50. It provides numerous tips and easy, step-by-step suggestions on how to research bookstores, arrange transportation, publicize trips, and create brochures and other promotional material.

If you’re a writer on the lookout for a part-time assignment, here are five easy ways to get on board and start leading Bookstore Tourism road trips:

1. Do a test-run: Plan a reconnaissance trip to the bookstores in another town (no more than two or three hours away, preferably). Find out what bookshops are there, including their specialties and exact locations, and come up with a game plan to hit them all (some web research beforehand will help). Jot down plenty of notes while you’re there because you’ll want to share the information with future groups. It takes a little work, but discovering new literary meccas is well worth the initial effort.

2. Plan a group trip with an organization: Bookstore Tourism is a perfect activity for reading groups, libraries, schools, colleges, non-profits and many other organizations. Talk to these folks about sponsoring a bookstore trip, and offer to organize and lead it for a specified fee. Depending on the size of your gang, you can load everyone into a couple of minivans, or, you can hire a tour bus for the day. You can make it a members-only event or open it up to the community as an outreach activity or fundraiser.

3. Combine your trip with other literary attractions: Many great bookstore towns offer tours of famous authors’ homes. Others are renowned as the settings of well-known books. Be sure to include these literary sites in your travels, either before or after you visit the local bookshops.

4. Partner with bookstores and other local businesses: Ask the booksellers in your town how you can partner with them to create Bookstore Tourism events, and hire yourself out as a consultant. Team up with your local chamber of commerce, tour bus companies and travel agents to attract out-of-town bibliophiles to your community. Consider organizing Bookstore Exchange Trips with booklovers from other cities.

5. Start Bookstore Adventure Clubs: Numerous adventure clubs around the country focus primarily on outdoorsy events and even adventure dining at exotic restaurants. Tweak this idea a little by getting the book-aholics in your community to form Bookstore Adventure Clubs, and make literary road trips a monthly or even bi-weekly activity!

Why not take the lead on this ground-breaking travel trend and establish yourself as the Bookstore Tourism expert in your town? It’s a great sideline for writers, and loads of fun for booklovers just like you!

Larry Portzline, of Harrisburg, PA, is the author of Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict’s Guide to Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips for Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies. For more information, visit
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