Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge 2019: planning tips for success

Hello friends! 

If you've been following along with my Instagram adventures or this blog for a while, then you know that last year I completed the 2018 Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge! *crowd goes wild* For those of you who are new here, let me explain:

Every year, on the last Saturday of April, it is Independent Bookstore Day nationwide, and in Seattle we booknerds go all out. Starting in 2015, Seattle's indie bookstores collaborated to create a "daylong celebration of the work [they] do and the readers and customers who make it possible. [They] offered many of the same events and exclusive items as [their] colleagues across the country, but [they] also introduced the Passport Challenge, encouraging readers to get their passports stamped at as many participating stores as possible on Bookstore Day. Those who get their passports stamped at every participating store that day are crowned Grand Champions, with a crown, a party, and best of all, a 25% discount at all participating stores for the following year." (Source: Seattle Independent Bookstore Day website)  

In order to complete the challenge , you have to visit all participating bookstores in one day and get your passport stamped. Last year you had visit 19 of the 23 locations, and this year you have to visit 21 bookstores, as two new stores have joined the event! Please note that, dispite only having to visit 21 individual bookstores, there are 26 physical bookstore location option, as some participating indie bookstores have multiple locations (such as Third Place Books and the UW Bookstore). Don't worry, you only have to visit 21 stores, not all 26 options! This includes bookstores outside of Seattle, including some as far West as Poulsbo (think ferry rides), as far North as Edmonds, and as far East as Kirkland. The driving time alone is estimated by Google Maps to be 6 1/2 hours. Despite the hefty driving distance and the threat of Saturday Seattle traffic, the number of Grand Champions has grown rapidly from 42 in 2015 to 500 Grand Champions last year! (GO US!) 

While I wouldn't call the challenge difficult, per say, it does require some forethought and planning, and when Fred and I decided to participate last year, we immediately set our librarian skills to use searching for recommendations, tips, and suggestions from previous participants. While we found a few articles and bloposts (see list below), overall we noticed that there was a distinct lack of advice on how to tackle the Challenge, which led me to writing this post! This post is an updated version of last year’s guide (which can be found here) and will focus on the resources and four planning tips that we used to prepare for a successful book adventure.  I hope it will inspire and guide you on your quest to become a 2019 Seattle Independent Bookstore Challenge Grand Champion! 

the Planning: do research, create a spreadsheet, PERSONALIZED google maps are your friend 


Tip 1: Find a Booknerd buddy to do the Challenge with you

Two Booknerds are Better Than One


There is an estimated 6 1/2 hours of driving alone (not including stops) for this challenge, and with parking being a hastle in Seattle, it's easiest if you have an adventure buddy who can act as a copilot/directions expert, split the driving with you, AND can swap driving in circles around the block for those parking-light bookstores in Seattle.  Plus, it's just more fun to share an adventure with a friend, and it's easier to stay motivated when you have someone laughing with you along the way! 


Tip 2: Do your research!

You have to know what to expect in order to make a good plan

As I mentioned above, Fred and I, being librarians to our cores, did some research before attempting our adventure, and found six useful resources for planning our adventure. We found:

1) This just recently released 2019 article from The Seattle Times that outlines what the day is all about with a few tips for success from a the author (who is a seasoned participant). This article is a bit of a hybrid of articles 2 & 3.

2) A general overview of the fun in The Seattle Times from 2018, which gave us a since of the atmosphere of the event, as it covered the author's favorite memories from the previous year's challenge. 

3)  This more detailed write up from  2017 published in The Seattle Times titled "How I'm going to speed through 19 bookstores on Independent Bookstore Day." Written by the same author (Moira Macdonald) as resource 1 and 3, this article gave a more in depth look at how one should plan their route.

4) This wonderful blogpost by Catherine Bull titled "Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Adventures: The Sequel," which was, tbh, the most useful resource for us, as it is the most detailed and recent breakdown of how to successfully complete the Challenge that we found. You can read it here: 

Catherine also has a 2018 post and a 2019 post (though note, she isn’t planning on doing the full loop in 2019).

5) This great guide to planning a successful bookish adventure by Emily and Aaron from Two Dusty Travelers:

6) Last, but not least, one of the most important planning resources you can have is the Seattle Independent Bookstore Website, where you will find a list of participating stores, their addresses, and the hours of operations for each store. It is crucial to consult the official website when planning, especially in regards to store hours,  because many of the stores had special hours for Bookstore Day, which was not reflected on Google Maps. You can also ask questions and get tips from fellow booknerds on their FB page here


Tip 3: Create a spreadsheet, sketch out a rough timeline, and make personalized Google Maps of your route

Create the plan

Based on what we learned from the above resources, we created a spreadsheet with each bookstore, its address, city it was in, and its opening and closing hours (which can be viewed here), and then we went to Google Maps and started creating our own personalized map with each store location. If you don’t want to create your own map, fellow community member Nikki McKenna created her own map of the bookstores and graciously shared it with the community- you can find it here. You can also use my maps, which I’ve linked below. By moving around the destination points on Google Maps, we determined that the most sensible route for us would be, and arranged out spreadsheet to reflect that. We decided to tackle the outlying bookstores first, as they were the earliest to open, and would also allow us to catch the early morning ferry and (hopefully) avoid crowd-caused ferry issues. We then tackled the inner loop, hitting the bookstores that closed earliest first, and ending with the latest closer (and one of my favorite bookstores), Elliot Bay Books. 

I would also sketch out (either on your spreadsheet, on a piece of paper, or on your phone) an rough timeline, with estimated arrival times at some key locations- this will help you determine if you are on track or not. In addition, MAKE SURE YOU SCHEDULE YOURSELF EXTRA TIME, like an extra two hours just in case you miss your planned ferry ride back to the mainland, for example. You could do this by making a second (emergency) timeline, or by leaving blank spaces (labeled "extra time") in your timeline.  This will save you stress day of, when the unplanned for and unforeseen events occur. For example, last year we knew we had to finish by 6:00 P.M., as we had plan with friends that evening, so I created a timeline that had us finishing at 6:00 P.M. that already had extra time already built into it. For example, I estimated our arrival time in Edmonds to be 12:40 P.M., despite planning to take the 11:15 Ferry, so that if we missed that Ferry and had to take the next one, we would still be on time to finish. 

Before you start to panic about having to create a super complex timeline, know that I wrote mine in my planner, and that it was super messy and not that detailed (see image below). If you are a super-planner, and want to create an elaborate timeline w/ estimated browsing times in each store, go right ahead, but you don't have to be that detailed in order to succeed! If you want to see an example of a more complex timeline, check out Catherine Bull's here

My incredibly basic timeline from last year, with notes added throughout the day. It's proof that you don't have to make your timeline super neat or complicated in order for it to be useful.

My incredibly basic timeline from last year, with notes added throughout the day. It's proof that you don't have to make your timeline super neat or complicated in order for it to be useful.

Due to the restrictions for how many stops one can have on a personalized map, and the additional stops added this year, we ended up creating three maps this year, one with the Outer Loop, and two for the Inner Loop. You can see screenshots of the map below, or view them here (Outer Loop), here (Inner Loop pt. 1). and here (Inner Loop Pt. 2). I recommend emailing yourself links to both your spreadsheet (now arranged in order of visitation, from first to last) AND links to your maps, so that you can bring them up on your phones while you are on the road. I would also recommend printing out your spreadsheet, if possible, just in case you lose cell reception.  As you can see, the Outer Loop has an estimated 4 hours, 16 minutes of driving time (which I rounded up to 4 1/2 hours in my schedule), while the Inner Loop has an estimated 1 hour, 58 minutes, which gives us a grand total of 6 1/2 hours of estimated driving time. 

Outer Loop, drive time 4 1/2 hours, aimed to complete by 2:15 P.M.

Outer Loop, drive time 4 1/2 hours, aimed to complete by 2:15 P.M.

Inner Loop Pt 1 and 2, drive time 2 hours

Inner Loop Pt 1 and 2, drive time 2 hours


Tip 4: Decide when you're leaving, and pack snacks/meals on wheels the night before

No one wants to adventure hangry

Once you've created your spreadsheet and Google Maps, it is time to decide when to start your adventure. Last year many folks took the first ferry of the day from Seattle to Bremerton (which I believe left at 6:45-ish in the morning), but we are not morning people, so we decided to risk taking the second ferry, which left at the more reasonable time of 7:55 A.M. Having read some horror stories of missing ferries due to visitor volume issues on the Seattle Independent Bookstore FB page, we decided to arrive at the Seattle Ferry Terminal 40 minutes early to ensure we got a spot. This ended up being a needless worry, as our ferry was only half-full, but I'm glad that we planned ahead and arrived early, as it allowed us to go on a much needed coffee-run before boarding. This year I think we’re going to target the first ferry (as I’m doing the outer loop w/ a friend who has a 1:00 appointment), and am still going to try to be there 30-40 minutes early. We also packed a bag the night before full of snacks and sandwiches for meals on the road, and added cold drinks to the bag the morning of (I suggest buying your drinks ahead of time and chilling them in fridge the night before). You can eat at the many restaurants along the route instead, but we had plans Saturday evening, so we committed to meals on wheels to ensure we completed the challenge before we had to be elsewhere! If you decide to go the restaurant route, I would still recommend packing snacks- book adventures are hungry work and no one wants to adventure hangry! 

That's it! Those are my four planning tips for a successful #seabookstoreday

Do you think I left anything out? Do you still have questions? Leave me a comment or shoot me a message here.

Hope you see you at Seattle Independent Bookstore Day 2019!


P.S. Don't forget to pin this post so that you can find it again!