Bookstore Interview – Ellen Klein of Hooray for Books!

Bookstores are magical places: shops where you walk in and are immediately presented with thousands of portals to other worlds. But we also hear a lot about the difficulty of maintaining an independent bookstore nowadays, with quickly changing technology and ease of online ordering. Despite that, a great number of independent bookstores are thriving. Today, I’m excited to share an interview with Ellen Klein of Hooray for Books!, located in Alexandria, VA.


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Hooray for Books! is an independent bookstore that offers Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday morning storytimes. It also hosts a number of author events, featuring writers like Maggie Stiefvater, Shannon Messenger, and more. And not only that, but they also work with schools to help plan book fairs, and even have their own blog featuring author interviews (so great!). The store and its impressive story have been featured in places like The Washington Post, LibraryThing, and more.

If you’re in the DC area, you definitely won’t want to miss a trip to this bookstore. You can find all the ways you can connect with Ellen and Hooray for Books! below.


1. How did you first get into the bookstore business?

I started a freelance writing business in 1984, which included writing a number of books as works-for-hire. My business grew an average of 20% per year until 1996, when my husband suffered a massive stroke and had to take medical retirement. With him at home, my writing slacked off about 10% per year, so that by 2007, I needed to get a real job. Fortunately, he was well enough for me to leave at home alone, so I got a job as a bookseller at a bookstore here in Old Town. Unfortunately, that was when the economy was on the skids, and the bookstore closed that same year. Nevertheless, in the nearly 11 months I worked as a bookseller, I learned enough that I felt confident about opening a bookstore to replace the one that had closed – so I did!


2. What have you found most challenging about the bookstore business?

I’m a stickler for detail, and getting staff to make sure everything is priced correctly in our point-of-sale system is tough! It’s especially problematic when publishers issue reprints or repackage titles and raise the book price by at least $1. When staff sell the new book at the old, lower price, we lose some serious money, and, as a brick-and-mortar bookstore, our profit margin is already slim.


3. What is something that surprised you about the bookstore business?

I was surprised to discover that the bookstore has its own equilibrium, when it comes to the percentage of books versus nonbook merchandise we sell. It pretty much has settled on 82% books and 18% nonbook items. If we up one, then customers come in asking for the other, so it always returns to that balance. I don’t know about other bookstores – I know some aim for 70% books and 30% nonbook merchandise – but this is what works for our community.


4. What is something most authors don’t know about the bookstore business?

Well, I don’t think I can speak for most authors, given that it’s a universe that ranges from self-published, debut, and NYT best-selling authors to those represented by university presses, specialty imprints, and major publishing houses. However, I’d say that when authors schedule their own paid school presentations, quite often the author doesn’t encourage the school to purchase books from a local bookstore but will point the school to And I understand why – not only would it require the author to check out the American Booksellers Association’s website for a local indie’s contact information, but also a lot of schools get a percentage of the sales generated from Amazon purchases. However, we take authors to schools at no charge and provide books at a 20% discount, asking only that the school send our book order forms to the students’ homes. This approach benefits the author, school, bookstore, and community.


5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you recommend people pick up?

Because everyone has different tastes, I do not make umbrella recommendations. Personally, however, I find the dictionary the most fascinating – the more pages, the better.



Here are the ways you can connect with Ellen and Hooray for Books!

Visit their site.

Follow them on their Facebook page.

Follow them on Twitter.

Follow them on Instagram.

Subscribe to their blog.

Last but not least, visit them in person!

Hooray for Books!
1555 King St., Ste. 101, Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 548-4092; Email:


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