Almost two years ago, Joni McCoy wrote her first book.
Almost two months ago, she opened a bookstore.
Young Bookworms, his Colorado Springs store that exclusively sells children’s books by self-published authors, is full of rainbow decorations, bright blue chairs and colorful book covers.
But don’t judge the store’s story on the look. It all started with tragedy in October 2019, when McCoy’s mother died after a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. McCoy, who retired early to care for her mother, found herself having something to do.
She began writing children’s books, inspired by the genre that McCoy read aloud towards the end of her mother’s life.
“I started just to fill the void with mom,” she said. “As soon as I wrote one, I was hooked.”
The writing was new to McCoy, who had previously worked for 20 years as an accountant and owned a cupcake shop.
It hasn’t aged, as the 63-year-old author has since self-published more than 30 books and found unique ways to sell them beyond begging from bookstores or listing titles on Amazon.
In 2020, she set up a stand with her books at local producers’ markets and events.
“Nobody will sell your book like you do,” McCoy said.
His booth was a success and expanded to include works by other self-published authors. She sold over 2,500 books in a few months, which sparked another idea.
“We sold so many books that I realized we needed a showcase,” she said. “I knew I had to create a space where families could come and enjoy all the books.”
This space opened in March in the Woodmen Plaza mall.
With its focus on self-published children’s books, Young Bookworms is probably unique.
“I think the world is missing out on so many amazing self-published books,” McCoy said. “I want to change that.
In recent years, self-published books have found their way into the aisles of traditional bookstores. Barnes & Noble has a self-publishing team that helps authors get their work to appear on the company’s website and, eventually, in stores.
Tattered Cover Book Store, which is the largest independent bookstore in the state and has a Colorado Springs location down the road, has a program for self-published authors in Colorado. Local stores such as Poor Richard’s sell self-published books.
The set of Young Bookworms sheds light on this category. And McCoy designed the layout with that in mind.
She calls it a “No Spine” bookstore, meaning visitors never have to see the side of a book.
With a stock of over 300 books, representing around 150 authors, the covers of 300 books are on display.
“I don’t know if there’s a ‘No Spine’ policy,” she said. “I wanted every book to have the same chance of selling.”
The store goes beyond the simple presentation of books. McCoy plans to host author tours, book clubs, daily story times and classes for kids who want to self-publish. She also sells book-themed items such as toys, stuffed animals, t-shirts, hats, bookmarks, and puzzles.
Several articles are inspired by one of McCoy’s recent books, “Toots The Fire Farting Dragon”. There’s a cookbook and a dragon-like stuffed animal.
Yes, McCoy is still writing. And always think of his target reader: his mother.
“Every book I invent, I try to do something that will make my mom laugh,” she said.
McCoy thinks the store would make his mother smile too.
“She feels so present in this store,” she said. “I think she would have been here every day.”
Someone else is there every day: McCoy’s father, William. At 92, he has his own office at Young Bookworms. And he just finished writing his first book.
Look for it on shelves soon, McCoy said.