Nearly two years ago, Joni McCoy wrote her first book.
Nearly two months ago, she opened a bookstore.
Young Bookworms, her Colorado Springs store that exclusively sells children’s books from self-published authors, is full of rainbow decorations and bright blue chairs and colorful covers of books.
But don’t judge the store’s story on the look. It began with tragedy in October 2019, when McCoy’s mother died after a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s. McCoy, who retired early to care for her mom, found herself needing something to do.
She started writing children’s books, inspired by the kind McCoy read aloud near the end of her mother’s life.
“I started out just to fill the void with Mom,” she said. “As soon as I wrote one, I was addicted.”
Writing was new for McCoy, who previously worked for 20 years as an accountant and owned a cupcake shop.
It hasn’t gotten old, as the 63-year-old author has since self-published more than 30 books and figured out unique ways to sell them beyond begging bookstores or listing titles on Amazon.
In 2020, she set up a booth with her books at area farmers markets and events.
“Nobody is going to sell your book like you do,” McCoy said.
Her booth was a hit and expanded to include works by other self-published authors. She sold more than 2,500 books in a few months, which sparked another idea.
“We sold so many books that I realized we needed a storefront,” she said. “I knew I needed to create a space that families could come to and enjoy all the books.”
That space opened in March in the Woodmen Plaza shopping center.
With a focus on self-published children’s books, Young Bookworms is likely one of a kind.
“I think the world is missing out on so many incredible self-published books,” McCoy said. “I want to change that.
In recent years, self-published books have found more of a home in the aisles of traditional bookstores. Barnes & Noble has a self-publishing outfit that helps authors get their work featured on the company’s website and, possibly, in stores.
Tattered Cover Book Store, which is the state’s largest independent bookstore and has a Colorado Springs location on the way, has a program for self-published authors around Colorado. Local stores such as Poor Richard’s carry self-published books.
The entire Young Bookworms shines a light on this category. And McCoy designed the layout with that in mind.
She calls it a “No Spine” bookstore, meaning visitors should never see the side of a book.
With a supply of more than 300 books, representing about 150 authors, covers of 300 books are on display.
“I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a ‘No Spine’ policy,” she said. “I wanted every book to have the same chance of selling.”
The store goes beyond just displaying books. McCoy plans to host author visits, book clubs, daily storytime 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 items are inspired by one of McCoy’s recent books, called “Toots The Fire Farting Dragon.” There’s a cookbook and a stuffed animal resembling the dragon.
Yes, McCoy is still writing. And still thinks of her target reader: her mom.
“Every book I come up with, I try to do something that’s going to make my mom giggle,” she said.
McCoy thinks the store would make her mom smile, too.
“She feels so present in this store,” she said. “I think she would’ve 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 there soon, McCoy said.