We (Em and Sade) are two best friends who, beyond all else, love books. We spent our entire childhoods in bookstores and libraries. Sade is an author, Em is a former librarian.
It has been a lifelong dream of both of ours to own a bookstore. Unfortunately, we live in a location where opening a brick and mortar store just isn’t financially viable for two people to start from scratch.
So, we thought of the next best thing; we decided to purchase an ex-bookmobile and convert it into a full time living space and bookstore, circumventing the need for pricey overhead and rents. The chance to combine the element of running our own bookstore with living in a self-sustainable manner into one cohesive vision is exceptionally rare.
We’ve decided to focus on the underrepresented fringe genres of literature, allowing us to tap into a vein that’s long been ignored.
In specializing in fringe literature, The Road Virus will serve as a venue proving to be an outlier's dream. No longer will someone with a different worldview need to walk into a bookstore and immediately beeline for the back shelf consisting of one or two rows of books. Instead, amongst our shelves, you will find yourself literally surrounded by words and stories trained on releasing the darker parts of life.
Now, onto the main aspect of our vision for The Road Virus; horror.
Even in the year of blockbuster hits like The Conjuring 2 and The Purge: Election Year grossing hundreds of millions of dollars in the box office, the broad genre of horror still remains to this day an underappreciated and trivialized one, especially in literary circles.
Horror as a genre is more of a subjective feeling rather than an objective and defined set of characteristics and the periodic successes that we see as a community owe a higher debt of gratitude to the visual rather than the written word.
Most people consume horror through movies and the occasional book. Then, there are people on the other side of the spectrum: those who themselves are consumed by horror.
When you think horror and household names, you think Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Rice, R.L. Stine, and H.P. Lovecraft. These are authors who are synonymous with the genre but don’t entirely encompass it.
The Road Virus strives to bring not only the critically acclaimed fan favorites but also esoteric and lesser known authors to horror-loving doorsteps around the US.
Throughout recent years, horror has had cyclical success on a broad scale which has brought attention and new fans to the genre; we want to give access to a wider variety and more specialized set of printed media.
Though our crosshairs are primarily centered on the terrifying, the spooky, and the generally off-putting, we will also set our sights on the following:
- spy/espionage thrillers
- true crime
- underground graphic novels/comics
- queer studies/lit
- modern poetry
- underground film/music biographies & histories
and other fringe genres.
Another big aspect for us will be our children/YA section. Em, as a former YA librarian, has always been passionate about literacy in the younger crowd. Sade, a voracious reader from very early on, has always been obsessed with written words that could make him squirm.
Together, we believe that children deserve to be scared too. Some of our favorite children’s authors were ones that refused to hold our hands, those who believed that children shouldn’t be talked down to, and that they’re smarter and more resilient than common culture allows. We believe that society sometimes puts children into infantalized silos and tells them exactly how large their imaginations should be. We hope to help break that spell.
Our children's section will carry some of our personal childhood heroes such as R.L. Stine, John Bellairs, Roald Dahl, Edward Gorey, Shel Silverstein, Bruce Coville, and Christopher Pike.
Let's talk about community: the Road Virus wants to give back with more than just books. We are passionate about literacy above all else and want to reach the widest audience possible.
Anyone of any age who feels like their reading level is not up to par can come by the Road Virus every Sunday from 10 AM - 4 PM and have private tutoring and free access to wi-fi to find other instructors in the area to continue their reading lessons.
We believe that everyone deserves to read regardless of what kind of book interests them; we subscribe wholly to the ideal that whatever excites someone about reading is what is most important, be it horror, comic books, or Twilight (and everything in between). We will do our best to find a touchstone to teach literacy to an under-served community of non-readers wherever we go.
Additionally, in our stretch goals, we would love to host free movie nights for every community we park in. Ideally, we will raise enough to purchase outdoor speakers to be mounted on The Road Virus, screen material, a projector, and some comfy seating.
Our goal is to host a double-feature; the early show for kids/families and a later showing for adult audiences only. The former will appeal to people of all ages, with nostalgic classics such as Watership Down, The Halloween Tree, and The Addams Family. Sade has a storied background with movies that both get under your skin and in your skull, so for the adults, we'll be showing weird cult and horror classics as well as the fringe genres such as exploitation, Giallo, and terrible gory b-flicks.
Again, horror and the subversive elements of written fiction have always been closely entwined with cinema; we endeavor to showcase that relationship.
Onto why we're launching this Kickstarter: we have the goals, we have the drive, we have the experience; we just need help with the means. In supporting our Kickstarter, you are making the following possible.
- $7,500 - The bus itself. We just so happened to come across a devil's deal on Craigslist. Used for many years by Perry County (Indiana) as a bookmobile, the semi-converted retired schoolbus already has a history of promoting literacy. It includes built-in bookshelves, a generator that runs 110v electricity for lights/outlets, and a wheelchair lift, making us universally accessible. Note: we've already purchased the bus with a loan, so this portion is to pay it back.
- $1,000 - Rounding out the collection. We have a substantial collection of books in genres like scifi and thrillers already, but would like to specialize our stock to horror and hone in on granular subgenres and hard-to-find titles as much as possible. We plan to hit estate sales and other events across the US where books are bound to be.
- $4,000 - Payment to a contractor for framing of a bathroom (and plumbing), self-contained kitchenette, and sleeping area. Em and Sade will be living in The Road Virus full time, and so will require the basic necessities of home. We will also be installing skylights for more natural light throughout the bus.
- $1,000 - Fees, Paperwork, Insurance. Starting an LLC without a permanent address requires extensive tax paperwork and fees as well as insurance for the bus and ourselves. Permits in order to park in certain counties/states. Registering the bus.
- $1,000 - Full bus tuneup. Oil change, one tire replacement, transport/fuel from pickup (Missouri) to maiden voyage kickoff spot (California). Parking until takeoff (February 1st).
- $1,500 - Basic appliances/fixtures. Fridge, toaster oven, sink, toilet, shower, electrical inverter, wi-fi hotspot.
- $5,000 - Exterior vinyl wrap for the bus. For us to stand out as a business and not just another RV or bus; so folks know what we are and why we're there. This is a pretty expensive process, and the quotes we've been getting are mostly in excess of $5,000.
- $950 - Kickstarter fees. With our funding goal set at $19,000, this is Kickstarter's pound of flesh, though we fully appreciate the crowdfunding venue for even making this type of thing a possibility
While we recognize that our total costs are more than what we're asking for from the Kickstarter community, we hope that other book and horror lovers are generous in helping us reach and exceed our goal.
Beyond the basics of mobile bookselling, we also want to offer additional services and features to set us apart from your typical retailer. Upon meeting our goals, we would also like to accomplish and incorporate the following into the store.
Delivery service to your door: We'll purchase a motorized scooter and, for a small fee and within the local delivery area, we can bring your books directly to your door.
Movie Nights: As described above, we'll purchase the required equipment to allow us to set up recurring movie nights with a double feature for kids and adults.
Reading Is Infectious Book Club Subscription Service: Available in 3, 6, and 12 month subscriptions, we intend to offer three separate themed subscriptions to readers. You choose a length of time and a genre group and we'll send you one book per month for the length of your subscription. A great gift for the voracious reader in your life.
Fringe Lit Online Community: On our website, we will be hosting a forum for lovers of fringe lit to come together and discuss the finer points of their favorite widely-unknowns. With the bus itself, we can reach communities across the US in person; through the forum, we hope to provide an outlet for people across the world. Click here to sign up for the forum.
Reading events for authors: In our travels and separate and joined communities, we've befriended many authors; we would like to give them a space to share their craft with their local community by hosting live readings, book signings, and other events.
Typewriter podium: We want to bring out the writer in everybody; we'll have a typewriter set up in publicly accessible space to encourage creative expression. Type a poem, take a poem, leave a poem.
Little Free Library: We'll have a Little Free Library set up on the outside of the bus. While these books might not always be on brand for The Road Virus, we'll make sure we always have a good selection. Just because you don't necessarily have the funds doesn't mean you have to leave without a book.
Tiny animals for petting: What's a good bookstore without a few cute critters lying around? Right now, The Road Virus will be traveling with a small chihuahua named Fulci (named after the Italian director, famous for his gory Giallo films). We also intend to adopt a black cat; the chosen color due to the increased difficulty of finding homes for black cats because of the stigma surrounding them. We hope that our resident friends will bring a smile to our patrons' faces as well as encourage more casual browsing. Adopt, don't shop.
Risks and challenges
To put things in terms of black and white - much like ink on a page - we are determined to do this whether our Kickstarter is successful or not. As mentioned above, we've purchased the bus with a loan.
Both of us have experience with small business ownership, from music publishing and distribution to library-inspired ephemera and jewelry-making. We know what it takes to start a small business, and to run it successfully; we understand the trials and tribulations which come with adversity in the small business market and selling wares to niche crowds.
Our biggest risk is that we have a single point of failure; our home, business, and vehicle will all be in one place. Because of this, we fully intend on sharpening our personal mechanical and general home-repair skills.
One of the biggest challenges facing independent bookstores these days is the advent and rapid growth of markets like Amazon where books are readily available and inexpensively shipped to your front door.
We also recognize that horror, thrillers, sci-fi, and comic books might not be everyone's favorites and in some areas of the country they might even be downright unpopular - we hope to show that being scared is actually a good thing. Not only does it release endorphins and dopamine (which are "happiness hormones"), but being scared also releases oxytocin - a chemical produced by the brain that helps with human bonding. So pick up that next tempting creepy tome, because the family that scares together, stays together!
We believe that the experience of browsing a bookstore/sitting in a library is something that people, especially the younger generation, are lacking access to. There is a rich history and culture behind the personal human touch of bookselling that is being stripped down by the internet; with The Road Virus, we can combine the personal touch with the flexibility of setting up shop in communities across the US.
As stated in our stretch goals, we want to offer door to door service in the future as well, giving even Amazon a slight run for their money.
Video designed and narrated by The Dark Somnium
Video script written by The Road VirusLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)