Jenny Pool's 5.5-second TikTok video announcing Canada's first-ever exclusively romance bookstore had over 54,000 views in less than 24 hours.
It took Pool totally by surprise, but it speaks to the platform's voracious hunger for this kind of business venture.
"I love books," says Pool. "I've loved books since I could read. I'm obsessed with books." And the idea of doing something business-related within that world was always a dream for her.
After the hardships of the last two years, Pool says she had a sort of wake-up call that our time on this earth is too precious to waste. She explains that she thinks many people realized that what they thought was important before 2020 doesn't really resonate with them anymore and after a decade of working in a corporate office and then two years of working from home, she realized that she missed interacting with a community.
People asked her why she would want to open a retail store and her response was: "I truly love interacting with the public. I love talking to people. And talking to people about the thing that I love, probably the most, which is romance books was just kind of a no-brainer for me."
Canadian Romance section
Happily Ever After Books launched online Canada-wide May 13 but Pool hopes to open a brick and mortar store in Toronto in the future. The inventory is an extensive mix of all kinds of genres of romance with a dedicated Canadian romance section.
There isn't a huge back-catalogue since the business is still getting off the ground but Pool made sure the basics were covered and that the authors she enjoys are represented. So largely these are books that have come out in the last year or so.
"I've read a lot of romance books in my life. And I know that the ones that I enjoy," she says. Adding, "something that's really important to me is having a significant portion of my inventory being Canadian romance authors."
She points out that it's harder being in Canada since there are no other romance-specific bookstores like there are in the U.S. (there are at least six in the United States, including one founded by romance author Colleen Hoover) so highlighting Canadian romance authors became especially important.
Everyone knows of a romance novel set in Chicago, New York, or London but what about ones set in Toronto or B.C?
"People are excited for Canadian romance authors for sure," says Pool. Within the first hour of her shop being open Pool sold out of The Stand In by Lily Chu and Set on You by Amy Lea who both are Canadian authors.
There is one author from B.C. in the Happily Ever After bookshop, Vancouver Island-based Sara Desai, whose novel The Singles Table is set over the course of the Indian wedding season and is book three in her Marriage Game series.
BookTok and seven-foot aliens
Romance readers have always been around, as a genre Romance is a billion-dollar industry in the States and tens of millions in Canada. But the advent of TikTok and the reader community on the platform known as BookTok has created new growth opportunities for both indie authors and romance readers with stories that perhaps wouldn't have been traditionally published being given the opportunity for special edition print runs.
It has also created a new confidence in readers to discuss their reading habits openly in a community as opposed to the days of hiding harlequin romances in closets or sock drawers.
Pool says when she eventually opens a physical storefront she doesn't want people to walk in ashamed and mumble something about the third book in the Ice Planet Barbarian series. "I want to create a place where everyone can come and find a romance novel and see themselves in it," she says, "And whether that's with a duke, or a millionaire, or a seven foot tall alien, I will find it for you and I will make you happy."
@happilyeverafterbks Three days to go until Happily Ever After Books opens it’s online store for ordering! I can’t believe we’re going to be Canada‘s first romance exclusive bookstore or that we’re actually doing this. #happilyeverafterbooks #booktok #booktokcanada #romancebooks #romancenovels #romancebooktok #womanownedbusiness #womanowned #independentbookstore #indiebookstore ♬ original sound - CallmeBeba