Indies First Makes 'Fantastic' Debut
|Sherman Alexie at Third Place Books, Seattle
Initially proposed by author Sherman Alexie only three months ago, Indies First--which featured authors working in their favorite bookstores this past Saturday, an idea embraced by the American Booksellers Association, indies and authors across the country--was a wild success, judging from what we saw, from reports by booksellers and participating authors and from the many comments and photos on the Indies First Facebook page. (See and hear Alexie talk about his love of indie booksellers in this new video from Open Road.)
Authors spent anywhere from an hour or two to all day in stores. Some went to several stores. A few took a laid-back approach, but many handsold titles, helped customers find sections, even wrapped purchases. Altogether, more than 1,000 authors helped out at more than 400 indie bookstores, adding to the excitement generated by Small Business Saturday.
|At Bank Square Books on Saturday: (from l.) Ann Hawywood Leal, Bob Dotson, BEA's Steve Rosato and Susan Kietzman.
Annie Philbrick, co-owner of Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., spoke for many booksellers when she called Indies First and Small Business Saturday "a huge success"; for her store, that included coverage by Channel 8 WTNH News (and a "celebrity" appearance by BookExpo America show director Steve Rosato with a "gaggle" of kids). The five participating authors--Ann Haywood Leal, Susan Kietzman, Bob Dotson (and his wife, Linda), Paul Dunion and James Benn--"truly felt like part of our staff, wandering around the store, proudly showing off our newly expanded space and how much it means to Main Street, Mystic. They pitched in to wrap, to help kids select books, make recommendations to shoppers, sign some of their own books for customers, pose for photos, help look for a couple of books that no one could find." Saturday sales at the store were up 20%.
Likewise, Joan Grenier, owner of Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass., said that sales were "up considerably for us. The authors did very well as booksellers and appear to enjoy themselves. We had a great range of adult and children's authors. It was fantastic."
The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., had "by far our biggest day of the year," co-owner Tom Campbell reported. "The store was humming all day. Lots of folks having a good time and buying stacks of books. All of our authors had a great time, too."
Campbell added that besides Small Business Saturday and Indies First Day, Saturday was the first day of Shop Independent Durham Week--a promotion of the city's shop local organization, Sustain-a-Bull. "So it was a trifecta for us--as well as on our local NPR station, which on Saturday morning ran, back to back, the national story on Small Business Saturday, the national story on Indies First, and then a local story on Shop Independent Durham Week."
Community Bookstore's #1 Bookseller: Jon Scieszka
At the Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., all four guest booksellers--Matt de la Pena, Rosie Schaap, Amy Brill and Jon Scieszka--"went out of their way to help our customers find amazing books to take home," co-owner Stephanie Valdez wrote. "There was also plenty of healthy competition between our guest booksellers, as each tried to out-sell the others. Ultimately, it was hard to beat Jon Scieszka, who dominated the kids section and took home our prize for #1 Bookseller of the Day."
North of the border, Shelley Macbeth, owner of Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, Ont., said on Facebook that the store's Indies First celebration was "fabulous, stupendous." Seven authors came to the store on Saturday, "and boy, did they sell books! Our customers had a great time shopping the 'hood! In case you missed out, they tagged some of their favourite reads and signed some of their own (because signing other people's books would just be wrong)."
Indies First marks only one of several solid promotional efforts focused on indie bookstores this season: it's just five days until Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.