Indies First/SBS: Celebrating Independents and Community

On Saturday, hundreds of booksellers across the country took part in Indies First and Small Business Saturday, organizing all kinds of in-store activities, offering a range of deals, hosting parties and engaging in the staple of Indies First since the event was founded by Sherman Alexie in 2013: having authors work in their favorite indies as booksellers. The American Booksellers Association sponsors Indies Next, and American Express is the driving force behind Small Business Saturday.

Several booksellers who plan to open permanent bookstores took Indies First and Small Business Saturday as an opportunity to open pop-up and kiosk stores.

Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman of Paz & Associates, who have trained many new and veteran booksellers and plan to open a bookstore in their hometown of Fernandina Beach, Fla., set up a pop-up shop for their Story & Song Bookstore Bistro on Saturday. On her blog, Donna called Small Business Saturday "the perfect opportunity to remind people of your start-up and the importance of small business to the local economy." The pop-up shop "allows you to learn from customers and begin learning store operations."

The Saturday experience was worthwhile, she continued, because they learned more about their customers and what books and other products they're interested in, and they dealt with some nuts-and-bolts problems, including a receipt printer that "decided to take the day off" and an electronic order that was duplicated, that helped strengthen troubleshooting and stress management skills.

"From marketing to operations," she concluded, "it's all good learning."

Over the long weekend, in Washington, D.C., Angela Maria Spring opened two permanent Duende District "stores within stores," one in MahoganyBooks, in the Anacostia Arts Center, and the other in Toli Moli, a new Burmese bodega in Union Market. She's also doing a holiday pop-up with A Creative DC in Brookland, an area in Northeast Washington that she called "first on my list for a stand-alone Duende" bricks-and-mortar location.

Tom Lowenburg, co-owner of Octavia Books, New Orleans, La., was quoted in a USA Today article about Small Business Saturday, saying that the event "really does do something to connect with our community.... It's not about manipulating people, or putting them in an uncomfortable situation, but creating a genuine shopping experience that comes from the kinds of relationships we already have with our customers."

As part of the Indies First/Small Business Saturday festivities at Octavia, nine authors served as booksellers: Susan Larson, Anne Gisleson, Michael Tisserand, Ben Sandmel, Katherine Clark, Ladee Hubbard, Tom McDermott, Christopher Schaberg and Claudia Gray.

In Phoenix, Ariz., Mayor Greg Stanton stopped by Changing Hands Bookstore to show his support for Small Business Saturday. At the store's Tempe location, customers who bought a Natural Life mug received a free succulent, potting soil and a gift bag. Other events at the stores included storytime, signings, pictures with Santa and presentations of the hottest books and toys by the stores' kid's team and gift department. Changing Hands donated a portion of Saturday's sales to three local charities: Be a Leader Foundation, HandsOn Greater Phoenix and Teach for America--Phoenix.

A mountain of tote bags awaited customers at Book Passage, San Francisco.

In a similar vein, Women & Children First, Chicago, Ill., donated a portion of Saturday's profits to the Chicago Women's Health Center. In addition, Bossy Chicago donated $1 to the YWCA for each customer who shopped at the store on Saturday and showed off her purchase using the hashtag #buywomenowned. In the store, Women & Children First provided free coffee and gave away totes to customers who spent more than $50.

Dawn Rennert of the Concord Bookshop, Concord, Mass., nominated Josh Funk, author most recently of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, for "road tripper of the day." On Saturday, Funk visited 14 bookstores in and near Boston and tweeted a variety of pictures from his travels.

For Indies First, offered a 50% discount to consumers. director of marketing Stephanie Ballien noted "many online conversations about supporting local bookstores throughout the year" and that "while nothing will beat the shopping experience of talking with a real bookseller at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, online shopping through still has a face. On Cyber Monday, we have a #cybersmall campaign with the theme 'online shopping still has a face.' "

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