November 19, 2013

Authors to become booksellers for a day with Indies First


You may be surprised to see who rings you up when you visit your local indie bookstore on November 30. On September 1, author Sherman Alexie introduced the Indies First Movement, urging authors to sell books for a day in their local stores.

Hector Tobar told the LA Times how the date was picked:

The Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday has, in recent years, been dubbed “Small Business Saturday.” Last year, President Obama spent Small Business Saturday at a local independent bookstore in Virginia — he and his daughters bought 15 books, mostly as Christmas presents. And Americans recovering from their turkey bacchanals filed into bookstores in large numbers from Alaska to West Virginia, as the website Shelf Awareness reported. One intrepid New Yorker visited 16 independent bookstores that day.

For many booksellers, Small Business Saturday (squeezed between the Wal-Mart-friendly Black Friday and the Amazon-friendly Cyber Monday) was their second-biggest sales day of the year.

In his original letter, Alexie urged booksellers and author to reach out to each other to make the day a success:

Here’s the plan: We book nerds will become booksellers. We will make recommendations. We will practice nepotism and urge readers to buy multiple copies of our friends’ books. Maybe you’ll sign and sell books of your own in the process. I think the collective results could be mind-boggling (maybe even world-changing).

I was a bookseller-for-a-day at Seattle’s Queen Anne Book Company when it reopened this past April. Janis Segress, one of the new co-owners, came up with this brilliant idea. What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand- selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own? Why not give it a try? Let’s call it Indies First.

Indies First is already a success; as of October 17, almost 300 authors had signed up. Who can you expect to see? Alexie himself will be at Elliott Bay Book Company and Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle,  Jess Walter will be at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, Martin Cruz Smith at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA, Caroline Leavitt at McNally Jackson in New York, Curtis Sittenfeld at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, and many more. A full listing is available at Indie Bound.

On November 30, go support your local indie and maybe even meet your favorite author. As Alexie says, “The most important thing is that we’ll all be helping Independent bookstores, and God knows they’ve helped us over the years. So join the Indie First Movement and help your favorite independent bookstore. Help all indie bookstores. Reach out to them and join the movement. Indies First!”



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.