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As Indie Bookstores Grow Stronger, So Does the Teamwork Between Authors and Booksellers

You know all that talk recently about the resurgence of independent bookstores? It’s true. What you may not have heard as much about is the role being played by those natural allies of booksellers–authors.

Following the success of the ABA’s first Thanks for Shopping Indie campaign in 2012, more booksellers have signed up to participate this year, bringing the number to over 400. The campaign, in which local retailers promote books chosen from a list of bookseller-selected titles, begins on Nov. 30, Small Business Saturday. No coincidence—that’s also when authors will report to work at bookstores around the country for Indies First, the Sherman Alexie brainchild that’s grown into a full-fledged movement.

Late this summer, Alexie posted an open letter to authors asking them to become booksellers for the day. As of yesterday, 270 authors and 225 stores had gone to the ABA’s website to register their plans to participate in Indies First and the number is growing every day, said ABA senior program officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger. And those figures don’t include the authors and booksellers who intend to join in but haven’t registered.

Indies First is a grassroots movement, driven by one-on-one connections between authors and booksellers, not any organization. But the ABA plans to assist by matching up booksellers and authors, and by keeping track of the pairings already arranged. In November, the ABA will post a map on its website showing where readers can find authors on Nov. 30, Dallanegra-Sanger said.

We think Indies First is a terrific idea (and not because Alexie happens to be a member of the Guild board) and want to remind authors that there is still time to get involved by calling a local bookstore. (Also, look for an interview with Alexie in the forthcoming issue of the Bulletin, where he talks about the motivation behind the movement and what he’ll be doing on Nov. 30).

While we’re on the subject of author-bookseller teamwork, a number of high profile authors have become “Friends of New England Independent Booksellers” by donating $100 to support the region’s bookstores. They include Junot Diaz, Gish Jen, Wendell Minor, Margot Livesey,  Nathaniel Philbrick and Wally Lamb (thanks to Shelf Awareness for calling our attention to it).

And speaking of Wally Lamb…that brings us to our favorite author-bookseller joint effort, the Guild-underwritten, indie-bookstore supported Booktalk Nation series. Lamb will be on Booktalk Nation this evening talking about his new novel We Are Water. Since launching last November with dial-in events, the program has evolved into an online series using Google Hangout. As Guild executive director Paul Aiken said recently:

“The communities of avid readers who favor indie bookstores are vital to authors. We’re working to stitch together and strengthen those communities, and technology can certainly work in their favor. We’re especially proud to have 85 bookstores in the family to date. Our virtual doors are wide open for more.”