Support Your Indie Bookseller
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
A week or so ago I had the pleasure of sitting for a leisurely hour or two on a sunny veranda overlooking Florida’s intracoastal waterway with Cynthia Callender, marketing and publicity director at Vero Beach Book Center. My friend, author Debbie Macomber, and I wanted to hear Cynthia’s take on the current state of the booksellers industry and to find out what authors could do to support our beloved independent bookstores.
Cynthia first told us, much like the famous Mark Twain quote, that rumors of the demise of the indie bookseller are greatly exaggerated. At her store, the renowned Vero Beach Book Center, they are presently consolidating their two neighboring locations into one. “People keep rushing in to see if everything is okay,” she told us. “We’ve been in business since 1975.” During that time they’ve had three expansions to meet the needs of their customers. “Now we are re-inventing ourselves again,” she said. The nicest thing about the move has been the outpouring of support from their customers and the community. They’ve all needed reassuring that Vero Beach Book Center is, indeed, staying the course.
It doesn’t mean that bookstores don’t need readers’ and customers’ support. Nowadays it is easy to order a book with just a few keystrokes and have it delivered to a reading device within a minute or two. It means that if we want our local bookstores to stay healthy we need to intentionally patronize them and, as writers, support them in any way we can.
I asked Cynthia what writers can do to support bookstores. She gave three high profile examples.
- James Patterson took out full page “Bailout the Bookstores” advertisements in the New York Times. You can read about them here.
- Stephen King decided to release his newest novel, Joyland, in paper only– no ebooks. This has been a boon to those stores that sell the physical books. You can read more about that here
- And Ann Patchett took a gutsy step. Along with a partner she opened her own independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, right in Nashville, Tennessee. Read about that here.
But most writers aren’t able to offer big gestures like those. So what else can authors do?
- Cynthia says it helps to acknowledge the booksellers who believed in you in those early days. She tells about Brad Melzer. Every time he comes to Vero Beach he tells the audience that “these people had me when nobody would have me.” He always adds, “I was coming here when I had hair.”
- Support your local bookstore by continuing to be their best customer and bringing your friends into the stores. Your bookseller appreciates this and will reciprocate by introducing readers to your books.
- Offer a buy button on your website for IndieBound as well as several of the bookstores with whom you have a relationship. Cynthia mentioned how disheartening it is for booksellers who work hard to promote and even host events for an author to only find buy buttons for Amazon and Barnes & Noble on their websites.
Independent bookstores deserve to be preserved. There is a sense of place– an important gathering function– tied up in the independent bookstore that needs to be preserved. We will all be poorer if bookstores pass into the “remember when. . .” ether.
So, your turn. Tell us about your favorite bookstore and why it needs to be preserved. (Or brought back if it is long gone.) What can we do, short of a full-page NY Times ad, to help our Indie Bookstores?
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