Friday, January 25, 2019

Will More Bookstores Need Go Fund Me Campaigns To Survive?

Is the future of bookstores going to be in the hands of their customers?  Of course you believe yes, bookstores survive on the sales they make to their customers, but what if some bookshops need additional assistance to survive?

Well, in the case of a New York City bookstore, Westsider Rare and Used Books, a store that’s named the Upper West Side its home for 35 years, originally called Gryphon Books, if it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers it would be out of business.

After announcing the store would close next month, its owner was shocked to see an outpouring of community support.  Within 12 hours of posting a Go Fund Me page, $10,000 was donated to helping keep the doors open.  Within a week it raised its goal amount of $50,000.  Thanks to 800 customers of the bookstore, nothing will shutter.

On average, it took about $62 per person to keep the bookstore open.  Is this what it’s going to take for bookstores to remain literacy staples of the community?

Retail is undergoing a fierce battle in the streets and malls of America. Rising rents, higher property taxes, less foot traffic, and increased cut-throat competition from Amazon; Wal-Mart, and online sites conspire to deliver a near death blow to retail in general and bookstores particularly.

But there is good news out there.

Print book sales have continued to rise for at least five consecutive years – and the number of indie bookstores has risen in each of the past nine years.  According to the American Booksellers Association, over 2,400 indie bookstores exist in America.

So why the turnaround for books and indie bookstores?

1.      The fall of Borders and stumble by Barnes & Noble created a bigger need for indie bookstores.

2.      Communities gather at indie bookstore events and support their store as a bastion for free-thinking, open discussions by the educated and those in pursuit of knowledge.  The increased number of events at many stores pushes book sales and social media chatter.

3.      The ebook craze flattened out and the last several years have shown a decline in ebook sales as a percentage of all book sales.  This means the younger generation still reads print books, possibly in conjunction with digital reading.

4.      The nation still reads books and values them.  Sure we can read tons of stuff online for free, but nothing replaces a book.

Can we improve upon the 5% revenue increase seen by independent bookstores in America in 2018?

Absolutely, but it will depend on:
·         Bookstores marketing themselves well -- and adding more events to draw people in.
·         Bookstore staff remaining in the know of the latest book and sharing insights with customers.
·         Indies being price competitive.
·         Independent stores aggressively using social media to bring its community to the store.
·         The economy staying healthy
·         Continuing to open new stores in underserved areas.
·         Partnering with local non-profits, schools, government agencies, and houses of worship to keep everyone updated on what’s being offered by the bookstore-turned community center.

But we may also need more Go Fund Me campaigns to save bookstores confronting rent increases, a changing population, a struggling retail community, and attempts by Amazon to suck everyone into its customer vortex.

The Internet is littered with Go Fund Me campaigns to salvage indie bookstores.  I see one bid to buy Range and River Books.  Another one to save Loome Theological Booksellers.  Here’s one for finding a new home for The Drama Book Shop.  There’s another for helping Avid Bookshop overcome flooding damage.  The list goes on -- and may continue to grow.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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