Sunday, July 7, 2019

Authors Play A Role In Indie Bookstore Growth

If the health of the book industry begins with growth in the number of indie booksellers, the book world should delight in the recent announcement by the American Booksellers Association that 99 new indie bookstores opened for business in 2018 – a 32% increase from the growth in 2017.

The number of indie bookstores that comprise ABA is now up to 2,524 locations.  Sales in 2018 for ABA member stores increased nearly 5% over the prior year.  However, overall bookstore sales, as compiled by the U.S. census Bureau, were down 8.4% for the first quarter of 2019.

A decade ago the indie bookstores were in a slump, closing up shop due to the strength of the book chains and Amazon – and the surge in e-book sales.  Things look a lot better today.

Indie bookstores can tie a community together, localizing its offerings, providing great customer service, and presenting a store that seems personable, friendly, and event-oriented.  Some old bookstores look charming and have a real down-home feel to them.  It’s as if time stopped and one was lost in another era as they walk through the doors of an independent proprietor’s comfy little store.

Authors can play a bigger part in partnering with indies to ensure growth for both the stores and the writers.

Authors might be marketing with Amazon, B&N, and social media in mind, but they should make sure they are reaching out to local independent stores to arrange for book signings.  They should go in and autograph copies and ask the stores to highlight their local connection.  Authors should guide people who love books from their website to order from or visit their local indies.

Indie bookstores need to work hard and be savvy in what they sell, both in books and the non-book items.  They have limited shelf and floor space and have to wisely meet the needs of the community while guessing new offerings that might have a sales breakthrough.

Some stores mix in used and rare with new.  Others play on a theme or genre, such as children’s books or mystery novels.  Many stores supplement income by selling toys, mugs, and items that complement books.  Some stores lean heavily on selling best-sellers while others like to showcase what’s new, local, or critically acclaimed.

Whatever formula or approach, indie bookstores take, they know they are one bad season away from being in trouble.  It’s hard to make big profits in this industry, but it’s easy to suffer quick losses.  But most indie bookstores are not in it for the money. It’s a passion and a purpose to own a bookstore.  But it can’t hurt to be profitable and so far, the industry looks to be favorable.

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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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