Today, August 29th, is Independent Bookstore Day. As someone who has worked with authors and publishers to promote thousands of books over three decades, I certainly am happy to support and promote any day that supports books, writing, or free speech. Helping indie bookstores to survive corona and then to thrive under normal circumstances is important not only for the nation’s several thousand indie bookstore owners, but for the communities that cherish them, the authors who rely on them, and the publishers who need them. But before I identify ways you can support indie bookstores across the country, I must remind indie bookstores that they need to take responsibility and ownership for their place in the world.
Yes, that is right, I love indie bookstores, and there are many more pros than cons to celebrating and supporting them, but they do need to empower themselves and do more than just play up the “local store” card -- and then proceed to charge high prices, stock fewer books, have shorter store hours, and not service the community the way it needs to be catered to.
Indie bookstores have lots of challenges. Some battle high rents, high taxes, and a decrease in retail life around them, thus, less traffic to their stores. In the year of corona, indie bookstores, after being shackled for several months, returned to limited circumstances: fewer people are allowed in the store at any one time, stores hours may not be as robust as they used to be, and in-store events are no longer possible. Times are tough and these stores need us now more than ever. But the free ride can't last forever, either.
Indie bookstores have done a good job to guilt the community into supporting their “buy local” mantra and to support their neighbors-turned-business owners. But in exchange for this, consumers have not received the same value as they get with amazon, who sends you books to your home and charges less. They also don’t offer the instant availability of choice that comes from Barnes and Noble. Additionally, the chain bookstore offers coupons, discounts, and membership deals. Your indie bookstore? They give you a smile and maybe put a sticker on your bag that says you supported a local business.
I think the winning formula for today’s indie bookstore is to start adding in discounts, longer store hours, and more shelf space – all while still doing the buy local thing, still holding events, still highlighting local authors, and continuing to hire caring and passionate workers that can discuss books intelligently.
So how can you support Independent Bookstore Day?
First, make it an everyday experience. Celebrate books and the indie stores daily. Check this site out to learn more: http://www.indiebookstoreday.com/.
Second, buy books from your indie bookstore.
Third, tell others to shop there.
Fourth, write positive reviews online for your local bookstore.
Fifth, give the owners of such stores feedback, ideas, and suggestions on how they can improve their stores. encourage these stores to read this blog post.
Sixth, attend the store’s events, whether in-person or online.
Seventh, comment on social media about your local bookstore.
Indie bookstores, we love you and support you, but please don’t take this fandom for granted. Earn our money and friendship by being creative, offering discounts, and enhancing your offerings. You can do it. You need to.
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are the product of his genius. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. 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 http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo.