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Creative Ways Indie Bookstores and Authors Are Working Together

July 22, 2011

This has been a sad week in the book world. With the closing of all remaining Borders stores, many communities will be left without a bookstore, and thousands of passionate book-lovers are out of work. Because we work with independent bookstores, we know that there are still many bookstores out there that are able to fulfill your physical and e-book needs. Indie bookstores are strong, thriving, and more relevant than ever, full of experienced, knowledgeable owners and staff who want to help you find the perfect next read. (You can always use the store locator on IndieBound if you want to find an indie near your home.)

One thing that we’ve seen at indie bookstores across the country is the emergence of the bookstore as a key part of the community, a center where people can gather for signings, classes, workshops and book clubs. Many stores are trying new and innovative ways to bring in customers and to provide an enriched experience to existing customers. Partnerships with local authors, while always an indie mainstay, are becoming more valuable to both the store and the author, helping both to sell more books than they may otherwise. We wanted to highlight two recent local author/bookstore promotions that came about through such partnerships. If you’re an author or a bookstore and have participated in similar promotions, please share in the comment section below- we’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences.

Author Erica S. Perl wrote this about an ongoing promotion for her charming middle grade novel, When Life Gives You O.J.

 I just wanted to let you guys know about a very cool project I started as the result of a truly wonderful book party thrown by friends in honor of my new middle grade novel, When Life Gives You O.J. It was this past weekend and our neighborhood indie bookseller, Politics & Prose, handled the book sales.  They sold out of almost 100 books in an hour!  Meanwhile, I had announced to party guests that I would be donating $2 to First Book in order to provide a book to a child in need for every book that sold at the party.  First Book kindly extended the offer to match my donation so that for every book sold at the party, two books would go to kids in need.  So at the party alone, the 100 books sold yielded 200 books for kids in need.

Meanwhile, many people who attended wanted to buy more books!  And several folks who couldn’t attend the party asked if they could get in on this charitable project when they bought theirs.  So I checked with Heidi in the Children’s Department at Politics & Prose and she said the store could easily tell me how many copies sold between 7/16 and 7/31, if I wanted to add this number to my total, which I do (and First Book has agreed to continue to match this with Random House books). SO, I thought I’d tell you guys so we can share the excitement about this since this initiative not only will provide more books to kids, it’ll do so by encouraging readers to support a beloved independent bookseller.  And, hopefully, if all goes well, this model will be replicable for other authors who want to support First Book! (I should mention that I got this idea from Dan Santat, but I tweaked it to include First Book and take author-as-book-purchaser-and-mailer out of the equation). Visit Erica’s blog for more details.

As Erica mentioned, California author Dan Santat also recently came up with a creative way to boost book sales and support his local children’s only bookstore, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book. He let fans know that if they pre-ordered a copy of his graphic novel Sidekicks from his website, he would include a limited edition art print and a behind-the-scenes PDF book along with the book, which he then purchased from the bookstore, letting them keep the profits. As the shop’s buyer told Publisher’s Weekly in their article on the promotion, where they probably would have sold a handful of books, they ended up selling 85 copies (and counting) with no additional cost or effort on their part. And you can be sure that the store staff members have become die-hard fans of Santat’s as well! Here’s what Andrea, the buyer, had to say about Santat’s promotion:

I thought it was brilliant and showed much Indie love.  I realize that a lot sales happen through Amazon, numbers don’t lie.  But something like this can really be mutually beneficial to both the author and the bookseller.  Heck, I’d have thrown him a party for the launch, if I had known ahead of time! I had no idea that Dan was going to bless us with his giant order. I just knew he was doing it, and felt it was a creative and kind gesture. In fact, to simplify it for the author, if the store has a commerce site, the books can be pre-ordered and paid for through the site.  The author can stop by and sign their arm off, and the store can ship.  It can be an ongoing relationship as well.  If the author is handy, they can just stop by periodically to make sure books are signed.  They can direct web sales to their local store, and set up as an affiliate (I think- check with your store for details).

We’re thrilled to hear about Dan Santat’s novel idea. Hopefully this will help authors and their local bookstores start conversations about ways they might be able to work together to come up with creative and innovative events and promotions. And since Dan mentioned that he is hoping to repeat this promotion with his next book, a hilarious picture book he illustrated called Tom’s Tweet that we’re publishing this fall, we’re even happier!

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