Cheryl Strayed 2015 Indies First Letter to Authors

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September 2015

Dear author and illustrator friends,

Two years ago Sherman Alexie came up with a simple but powerful way for us to be what he called “superheroes for independent bookstores.” He named it Indies First. To participate, authors and illustrators had only to show up at their local independent bookstores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and hand-sell books. More than eleven hundred of his colleagues did, including me.

What Sherman began with one great idea has quickly become a movement of authors and illustrators directly supporting the independent booksellers who so directly support them. I’m writing today to ask you to join me in participating in the third Indies First on November 28th. That day is Small Business Saturday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, coming as it does right before the holidays. It’s a great time for you to make your best pitch on behalf of the books you love (and also the books you wrote) to shoppers who are looking for good books to read and give as gifts.

There are so many ways that a rich and vibrant network of independent booksellers contribute to the betterment of book culture in America, but perhaps the most important one is the support they give to authors and illustrators by hand-selling their books. I love that term, “hand-selling.” It reminds us that humans are involved, humans with a passion for language and stories and pictures. Hand-selling is the bookseller at The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, Vermont who recently wandered the store with my nine-year-old daughter until they were both satisfied they’d found a small stack of appropriately terrifying page-turners. It’s the artful window displays at Powell’s Books in my hometown of Portland, Oregon that always compel me to learn more about the featured books. It’s the people who put out the folding chairs for my—and your—book events at stores across the land so we can connect with readers face to face. It’s the store employees who place our books prominently on the “staff recommended” shelves that lead us to readers we might have never otherwise found.

Indies First is a way to say thank you to independent booksellers for all of that. To participate, contact the local independent bookstore of your choosing and make plans about when you’ll be at the store and what exactly they’d like you to do while you’re there. You can also sign up for the author and illustrator registry so booksellers interested in having you in their store for Indies First can contact you. After you’ve made your plans, send a shout out about your participation in Indies First on social media (#IndiesFirst) and post it on your author web site (along with a “buy” link to your local bookseller) so your readers will know where to find you on November 28th.

I’ll be spending this Indies First the way I spent the first one—at Broadway Books, the beloved independent bookstore I’m fortunate enough to have in my neighborhood. Several of my local author friends and I have made it a tradition to spend a few hours in the store together, sharing book recommendations and signing our books for customers while chatting with the store owners and their staff about the art of selling books. It always feels like a party that’s made even more festive by the knowledge that our colleagues across the nation are doing the same. I hope you’ll be among us this year.

Indies First!

Yours in book love,

Cheryl Strayed



About ABA

The American Booksellers Association, a national not-for-profit trade organization, works with booksellers and industry partners to ensure the success and profitability of independently owned book retailers, and to assist in expanding the community of the book.

Independent bookstores act as community anchors; they serve a unique role in promoting the open exchange of ideas, enriching the cultural life of communities, and creating economically vibrant neighborhoods.


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