Indies First Event Participation Guidelines

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Guidelines and Suggestions for Authors & Illustrators Participating in an Indies First Event

Indies First is the brainchild of Sherman Alexie, who asked his fellow authors to "be a superhero for independent bookstores [and] spend an amazing day hand-selling books at [their] local bookstore." He also urged authors to make an indie bookstore "buy" button the first choice on their websites. The inaugural Indies First event was held on Small Business Saturday 2013, when thousands of authors volunteered as guest booksellers at their local independent bookstores.

Next, Indies First supported Children's Book Week with Indies First Storytime Day, and again, authors and illustrators were encouraged to participate by one of their own, Kate DiCamillo. Hundreds volunteered as story hour readers at local indies across the country.

Propelled by the enthusiasm of authors, illustrators, and booksellers, Indies First has become a national movement.

This page is meant as a guide for authors/illustrators wanting to support their local indie generally, as well as to participate in an Indies First event.

  1. The Buy Button

Remember to add an indie “buy button." Many independent bookstores have an online site through which customers can order and buy books. Authors can support their local independent by linking to the store for book sales, and putting the indie’s  “buy button” first among the e-tailer options. If your local independent doesn’t have an affiliate program, or if you can’t choose a favorite store, then join the affiliate program, and your readers can shop indies first by entering their zip code.

  1. Volunteering for an Indies First event day

Visit the store locator on to see a list of independent bookstores near you.

We encourage authors to reach out and show their appreciation to their local independent bookstore(s) and our members thank you for your support; however, please be aware that the needs of each store vary. Some stores may not be participating in an Indies First event, or they may already have a surplus of author volunteers.  The best first step, if you don’t have a confirmed appearance with your favorite store, is to sign-up as an interested author. The Author and Illustrator Registry sign-up form is here.

So that we can minimize confusion and maximize everyone’s experience for Indies First, we do request that all final author confirmations to ABA come from the independent bookstore where you will be volunteering.

  1. What To Do When You Get There

Indies First is all about supporting the bookstore through volunteering. While each store will do something slightly different, this is a day where you get to take off your “author cap” and enjoy the world of bookselling. Maybe you’re a bookseller for the day, or reading your favorite picture books to young book lovers – whatever Indies First event you are participating in, this is not an author event, but a bookstore event, where you get to take a break from being an author and take part in bookselling.  Speak with the store owner or manager before you arrive to make sure that your expectations and the store's match.

Speaking of bookselling: Booksellers always keep a small list of recommendations in their minds, as well as favorite titles and authors. We encourage authors to have a list of books that are not their own to recommend to customers. Today, you get to be a reader! Share your favorite books with customers, recommend a friend of yours, discover a new author by chatting with a customer about their tastes! Let the store know if there are any titles you'd like them to have on hand.

4. What To Do After You've Been There

Tell everyone about it! Spread the word in your blog, on Facebook, through Twitter, with Instagram, or however you connect with your readers. Tell them about your experience and your support of independent bookstores, and that you're an Indies First author. And send us photos for the Indies First Facebook page —which we encourage you to "like"—at [email protected]. We hope to hear from you.

For any questions about Indies First please email [email protected].

Thank you!

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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