Clinton Events Put Spotlight on Indie Booksellers

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Hillary Rodham Clinton is touring the country this month to promote her new book, Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster), which details her time as America’s 67th secretary of state. Since the book’s publication on June 10, independent booksellers from coast to coast have welcomed Clinton — and hundreds of excited customers — through their doors for signings.

On Monday, June 16, Clinton appeared at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where 1,000 people lined up to shake her hand and have their books signed. Details of the event were carefully planned out, said general manager Carole Horne, including marketing, staffing, closing the store for the signing, and blocking off the street to handle the line of ticket holders. Store staff also had to coordinate with the publisher, with Clinton’s staff, with the Secret Service, and with local police and fire department officials.

Harvard Book Store has hosted other events that have been just as large in terms of sales (Stephen King) and just as complicated to coordinate (former President Jimmy Carter and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair), but “putting all factors together, we have certainly never done an event of greater magnitude,” said Horne.

“Aside from the honor and pure pleasure in hosting such an amazing author, we’re very happy that Secretary Clinton and Simon & Schuster have chosen independent bookstores for so many of her events,” Horne added. “Putting a spotlight on indies, with the kind of media attention such an event generates, certainly shows the world that indies are alive and well.”

For Clinton’s appearance on Wednesday, June 18, at University Book Store in Seattle, Washington, more than 1,100 people lined up on two levels of the 89,000-square-foot store. Having purchased wristbands that ensured admission and a signed book, eager fans lined up outside the store hours before the doors opened.

To make sure that everyone who came through the door was having a great time, line monitors gave out snacks and water to waiting customers and kept them informed about the plan for the signing, which began at 5:00 p.m.

As Clinton welcomed each individual who came to have a book signed, she was incredibly gracious and personable, said store manager Pam Cady. “She didn’t have much time with people, but she made an impression on every person” by shaking hands, looking people in the eye, and being incredibly present. “I watched people’s faces as they went up to see her and when they turned away after they spoke to her.  There were a lot of young girls and it was just heartbreakingly wonderful to see their faces. Almost all of them were in tears.”

Having Clinton visit University Book Store was exciting both for customers and store staff, said Cady. The event also served as a reminder of what brick-and-mortar stores offer customers, versus online competitors. “They can’t do this for you and if we go away, there’s not going to be things like this happening,” said Cady. “It’s just a wonderful way to remind people that we’re here, and with their support we’ll remain here.”

On Friday, June 20, Clinton appeared at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, which has handled events of similar scope in the past, including appearances by former presidents Bill Clinton twice and Jimmy Carter four times, as well as Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. “These big signings are very important,” said BookPeople co-owner Steve Bercu. “The sales help, but the media attention is more important as it forms a lasting impression on our customer base.”

Those customers — more than 1,000 of them — were thrilled to meet Clinton, and the store received warm thank-yous from customers both at the event and online. There was also great local media coverage of the signing, said Mandy Brooks, BookPeople’s director of events and marketing. “The signing went exceedingly well. Everyone left happy, which is what we strive to do. All in all, an awesome day.”

Other indie stops on Clinton’s tour for Hard Choices have included:

Signings are also scheduled for Sunday, June 29, at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, New York, with books provided by The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, and on Monday, June 30, at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, with books provided by Explore Booksellers.

Clinton’s tour has also included appearances at several Barnes & Noble locations and a few big box stores. As her tour continues, new appearances may be added to the schedule, which can be found here.