I know that you have already received a flood of e-mails from ABA about both Indies First and Small Business Saturday ... but, please, bear with me, for I am going to make one last appeal to urge you to get involved and participate. Yes, it’s that important.
You have told us (and American Express’ numbers confirm) that Small Business Saturday has grown to become one of the most important sales days of the year. The Small Business Saturday focus on the power of localism — amplified by the multi-million-dollar advertising budget of American Express — has contributed to many stores’ recent successes. When this is coupled with our own Indies First movement, we have a clear message and a potent focus.
Many of our publishing colleagues have recognized the strong sales opportunities of Indies First on Small Business Saturday and have supported it with a number of advantageous and simplified terms. I hope you reviewed the offerings and took advantage of those that made sense for your business. Some companies have extended those terms beyond the prescribed period, and others — including our wholesaler friends — have initiated their own programs. Be sure to talk to your reps about what is available.
But the special terms are just one facet of Indies First. No matter how much, or how little, you may have ordered there are still critically important opportunities for bookstores to make the most of Indies First and Small Business Saturday.
A major component from the beginning of Indies First has been the energetic cooperation between authors and bookstores. As you’ve read, last year hundreds of stores hosted more than a thousand authors as booksellers for a day, at the urging of Sherman Alexie.
This year, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are exhorting their fellow authors to reach out to bookstores, but it will take your active participation for that author-bookstore partnership to happen nationwide.
If you haven’t yet, please, don’t delay in reaching out to authors in your community and inviting them to be guest booksellers in your store on Small Business Saturday. In addition, review the growing list of authors on BookWeb.org and contact those you’d like to invite to be in your store on November 29. But don’t stop there. Make sure you register your Indies First events so that they are publicized on the Indies First map on IndieBound.org.
I can’t encourage you strongly enough to share your story with your local media. Use your store newsletter, website, and social media outlets to highlight the authors who will be working at your store. Encourage your visiting authors/illustrators/local celebrities to do the same. And don’t forget the hashtag — #IndiesFirst.
The national press has begun to recognize the resurgence in indie bookstores and on Small Business Saturday your store can be a vibrant showcase of the power of independent bookselling, your unique ties to your community, and the special relationship you have in connecting authors and readers. Your store can be center stage for local coverage of the holiday season.
Our colleagues at AIB (Advocates for Independent Business) have created a very powerful infographic to help illustrate the enormous impact of independent retail businesses on the overall economy, and I urge you to use it with the media; in your newsletters, websites, and social media; and, of course, in conversations with customers this holiday season.
And many thanks as well to Daniel Handler for his contribution to Indies First — the Upstream program, which encourages authors to connect with indie stores and sign stock that the store can sell.
Be proactive in your outreach to authors and help get them in to the habit of linking to us all year long. As ABA Vice President/Secretary Betsy Burton wrote to you earlier this week, “We’re not asking any author or publisher (or for that matter any customer) to think only of Indies — just to think of us first. Especially on Saturday, November 29, when, because of Small Business Saturday, the whole country will already be tuning into us community by community, just as they did last year…. This really can be a movement: The time has never been better.”
I know we are heading into the busy holiday season, and I do know how hard you work in your stores. And I do appreciate that finding time for new initiatives can be a tall order. But I really do believe that your active participation in Indies First on Small Business Saturday can benefit your store immensely — and contribute mightily to the far more positive narrative about independent bookstores that is being heard around the country.
All best wishes to you for a prosperous holiday season!
CEO, American Booksellers Association