I know that the holiday season is upon us, and I just want to highlight a few key points that I hope will help make the upcoming weeks as successful and profitable for your store as possible — a reflection of the continuing improved results being seen by indie bookstores across the country.
You’ve been hearing a lot about Indies First on Small Business Saturday (November 28), but it really is critically important, and a big opportunity for your store. This initiative has grown to become a vibrant opening to the holiday season for thousands of indie bookstores and other Main Street retailers and millions of consumers. Last year, approximately 88 million Americans spent money at local small businesses on Small Business Saturday, a nearly 15 percent increase over 2013, and, overall, shoppers on Small Business Saturday spent $14.3 billion — up 2.1 percent from 2013.
The dynamic execution of Indies First by booksellers and the enthusiastic participation of authors have combined to create a very special day — one that offers consumers a fun and first-hand experience they can only find at indie bookstores. Thanks to the strong support of American Express and fueled by the growing national support of localism, your stores are once again proving the power of independent booksellers to bring together authors and readers. (Indies First, as well, provided an opportunity for many publishers to demonstrate their strong support for our channel, and I sure hope many of you took advantage of the generous offers that were made available.)
I hope your plans for events are in place, but there are a few key points to keep in mind. Most importantly, first, if you haven’t yet, add your Indies First/Small Business Saturday activities to the national map for consumers. Your event should appear on the map at IndieBound.org/IndiesFirst within 24 hours.
Second, previous years have made abundantly clear that Indies First offers significant social media opportunities. I do understand that November 28 is not a slow day! But I urge you to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr — whichever platform or platforms are most effective for your store. Include photos and images whenever you can, and do use the hashtag #IndiesFirst to further the event’s message and to raise your store’s profile.
Importantly, encourage your visiting authors/illustrators to actively use their social media platforms, too.
Finally, please, do share your success stories with us here at ABA. We will be following #IndiesFirst on social media, but e-mail us as well to let us know all the cool things that you and your friends in the authors’ community are doing on this very special Saturday so that we can do all we can to amplify the story.
A final note about your outreach to authors: This is a great opportunity to encourage them to get in the habit of linking to us all year long. The key point of the message is that we are not asking authors to think only of indies — just to think of us first! As ABA President Betsy Burton has noted repeatedly: This really can be a movement. The time has never been better.
Nothing better demonstrates on a national level the unique role indie bookstores play in helping readers and book buyers discover great new writing than Indies First on Small Business Saturday. And staying with the theme of passionate hand-selling, I also want to remind you about a new, special event that we are adding to the programming for the upcoming Winter Institute in Denver.
On Saturday, January 23, following the Wi11 welcoming reception, attendees can participate in the first-ever Backlist Book Swap. You can come to the event with a copy of your favorite backlist title, browse through the scores of titles your colleagues from stores all over the country have brought, and then do what I know booksellers love more than almost anything else — talk to one another about a book you passionately believe they should read!
I hope everyone (booksellers, publishers, guests, etc.) coming to Wi11 will bring a title — and take a different title back to their hotel room that night as their next great read! Please, do add the Backlist Book Swap to your Wi11 calendar, and to help with planning, please RSVP as soon as you can by completing the Wi11 Book Swap form available here. (And one reminder: We are asking that your book swap title be at least five years old and still be in print.)
Finally, I don’t want to close this month’s letter without noting one thing regarding a notable news item in our industry. As I know you’ve read, Amazon.com has opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle. While it is far too soon to speculate about the company’s intentions or goals regarding its storefront profile, I did want to make one thing clear: ABA member bookstores can rest assured that your trade association will continue to remind publishers and other vendors about their obligations under antitrust laws, especially regarding their need to ensure that inventory purchased under one set of terms is not commingled and transferred to another class of business. That remains a bedrock principle that everyone must abide by, and ABA will not be shy in raising this matter with all suppliers.
I know we are heading into the busy holiday season, and if there is anything that ABA can do to help you in the hectic days of November and December, please, do let us know. And if you have any questions or comments about Indies First on Small Business Saturday, please contact either firstname.lastname@example.org or me.
All best wishes to you for a prosperous holiday season!
Oren J. Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association