Reaching Out to Local Retailers Through IndieBound

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With IndieBound Literary Liberation Box materials in hand, ABA member booksellers ranging from Bainbridge Island, Washington, to Woodstock, New York, are reaching out to other local independent businesses in their communities. Response from other indie retailers has been, in a word, "excited."

In Washington, Eagle Harbor Book Company's Morley Horder brought some of IndieBound's marketing materials to the attention of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association as soon as he returned from BookExpo America. "They were very enthusiastic, and immediately grabbed some rally cards and wanted to use them as posters to display around town. They just jumped right on it, and came up with a logo using the ideas and colors from IndieBound." Adding that the group also wants to display the "Here's What You Just Did" flier in Bainbridge businesses, Horder said, "I hadn't expect it to be accepted by non-bookstores so easily."

The Bainbridge Island Downtown Association also plans to distribute fliers and educate the community at an upcoming town barbecue and fundraising event. The group has only had the IndieBound materials for a couple of weeks, but long-range plans are in the works, said Horder. "The graphics and materials are so powerful and easy to use that I see them being used and displayed in every store, especially since a lot of it can be personalized with store names. One thing I really want to do is get all the other trade associations, hardware associations for example, in on this so indies across the country are united by IndieBound. I think it's big enough and well thought out enough to make that happen."

When Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction in Missoula, Montana, returned from BookExpo America, she immediately went to the IndieBound Bookseller DIY and downloaded the "Here's What You Just Did" handout. "I [personalized] and printed one for every business on my block, then delivered them with the "Declaration of Independents," a button, and a window sticker," she said in an e-mail. "Each business had their own personalized poster, and they were VERY excited! The next day there were requests from other businesses ... nothing like the power of a good idea."

"[IndieBound] seems targeted toward a younger, hipper market, which fits with what I'm trying to do," said Sarah Loftus of the 1,000-square-foot The Bookworm's Attic in Huntington, West Virginia. "It suggests that if you're looking for something more interesting, come to an indie store. And that's how I'm differentiating between the chains and us."

The same decals, fliers, and bag stuffers that The Bookworm's Attic will use to emphasize the message "if someone needs an interesting book they don't need to get it from rack on Wal-Mart" will work just as well for the bookstore's neighboring independent businesses, observed Loftus. "I'll take the decals to the local pharmacy and talk about how they might not be able to take on Rite-Aid, but they can stress that they're different, and they can celebrate that."

Loftus' favorite IndieBound tag line is "Doing our part to make America interesting." "I'll definitely be co-opting that," she added.

Ellen Shapiro, who owns The Golden Notebook, a general bookstore in rural Woodstock, New York, considers the educational component of the Literary Liberation Box a possible lifesaver. The 30-year-old bookstore, which includes a children's section that is in a separate, but neighboring building, has been in danger of closing.

"We've been working with a group of people interested in saving the bookstore, and we were developing marketing materials," explained Shapiro. "Then the Liberation Box arrived, and its focus was exactly what we had thought we needed. Our plan was to educate the community about how important independent businesses are. Now we can use the IndieBound statistics to show that."

Shapiro's favorite tagline? "Independence is a Virtue."

To help spread the IndieBound message, ABA staff will be traveling to different parts of the country over the next several months to meet with booksellers to discuss the many ways that the program and its materials can be used and adapted to spread the word about the importance of independent retailers. As part of that effort, this week ABA Chief Marketing Officer Meg Smith met with the New England Independent Booksellers Association Advisory Council and Paige Poe, IndieBound's outreach liaison, participated in the Great Lakes Booksellers Association Tech Talk in Indianapolis, Indiana. Watch for announcements about upcoming IndieBound information sessions in Bookselling This Week. --Karen Schechner