Knowing that for most of you these are the most critical few weeks of the year, this is going to be a shorter letter than usual. But before the close of the year I did want to share a few updates and observations.
First, congratulations to all of you for helping to make Indies First and Small Business Saturday such an outstanding success. In an amazingly short amount of time, more than 1,000 authors responded to Sherman Alexie’s call to arms to support indie bookstores by becoming Booksellers for a Day on Small Business Saturday. They worked enthusiastically in more than 400 stores nationwide, and their participation was highlighted on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. The hundreds of pictures of Indies First blue bags being held by smiling authors quickly became the vibrant symbol of the resurgence of independent bookselling.
Thank you too for all the reports, photos, and feedback that you shared. For many of you, sales over that weekend were really strong, and, in some cases, record-breaking. American Express, the organizer of Small Business Saturday, noted last week that consumers spent $5.7 billion with independent merchants on that Saturday. $5.7 billion! A number of that magnitude makes very clear that millions of Americans realize the importance of and are committed to a healthy, diverse network of locally owned, independent retailers.
We are most grateful to Sherman for initiating this effort, as well as to the hundreds of authors who graciously participated.
Indies First garnered widespread attention. The promotion received approximately 1,000 Likes on Facebook in just 10 days. Print articles about Indies First saw a circulation of more than 18 million, and there were more than 19.8 million mentions of Indie First on Twitter as the weekend concluded. Importantly, there were very strong pieces about the strength of the indie channel in the consumer press, including two on NPR and one in USA TODAY, as well as an excellent overview of the resurgence of indie bookselling by Peter Osnos on The Atlantic’s blog. Not to mention, of course, all the superb local media generated in hundreds of local markets all across the country.
All that coverage reflects a growing public awareness of the reality that we have known for some time. Nationally, the network of independent bookstores has seen and is continuing to see real, sustained growth. This vitality is the result of your hard work, innovation, and a commitment to selecting and showcasing titles that we passionately believe in and that we know will find readers in our communities.
A few years ago, I characterized this revitalization in conversations with our colleagues in the publishing community and in talks as a renaissance in indie bookselling. Today, that renaissance has become a resurgence. When Publishers Weekly recently announced that it had selected me and the ABA Board as its person of the year, it was a wonderful acknowledgement of the collective achievement of all independent bookstores. As PW put it, “independent bookstores are once again seen as critical to the success of the book industry.”
Believe me, I know you can’t pay your bills with press clips and that there will be many, many hectic hours before you make that last sale on December 24, but I hope that you can take a moment to appreciate that the public narrative about our industry has changed in a very critical way, as more consumers recognize the importance, vitality, and health of indie bookstores. Once again, I will have the good fortune to be able to volunteer my services during the holiday season at a member bookstore — Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, North Carolina — and it will be another great opportunity to see firsthand the unique role that you play in the lives of your customers and your communities. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to my few days working in a store!
All best wishes to you for a busy and profitable holiday season from all of us at ABA.
Thanks for all you’ve done — and are doing — to keep indie bookselling strong.
Oren J. Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association