The Wooster Book Company occupies two store fronts in the adorable town of Wooster, OH. I met a friend there yesterday afternoon, and we wandered the aisles with delight. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the “environmental” section because that’s where the farming books were, and I picked up a couple of things – a gift for P and a copy of Murder on the Orient Express because folks on Facebook suggested I should start my impending love affair with Agatha Christie there.
The store was lovely, well-organized, and thorough – with a nice children’s section, lots of fiction titles, and five shelves chock full of poetry.
Yet here, I noticed what I keep noticing in independent bookstores no matter where I am – the shelves are sparse. It’s just not possible for indies to keep a large stock it seems. I imagine they simply can’t afford the overhead of stocking so many titles in a market where their sales are much slimmer. So every time I go into an independent bookstore, I buy something . . . it’s sort of my commitment to show that I want these stores to survive and thrive.
I also dropped a copy of my book off with the shop owner and told her that it was available through Ingram because maybe, just maybe, she will put out a copy . . . or maybe someone from one of these speaking events will come by and ask for a copy . . . and she’ll be prepared to order it.
I really do believe it’s possible to support independent bookstores as a writer, even as most of us authors need to have our books on Amazon to survive, too. Here are the 5 things we can all do to keep these stores open.
1. Buy books there. I try to save up the titles I want to buy, and when I purchase books – instead of getting them from the library or Bookmooch – I buy from an independent. Sometimes, this means waiting until I can get to a bookstore, which can be a few weeks because I live in the country, but I do my best to do it.
2. Tell people about your local independents. I would have never known about Wooster Book Company if Susan hadn’t told me about them, and I am so grateful for the introduction. Share their events, like them on Facebook (I wish Wooster Book Company had a page), follow them on Twitter and retweet/share their posts.
3. Put your work in independents. My book is at the UVa bookstore and New Dominion Books, and you can order it at Powell’s. It takes some effort to get your book in independents, and it’s certainly easier if you have a relationship with those stores. But be sure to tell them you can help them by sharing that your book is there. . . you can be mutually helpful to one another.
4. Go to their events. If there’s an author reading at an indie, go to the event. Buy a book if you can, or just attend and help build a following for their events.
5. Be intentional about your book buying. It’s so easy to just pick up that title at Costco or Target, to order a title from Amazon when you’re also getting that new box fan for the house, and I don’t fault that. But if we all put a little intention into our book buying and realized that our purchase at an indie carries a lot more weight – both for the author and the bookstore – we might just help fill up their shelves a bit more.
One other thing that you can do for authors and independent bookstores – ask if the store can special order books for you. It’s just possible that they can get a title through Ingram – the big book distributor – and when you do this, you put some of your money in the hands of a small business and in the hands of the writer. It’s a win-win-win.
So what about you? Where do you buy books? Are you blessed to have an indie near you? Tell me about them in the comments below, and I’ll share them out on FB and Twitter over the next few days.