It is common knowledge that independent bookstores have been struggling to stay in business. Studies have shown that fewer and fewer people are actually finding books in bookstores. With the rise of e-books and bookselling websites, readers are finding it more convenient to order books from the comfort of their own homes than to browse a bookstore’s shelves. However, some major names in the writing world are taking action and attempting to increase sales in these independent bookstores.
In the beginning of September, Sherman Alexie sent a letter to some of his fellow authors, asking them to take part in what he calls Indies First by working at one of their local bookstores on Small Business Saturday. Authors such as Richard Russo and James Patterson will be taking part in Indies First come November. On top of these efforts, Stephen King published his new novel solely in a print format with no current plans of making it into a digital format. In his blog, Neil Gaiman asked his fans to order presigned books from their local bookstore.
All of these efforts by well-known authors have helped these bookstores’ sales, and have made these stores more popular amongst local readers. While this attention obviously helps small independent bookstores, they are not the only ones that can benefit from author attention—this growing interest in small bookstores could also help independent publishers. Since publishers produce the books that bookstores sell, it follows that the success of one will lead to the success of the other.
With the rise of bookselling sites like Amazon, some small publishers have begun to suffer along with independent bookstores. The profits they once made selling their books in stores has gone down with the decrease in bookstore patronship, and e-books are not always as profitable for publishers as print versions. On top of the cut that sellers like Amazon take out of an e-book sale, plus the cut that goes to the author, there is much to be desired in terms of profit. Add the fact that in order for people shopping on Amazon to come across a small publisher’s book, the publisher has to pay the site for advertising and recommendation space, web sales get expensive for small publishers fast.
With all of these obstacles in place, anything that can boost the business of independent bookstores is a major help for small publishers. An increase in customers may lead to more advertising opportunities in local bookstores. Small publishers would be able to work with these bookstores to increase sales, perhaps by building a “recommended reads” section when an author comes to a store. That way customers who are drawn to the bookstore because of an author will see more books similar to the ones they like, and be more likely to buy them.
Thanks to the interest of major authors in the independent bookstore business, small publishers may be able to see an increase in profits due to the rising popularity of bookstores over online shopping. Providing customers with the personal experience they long to have with their favorite authors allows bookstores to offer a service that online bookstores cannot, which in the end will help the independent bookstore business stay alive, as well as help the small publisher.