The following is a message from Noah Nofz and Mary Cate Stevenson on the new Booksellers of America social media campaign, in which they will interview booksellers from around the country about their experiences on the job in order to shine a light on indie bookstores’ positive effect on their communities and help engage the next generation of booksellers. Nofz and Stevenson are the founders of Two Cats Communications, a Houston-based digital media marketing company, and ABA’s social media coordinators.
You know by now that indie bookstores are thriving. Nothing else can explain the year-over-year growth, or the number of stores we see opening, expanding, and celebrating milestone moments each week in Around Indies.
But the zeitgeist surrounding independent bookstores continues to be uninformed. You’ve seen the incredulous headlines: INDIE BOOKSTORE SUCCEEDS IN SPITE OF AMAZON! But what a silly thing that is to say! Indie bookstores aren’t thriving in spite of faceless, impersonal e-tail giants — they’re thriving because of them.
Or rather, they’re thriving because of what sets them apart. That difference, of course, is you. To borrow an idiom from Main Street American hardware stores (shop local, y’all) and get down to brass tacks, a bookstore is only as strong as its booksellers. No algorithm has ever made a child’s day with the perfect book recommendation, or brought a bestselling author to a local school or book group discussion. There are admittedly one or two things machines can generally do better than most people (differential equations and extreme heavy lifting come to mind), but putting the right story into the hands of a reader? That’s a distinctly human kind of magic.
From the front-of-house booksellers and buyers to the marketing managers and event coordinators, the little (and big) moments that comprise the indie tale are spun day-by-day, each time you book an author event, alphabetize a shelf, or place a paperback into the hands of a reader.
Booksellers of America, created by the American Booksellers Association and Two Cats Communications, aims to help tell that story — the story of how each independent bookstore is unique in its own way, and how those differences are thanks to you, the employees.
Booksellers of America is a platform to share the stories and experiences of the diverse people who own, manage, and hand-sell books in the more than 2,400 independent bookstores across the nation. The campaign will publish the stories on dedicated Instagram and Facebook pages that anyone who is interested can follow.
We want to honor and shine a light on the work that indie bookstores do for their communities and engage the next generation of career booksellers and local-lovers to come. Most of all, we want to answer this simple question: Who are America’s independent booksellers?
We’ll leave you with some thoughts from Hannah Oliver Depp, communications director at WORD Bookstores, located in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York, and a New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Board member, who we were fortunate to interview in May at BookExpo. Watch for Hannah to be one of our first features when we launch Booksellers of America in the weeks to come!
“We can’t exist in a vacuum anymore,” Hannah said. “We need to be loud and proud, and talk about the indie channel and talk about bookselling as a career, so other people aren’t telling our story. We have to tell it ourselves.”
It’s time to expand the conversation around bookselling. We hope you’ll help us.
How to Participate
It’s easy: All you need to do is express your experience and send us a photo.
Please take a few minutes and visit this bookseller introduction form to get started — you can either answer a couple of questions online or schedule a phone call with us if you prefer to chat. And please don’t worry about sounding like your favorite author — we’ll lightly edit for grammar or clarity and clear your quotes with you before you’re featured.
Many thanks to each of you! We look forward to telling your story.