Independent booksellers around the country are prepping for what is likely to be one of the most important shopping days of the year: November 25, otherwise known as Small Business Saturday. Last year, 112 million people made purchases from small businesses on Small Business Saturday, according to American Express, which backs the promotion.
Independent booksellers have also been calling the day Indies First since 2013, when author Sherman Alexie enlisted more 1,000 writers to handsell books at their local independent bookstores on Small Business Saturday. Five years later, the emphasis is as much on community marketing and special promotions as on authors handselling books.
The American Booksellers Association, which oversees Indies First, enlisted YA author Jason Reynolds as this year’s spokesperson; he’ll be appearing at East City Bookshop in Washington, D.C., and at One More Page Books in Arlington, Va., on the day. The ABA has also partnered with Penguin Random House for a sweepstakes that will give $1,000 worth of PRH books to one winner, drawn at random, who tags an independent bookstore on social media and posts with the hashtag #ShopIndiesFirstSweepstakes between November 15 and 26.
Likewise, a variety of publishers and distributors are offering special promotions on backlist and featured titles; the ABA has gone so far as to create a special online tool for booksellers to calculate their savings from the specials. LibroFM, which partners with independent bookstores to sell audiobooks, is having a 50% off sale on select titles.
To take advantage of the expected increased foot traffic on November 25, many booksellers are offering discounts, releasing and promoting lists of the best books of the year, and putting on special events. Several stores are celebrating anniversaries: Watermarks Books Cafe in Wichita, Kans., is hosting Kansas author Debra Seely for its 40th anniversary, and Greenlight Books in Brooklyn is marking the one-year anniversary of the opening of its Prospect Lefferts Gardens store with a 20% discount on books throughout the day. The Books Books chain in Miami, celebrating its 35th anniversary, will serve champagne.
Other stores are raising money for charity. Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston is donating a portion of proceeds from sales on November 25 to a local public library flooded by Hurricane Harvey; at Gramercy Books in Bexley, Ohio, customers who bring a canned food item for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank get 15% off their purchases. Women and Children First in Chicago will be supporting the Chicago Women’s Health Center with a donation.
Of course, hundreds of authors are holding events at bookstores across the country. Books of Wonder in New York City is featuring Brian Floca, Steve Light, Sergio Ruzzier, and Paul O. Zelinsky. Book Soup in Los Angeles will host authors Janelle Brown, Michelle Latiolais, Dan Lopez, Heidi Mastrogiovanni, and Justin Torres. At the King’s English in Salt Lake City, Jennifer Adams and Gabriel Tallent will recommend books to shoppers.
Pop-up stores are proving popular, too. A Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Ala., is opening a pop-up store in a nearby coffee shop, and the Itinerant Literant, a mobile bookstore in Charleston, S.C., is cohosting the Local Love Pop-Up Shop with letterpress stationery company Ink Meets Paper.
Booksellers have coopted Cyber Monday as well; in the independent bookstore community it has been rebranded Cider Monday. The Cider Monday tradition, in which stores serve hot apple cider and snacks to woo customers away from shopping online, was started in 2013 by the Toadstool Bookshops in New Hampshire.
If there’s a single slogan that sums up the Indies First and Cider Monday missions best, it’s the one being promoted by Battle Creek Books in Battle Creek, Mich.: “Shop small, not at the mall!”