The B.C. Booksellers Association has teamed up with a group of Canadian authors, led by Janie Chang, for a new campaign in appreciation of independent book retailers.
So far, 99 bookstores and more than 300 writers from 10 provinces and territories have agreed to participate in Canada’s first-ever Authors for Indies Day. Chang was inspired by the U.S. project Indies First, started in 2013.
“Janie saw what a big impact the Indies First campaign was having with Sherman Alexie and Neil Gaiman being so supportive of their independent bookstores, and she wanted to do something like that here,” says BCBA co-president and Book Warehouse manager Mary-Ann Yazedjian. “It was originally supposed to be just B.C., but it’s taken off across the country.”
Chang says she’s excited about the diversity of bookstores on board – which include university bookstores, kids’ bookstores, cookbook shops, bookstore-cafés, and those specializing in both new and used titles. Though she jokes that the project’s team of volunteers is to some degree “making it up as [they] go along,” she’s confident in the initiative’s goals and has expectations for long-term appeal.
“Since the U.S. has run it once already, the concept has been field-tested, so I figure we have a good shot,” she says. “If you want the economic importance of supporting bookstores, it’s all part of shopping local. Indie stores recirculate 55 per cent of their revenues back to the local economy, compared to 13 per cent for big chain stores. Thriving local businesses create better places to live. [We want] customers to recognize the value of having an independent bookstore in their neighbourhood, to support those stores and build relationships.”
Forming and fostering relationships between all members of the publishing community, not just booksellers and customers, is what makes the initiative so important, Yazedijan says.
“I think it’s important for everyone in the book community to support each other: publishers, reps, bookstores, authors, and everyone in between,” she says. “It’s been so inspiring and heart-warming to see authors whose books indie bookstores have been recommending and selling for so many years now coming out to champion us.”
Chang adds: “It’s important for me at an emotional level because it just breaks my heart when I hear that another bookstore has closed. Plus I’ve always fantasized about working in a bookstore! I mean, what book nerd hasn’t?”