Sherman Alexie Urges Authors To Become Hand-Selling Superheroes For A Day

Calling on his peers to step up for independent booksellers–“God knows they’ve helped us over the years,” he says–Sherman Alexie has sparked a grassroots movement of authors who will spend Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, working at a local bookstore.

Dubbed “Indies First,” the program began with a letter Alexie sent to a group of authors over the Labor Day weekend.

“Hello, hello, you gorgeous book nerds,

Now is the time to be a superhero for independent bookstores. I want all of us (you and you and especially you) to spend an amazing day hand-selling books at your local independent bookstore on Small Business Saturday (that’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 30 this year, so you know it’s a huge weekend for everyone who, you know, wants to make a living).

Here’s the plan: We book nerds will become booksellers. We will make recommendations. We will practice nepotism and urge readers to buy multiple copies of our friends’ books. Maybe you’ll sign and sell books of your own in the process. I think the collective results could be mind-boggling (maybe even world-changing).

In the letter, Alexie (a member of the Authors Guild Council, though his invitation extends to all authors) mentions his recent experience as bookseller-for-a-day at Seattle’s Queen Anne Book Company and says:

“What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand- selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own?”

While Alexie urged writers to pick up the phone and call their local bookseller, the ABA is helping organize the movement by posting forms online for authors and booksellers who want to participate.

Authors who have already signed on for Indies First include Laurie King, Paul Fleischman,  Cynthia Lord, Rick Bass, David James Duncan, David Abrams, Shannon Hale and Josh Hanagarne, according to the ABA.

Small Business Saturday has become a key annual event for independent booksellers, a chance to boost both sales and consumer awareness. The ABA’s “Thanks for Shopping Indie” promotion will also launch on Nov. 30.

In actions ranging from the individual (Wiley Cash’s incentive for pre-ordering his new novel from an independent) to the large scale (the Booktalk Nation interview series) authors are finding ways to give back to independent booksellers and educate readers about the importance of shopping at indies. Indie First provides an opportunity for many more authors to do the same.

Comments: more
  • zeidman

    Screw the small bookstores! They are not our friends. Every small bookstore I’ve talked to about my self-published book refuses to even let me talk there. They refuse to carry any books not published by the major publishers because they’ve all told me they can’t take the risk. Kudos to Kepler’s Books in Mountain View, California that did allow me to speak and does carry my books. But I have no love for any of the rest.

  • Richard Grayson

    From the New York Times, June 1, 2010:

    “At a panel of authors speaking mainly to independent booksellers,
    Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of “The
    Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” said he refused to allow
    his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive
    reading devices “elitist” and declared that when he saw a woman sitting
    on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, “I wanted to hit

    Very nice. But, even worse, when given a chance to correct himself on his own blog, the only thing he apologized for is the idea of hitting a woman;

    “I should have edited myself. I should have said, “I saw a man on the
    airplane reading a Kindle and I wanted to hit him.” In this way, my joke
    becomes about my true object of fear, distrust, and anger—the
    Kindle—and not about the gender of the person reading the Kindle.”

    Very nice indeed.