Small Business Saturday + Bookselling 101 = Indies First

BookBar Fri, 11/18/2016 - 1:28pm

Handy Definitions

Small Business Saturday  A program launched by American Express to promote small and local business.  This program has since grown and been picked up by communities all over the U.S.

Indies First An indie bookstore specific program that was the dream child of author Sherman Alexie and endorsed by the American Bookseller Association.  This event is held on Small Business Saturday and is celebrated by indie bookstores across the U.S. New literary spokespeople are name every year to head up this promotion.  Our spokesperson this year is the dynamo - Lena Dunham.  Many stores celebrate by passing along special offers from publishers, hosting author events, story times, and - those of us who are lucky enough - bar specials!



Small Business Saturday is so important to small businesses, not only as a counter to the behemoth, soul and foot crushing Black Friday, but as a reminder to our communities of the importance of small business.  Indies First takes that advocay a step further since the book industry is like no other industry in small business.  Here are some reasons why:


  • The large majority of book sales in any given time period are front-list titles and bestsellers, which means diversification of product from competitors, such as the big box stores up the street or online retailers, is limited. 


  • A large majority of those front-list and bestseller titles are published and/or distributed by the top 5 publishers in the U.S. which means that our inventory sources, sales reps, touring authors, event kits, marketing materials, etc. are - you guessed it - often the same as the other guys'. Bookstores are unlike gift shops where one's products can be as unlimited as the imagination.


  • Our market share is much, much smaller. BookBar, for example, is surrounded by several coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and barber shops.  Nearly everyone in our community drinks, eats, and gets their hair cut so the community can likely support all of these businesses.  The number of people who read are, very unfortunately, much lower than those who eat, drink, and grow hair. Of those who do read, the number of people who buy actual, tangible books are even fewer. And the ones who buy their books from an indie bookseller are even fewer still. 


  • Children's books are the largest growing segment of book sales. 'While the overall book market has grown 33% since 2004, the Children's book market has grown 52% since 2004...' according to the Nielsen's Annual Children's Book Summit on October 27th.  This is one of the many reasons why you would be hard pressed to find an indie bookstore without a vibrant Children's book section.  Getting kids ot read can create life-long readers and that is good for everyone.  Be sure and take advantage of our Children's book holiday promotion: 20% off any Children's book until December 24th. Plus we are donating $1 to Reading Partners for each of those books sold.


  • Unlike other industries, the price of books is determined and set by the publishers, rather than by retailers.  This means that we can only sell books for the cover price (unless we discount), whereas other industries can set prices based on the cost of the product and the margins that make sense for them and their market.  This is why book sales have lower profit margins than most other retail products. 


Small business can be difficult.  Small bookstores can be even more difficult. So why do we do it?  Because we love books!!  And we love sharing our passion for books with our communities.  Bookselling is indeed a labor of love because we have seen the ways in which books can transform lives by transporting our minds to other situations, realities, lands, and times.  Reading makes us stronger, smarter, kinder, and more empathetic. Books make us better humans.  So it is no surprise that books and bookstores continue to endure.  But we couldn't do it without you!  You all who know the value of books and indie bookstores know why it matters.  But here are some statistics to back up those claims at your Thanksgiving table.  And a few more reasons why you can sleep in the morning after. 

Be sure to visit us on Satruday the 26th. We will be participating in the Tennyson Street Small Business Passport Crawl, offering bar specials, book raffles every hour on the hour, and our first ever Ask an Author station.  Local authors Melanie Crowder, Stephen Graham Jones, Judy Rose, and Benjamin Whitmer will be here helping you shop for the perfect gifts.  (hint: it's books. The perfect gift is books)