How can bookstores leverage the market for independent/small-press books to be more inclusive in connecting readers and authors?

Host:  Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Participants: Charlie Kruse, Dick (VisionWorks), Humaira Ghilzae, Christopher Miya (Heyday), Madi Mulluen (libro) 


Our group successfully posed a lot of good questions, though not so many answers. Mainly, we learned that there’s a will to connect small-press/indie-pub books with indie bookstores and a need for creativity and awareness of constraints on both sides, if we want to serve the wider book-reading community.

Humaira:  the traditional publishing world is too constrained by gatekeepers, so it can be hard to trudge through years of effort to get a book to its audience. Indie bookstores are in the forefront of thinking about books…but haven’t made the shift to dealing with the inde/small press world  There are some good reasons, but it seems that traditional publishers control the bookstores.  As someone with friends who self-published…there’s a part of the community that’s missing.

Vanessa: are there practical ways that bookstores can connect potential readers of small-press books with the books they’re looking for that won’t eat into margins too much? Highlighting ready availability of books they can order through the bookstore? Displaying informational “postcards” from small-press publishers providing key information that readers can pick up in the store, take to the front and say “hey, can you order this?”. 

Dick from VisionWorks:  trying to make sideline items more easily accessible like calendars and so on, without having to go to different suppliers…make books that are less-known more available. In the old days , er⁵ccccccc press could be the lifeblood of smaller bookstores, not so much today.

Charlie:  How much we expect from bookstores?  Already expecting a lot from those.  Translations, rediscovering older literature. As a bookseller, they try to 8 have monthly displays of POC/women authors. They’ve seen curated boxes, subscriptions sideline items.  What could they try:  direct connections with smaller presses, a reading club within the store, featuring indie press releases. This needs a multifaceted approach.

Madi Mullen, from   We don’t see so many small-press books to audio.  How can we bring smaller press to audio?  We often see only the most publicized ones.  It’s challenging on the audio side, because not so many.

Charlie:  but that’s one way we could have fun with it? The success of avant-garde, humorous, off-the-wall dramatic projects could be exciting in the indie bookstore environment. One example of such a project: George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo

Madi:  there are books that would lend themselves to audio, but haven’t made the leap yet. There are books undiscovered in that way, still.

Heyday Books (Christopher Miya):  How to connect with bookstores is difficult. How do we reach you? How do we communicate? We have a book that’s right for you, but we can’t print a thousand galleys, so how do we get to you?  Strengthening the bond between independent bookstores and independent publishers, recognizing the constraints on both sides? Good to hear that booksellers are interested in small/indie presses.

Charlie: Sometimes it’s just a matter of scale. So … how can we turn that into a strength? There’s a curation element to bookstores, how do we establish that special relationship? Do we do that by connecting on Or how?

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