Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Supporting Independent Bookstores

As some of you know, it is only recently that I've been in a position to work full-time on my novel writing business.  For the past eight years, I've done all of my writing on weekends, late at night, or on long plane rides.  After doing a week of full time writing and edits, I made a point to take a day and do some promotion with local contacts.  I am soooo glad I did.  I wanted to know how small, independent bookstores were faring in this new digital, e-reader world.  It turns out, some of them can do quite well.

I've always loved independent bookstores because they are customer-centric. They run a bookstore because they LOVE books, and they love talking about books.  You will often find recommended stickers tacked to the front of a bookshelf to assist customers in finding a new author or a new series.  These are books that the owner and/or staff have personally read and recommended. 

One of my favorite things that independents do is that they support local authors, whether well-known NYT bestsellers or small press and indie published.  Not only do they provide a venue and local media notice for signings and book groups, but they also keep on top of the book business, particularly watching trends in sales and distribution. In the case of Jan's Paperbacks, the owner was also more than willing to share what she learn with local authors and those visiting from elsewhere.

The first local bookstore I visited in my quest for information was Jan's Paperbacks in Aloha, Oregon--about five miles from my home. Owned by Debbie Burke, Jan's Paperbacks has been serving the western Portland suburbs for more than 30 years.  Debbie's particular contributions to supporting her local authors and community were recognized this year at the 2012 Romantic Times Convention in April, where she won the Bookseller of the Year award.  This coveted recognition looks at all nominated booksellers throughout the country. The plaque reads, "A bookseller for the changing times: innovative, loyal, unafraid of risks, a community builder and supporter, a hostess with a heart of gold, and a good friend and mother to all." After meeting her this week, I completely understand why she won this award. All the tributes are true.

One of the things I wondered was how independents are faring in the digital world.  I'd read some articles about how Amazon was forcing independents out of the market. I'd read other articles suggesting that most customers go to a brick and mortar store to look at the books, but then order online from Amazon.  Both of those trends really concerned me. I value the one-on-one relationships that independent booksellers build with their customers and with authors. I didn't want to see that ending by losing more venues to meet readers.

Fortunately, Debbie pointed out that independents DO have options now to participate in the online market.  Jan's Paperback's has an online sales site that is connected with Google Books (and in the future will include Kobo books and e-reading devices).   This means that anyone can go directly to her online website and order books, then get an immediate download in epub or PDF format.  In addition, Debbie will ship print books from her store to anywhere in the U.S.  So, if you can't find my books at your local store, you can get them from Jan's Paperbacks.  Knowing there are options for independents to also sell ebooks really made me smile.

As if all of this wasn't enough happy information, I also learned that Debbie doesn't mind recommending other independent booksellers either.  She gave me names of two other bookstores in my local area to visit and described their specialties and who to contact.  Wow! How many businesses would be willing to share their knowledge and customers with potential competitors?  I'm impressed!

I hope you will check out your local independent booksellers and see what they have to offer.  Be sure to thank them for their love of books and for remaining open, even in these difficult economic times. I hope they all prosper and we get more dedicated booksellers that provide a nice home for people to meet, browse, talk about books, and then buy in the formats they like.

Jan's Paperbacks of Aloha, Oregon is an independently owned bookstore offering their in-store customers quality new and used inventory with the additional option of trading previously read books for store credit.  In 2011, an online store featuring new print titles and eBooks was introduced to give customers near and far the neighborhood bookstore experience while shopping from the comfort of their home.  For more information, visit Jan’s Paperbacks at 18095 SW T.V. Hwy, Aloha, call 503-649-3444, or go online at
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore near you?  Tell me what you like most about your local bookstore.


Paty Jager said...

My favorite independent book store near me went out of business last year. But Judi Wutzke at ...and BOOKS, too! in Clarkston, WA has been wonderful! She contacts me to do signings, sets up radio interviews, and additional signings in the area. She always makes sure she has several copies of each of my books on her shelf.

Debbie is an awesome indie bookstore owner! I've attended a couple signings at her store and felt the love. I've also ordered online from her store.

Great post, Maggie!

Maggie Jaimeson & Maggie Faire said...

Paty, Thanks for sharing and Books too! in Clarkston, WA. I think it is very important to support our independents. For readers and authors in that area, here is the website for and Books too!