This last Saturday was Indie Bookstore Day. Like Record Store Day it’s an opportunity to shine a light on some folks who make the world infinitely more interesting but rarely get that kind of focused attention. Unlike with Record Store Day, I’ve worked in my fair share of indie bookstores both as a bookseller and manager. As a writer, and specifically a spec fic author, this is not unique. I also know of a few authors who went on to found their own bookstores after starting their writing careers and coming up in the shelves. I’m looking at you Book Moon and Wild Fig Book Coffee & Books.
I wonder if this is a particularity of writers. I don’t know how many pro musicians have record shops, but perhaps more than I think. One thing I do know: you can learn some invaluable lessons by handselling books. Like what? Like how many people know exactly what they want until you let them know what else is available. If a book is for someone else, they’ll probably get what they came for. If it’s for them and the budget allows, visiting an additional world is a leap many will take. The greater world would benefit from that kind of openness.
Even in a pandemic there’s community in a bookstore—whether inside a brick and mortar or attending a virtual event. When those same bookstores also see themselves as a gathering place for people of like or open mind there’s an opportunity few other places provide.
How many places do we go just to learn? To find a place to lose ourselves? To step outside our world and enter another? Not enough.
Indie bookshops provide all that and put skin in the game to do it. That takes a kind of commitment that speaks of care. A commitment worth honoring I think. So whatever day it is, happy indie bookstore day.
Tenea D. Johnson