IndiesFirst, Independent Bookstore Day and Canadian Authors for Indies Day

Celebrating Indie Booksellers in the U.S. and Canada

indie bookstore day logo
Independent Bookstore Day celebrates indie booksellers. Independent Bookseller Day

Independent Bookstore Day is a country-wide celebration of independent bookstores. "The purpose,” according to inaugural Independent Bookstore Day Program Director, Samantha Schoech, "Is to celebrate [indie booksellers'] collective success and thank our customers and the community of readers."

Why the Indie Celebrations?

The Independent Bookseller Day official website eschews all modesty with respect to the value of independent bookstores, and makes the following claims:

"Indie bookstores, whether dusty and labyrinthine or clean and well-lighted, are not just stores, they are solutions. They hold the key to your love life, your career, and your passions. Walking the aisles of a good bookstore means stumbling upon a novel from India that expands your heart. It’s encountering an art book that changes the direction of your life. It’s the joy of having a perfect stranger steer you toward the perfect book."

And IBD officials emphasize that the event is a celebration, and that independents are strong. “For so long, the message about indie bookstores was all doom and gloom," said Schoech. "But the truth is, there are more indie bookstores this year than last, and more last year than the year before that. Independent bookstores are actually opening around the country. We want people to know that.

Indies First Campaign on Small Business Saturday

The Indies First Campaign (#indiesfirst) is a year-round program that was inaugurated on Small Business Saturday 2013 to encourage publishers, authors and readers to support independent bookstores and to celebrate the indie booksellers' unique benefits to the community.

Small Business Saturday Call to Action — How Indies First Got Started

The Indies First Campaign began in holiday season 2013 when it was initiated by author Sherman Alexie. Motivated by a stint as bookseller-for-a-day at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, Washington, and a comment by co-owner Janis Segress, Alexie started an outreach effort to suggest authors volunteer to work at an independent bookseller store on Small Business Saturday and use the  links on their book websites.

In an open letter to his fellow authors posted on the American Booksellers Association website, Alexie wrote:

"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? Why not give it a try? Let’s call it Indies First."

The result was that, according to the ABA site, 1100 authors volunteered as guest booksellers in independents across the country. The outreach helped make Small Business Saturday a retail success for independent booksellers.

A Tradition of Author Advocates for Indies

Alexie also started the tradition of well-regarded authors to speak out to enlist their brethren to participate in Indies First. In 2014, bestselling author Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, his singer / author wife, performed the task. In their letter, they write, "There’s nothing like the human, organic serendipity of an independent bookshop, where people who read and love books share their love with others."

In conjunction with Indies First, Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, developed Upstream, an idea for authors to partner with local, independent bookstores to provide signed books, in order to give them added value and help the bookstore sell them.

American Booksellers Association and Indies First

The ABA website serves as a clearing house for booksellers and authors to connect to work together on Small Business Saturday and at other times throughout the year. (an indie online book sales site run by the ABA), provides a map pinpointing the indie bookseller locations of the events, along with their details and the respective, participating authors.

Authors Participating in Indies First

Depending on their book and the bookseller needs, generally, authors who participate in Indie First Small Business Saturday work the sales floor as a bookseller would — talking to customers, "hand-selling" their own favorite books, and sign books if asked by the store and/or the customer. Children's book authors and illustrators might be asked to participate in storytime.


Authors and illustrators who are interested in volunteering for an Indies First event or activity can register on the ABA site; they also have the option of contacting their local independent bookseller directly.

(For those who want to contact a store directly, allows you to search for independent booksellers by area.)

For authors who register, there is no obligation for booksellers to enlist their help; similarly, registering on the ABA system does not obligate the author to participate in any particular event.

Independent Booksellers Participating in Indies First

The ABA provides marketing and merchandising resources to indie bookstores participating in Small Business Saturday Indies First as well as materials for other times of the year — logo book bags, posters, tent-cards, etc. (Note: a store must be an ABA member in order to have access to the materials.)

Publishers Participating in Indies First

Some publishers and wholesalers created opportunities for indies to showcase particular titles. They might do this by offering special terms, and the independents can in turn pass along the savings to their customers. These are listed on the ABA site, accessible to members.

Indies First Year-Round

The Indies First Campaign extended to May when author / illustrator Kate DiCamillo, called for participation in Indies First Storytime Day, on the Saturday of Children's Book Week. Hundreds of authors and illustrators volunteered during the first year as story hour readers.

Independent Bookstore Day and Canadian Authors for Indies Day

When is Independent Bookstore Day?

The event is typically scheduled in the late April / early May timeframe.

Independent Bookstore Day 2016 takes place Saturday, April 30.

Similar to the Indies First campaign that takes place on Small Business Saturday, the 400 participating IDB stores feature in-store events such as literary parties, special readings and celebratory give-aways from publishers, many of which feature original and exclusive works from well-known authors.

Canadian Authors for Indies Day typically takes place on the same day as the U.S. Independent Bookstore Day. Though the genesis of the two is different, both the U.S. and Canadian events have similar themes of celebrating books, reading, authors and the independent booksellers who help promote and foster all of those.

U.S. Independent Bookstore Day Background

Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) was launched on the heels of the successful first California Bookstore Day, which took place in 2014. The inaugural nationwide expansion of the celebration was produced by the Northern California Independent Bookstore Association (NCIBA) in partnership with the American Booksellers Association (ABA)

The first annual event took place across the United States on Saturday, May 2, 2015 

According to Jaci Updike, President, Sales of Penguin Random House U.S., one of the sponsors of the first Independent Bookstore Day, “California Bookstore Day was a tremendous success for our booksellers, their customers, and for us last year, and we’re looking forward to working with booksellers all across the country to grow this terrific event in their communities—it’s a fantastic and festive way to bring new readers into bookstores, and to strengthen relationships with existing customers.”

U.S. Independent Bookstore Day Exclusives

In support of indie booksellers, authors and illustrators / artists donate original work or create merchandise which is produced by the publishers and given away to book lovers only on Independent Bookstore Day by officially participating IDB stores.

For example, IDB 2015 items included a Margaret Atwood stencil, a literary map of the seas; a color broadside from Stephen King’s forthcoming novel Finders Keepers; an original signed, Captain Underpants print and much more.

Other special events include author appearances, contests, and "behind the scenes" bookstore tours. 

Canadian Authors for Indies Day

Modeled after Indies First Day in the U.S. and spearheaded by author Janie Chang, Canadian Authors for Indies Day is grassroots driven. Interested authors and bookstores connect with each other, then sign up on the website to participate. Bookseller resources such as planning checklists, logos and PDFs of posters are provided, as is some media and social media outreach.

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