As we move deeper into this next chapter of bookselling – where books are increasingly bought online and consumed digitally – consider taking a moment on Saturday to shop the old-fashioned way, with a twist. On the inaugural Authors for Indies Day, writers will volunteer their services at independent bookstores across the country – a little retail therapy for a bricks-and-mortar sector that has seen its share of struggles, first with big-box stores, and now with small screens.
At eight shops across Alberta, book buyers could be served on Saturday by any number of authors. They include Rosemary Nixon (Are You Ready to Be Lucky?) at Shelf Life Books in Calgary; Griffin Prize-shortlisted poet Leslie Greentree (go-go dancing for Elvis) at Sunworks in Red Deer; humorous parenting author Leanne Shirtliffe (Don't Lick the Minivan: and Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My Kids; Mommyfesto) at Café Books in Canmore; or Giller Prize and Governor-General's Award shortlisted author Marina Endicott (Good to a Fault, The Little Shadows) at Audrey's Books in Edmonton. She will be minding the store with other authors, including Todd Babiak (The Garneau Block, Come Barbarians).
"It was always one of my dreams to work at a bookstore, an independent bookstore, but I was never hired by one," says Mr. Babiak, who was turned down when he applied for such employment in the past. "So it's a fantasy."
Mr. Babiak says authors owe a lot to independent booksellers, which can get behind a book and hand-sell it to customers with strong, informed recommendations. "That can sell the majority of your novels. If one person in every independent bookstore in Canada loves your book, you're going to do well with your book. Because they have such passion," he says. "I don't think I've ever said no to a bookseller who really gets in front of me and convinces me to buy a book. I always buy it."
Mr. Babiak was not sure what his bookselling duties would be on Saturday, but he is looking forward to interacting with customers. "What I really hope to do when I see someone browsing is go and help them and change their life in some way. That's my dream."
For a full list of participating bookstores and authors, visit www.authorsforindies.com