Blog from Robin Rivers
Good Morning. Two weeks have passed since Authors For Indies took over Twitter and filled bookstores across the country with Canadian authors in support of independent bookstores. We here at AFI HQ caught our breath. Now, it’s time to answer the question on everyone’s mind – how did it go?
First, all of us at Authors For Indies send out a warm dose of gratitude and thanks to all of you who participated in the April 29 celebration across Canada. It was a banner year for local, independent booksellers and the people who love them.
According to statistics from BookManager Canada, participating stores generated an average increase of 35% in sales for the day compared to the average of the three Saturdays prior. BookNet Canada provided numbers with different parameters that saw participating stores generate an average increase of 8% in sales for the week over the average for the three weeks prior. In fact, there were stores that almost quadrupled their Saturday sales from the previous three Saturdays.
I’m not saying everyone had such incredible results, only that when one takes the potential and runs with it the incredible can happen. And yes, fewer bookstores participated in AFI day this year. Their reasons cross the spectrum. The most successful stores factored AFI into their annual marketing plans and were able to capitalize on the opportunity.
One of the most tremendous successes this year was the AFI Road Show. Bookstores on Road Show routes in the outskirts of Toronto had the opportunity to draw in high-profile authors – something they seldom have the chance to do. AFI’s goal with the Road Show was to increase the profile of indie bookstores in markets outside of major metropolitan areas. It worked - and we are already in conversations internally about how to Road Show it in places such as the Lower Mainland of B.C., Vancouver Island and beyond.
Now, numbers are fun to look at. They validate theories and sometimes prove out concerns. But, let’s step away from them and look toward the future.
We all know one day of increased sales isn’t a magic salve. Independent booksellers across Canada struggle. The lot of a book lover who survives on other people’s love for books is a challenging one.
The Canadian literary world is our world, and we are in this for the long game. Of course we want to see sales numbers rise for individual bookstores. However, sales results are only part of the picture we’re trying to improve. The main goal of AFI is to encourage consumers to shop more at indie bookstores all year 'round and, in the end, bolster the health of the entire Canadian literary community.
That means continuing the work of AFI and others to boost the profile of all independent bookstores across the country. This is a building process, one in which foundations of education, advocacy and integrated support from the literary community must exist.
Growing support behind the scenes - from publishers, literary festivals, literary groups and book industry organizations - made 2017 a year of particular success for AFI in that regard. Building is taking place. A stronger base supports us all.
Moving forward: In our first year, we put out a survey to ask stores what worked and what didn’t, what would make a difference. Now with more experience, we hope to put out another survey to learn more.
There is no other effort in Canada right now that focuses on supporting indies. Every participant helps spread the word. So, thank you to all bookstores, authors, and sponsors who worked so hard with Authors For Indies in 2017. We are looking to the future, with you at our side.