What a splendid day we had last year hosting Authors for Indies!
We approached it with much anticipation, and, truth be told, some trepidation. Would such an ambitious, nation-wide undertaking be successful? Would it be a one-off or, just maybe, the start of something grand? Would people actually show up to my store? Or would we have to eat all the lemon squares ourselves?
I was encouraged by the immediate, supportive responses from the authors I approached, even the ones who weren’t able to take part. It was a good start, but I was still a little apprehensive.
I know I’m not alone in having had my expectations exceeded by miles. Yes, we had good sales, and great traffic through the store that day, which are always welcome. But more than that, we felt a larger sense of connection. We loved the build-up to the event, the social media coverage (especially the highly-entertaining Twitter reports and twixt-author chatter), and the feeling that even our little blue bookstore in our wee mountain town was part of something big and magical and energizing.
I took over Lotus Books a little over three years ago. From the beginning, I’ve worked to create a hub, a meeting place where people not only buy books, but have the space to find, and share, their own stories. To me, this is one of the experiences that sets indie bookstores apart, and that keeps us relevant.
I have been sifting through last year’s AFI event, trying to single out the highlights: the authors who so enthusiastically embraced their roles as guest booksellers (and who did a bang-up job!); the people who came into the store by choice or by chance; the growth of my own must-read pile, thanks to the authors’ suggestions…
I think my favourite moments of the day were the arrival of two regular customers, tweens both, of whom the term “avid” is decidedly insufficient to describe their love of books. The visiting authors (Helen McAllister, Jennifer Heath, and Angie Abdou) were not children’s writers; their output included a gardening book, and several novels most definitely oriented toward adult readers.
That didn’t matter a whit to these young folk. They were here to meet Real Live Authors, who had written Real Live Books, and they approached the authors with enthusiasm and a complete lack of self-consciousness. It was a delight to watch. Aren’t these moments, really, why we do what we do?
Truth be told, I also think these are the moments that help underpin the continued survival of the independent bookstore. So bring on AFI 2016 and beyond!
Our line-up for this year’s Authors for Indies is not yet confirmed, but I can say two things for certain: it’s going to be just as much fun as last year, and the lemon squares will absolutely be making a repeat appearance.
Cranbrook, BC V1C 2M9
In one incarnation or another, Lotus Books has been in operation for nearly 44 years. I am into my fourth year of ownership, and despite the challenges of bookselling in this day and age, I have no regrets about taking this leap. (I am also continually grateful that I only thought I knew what I was getting into!)