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April 9, 2019

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day: A Modest Proposal

Independent Bookstore Day is an American celebration that takes place on the last Saturday in April, and in 2015 Canadian novelist Janie Chang brought the concept north of the 49th parallel with Authors for Indies Day, which brought authors into bookstores (and there was often cake) to hand-sell their bookish favourites. I took part at a local bookstore the first two years, and then in 2017 I jumped into a van and took off on a bookish road trip, which was epic fun. And in 2018, the project was taken over by the Retail Council of Canada, rebranded as Canadian Independent Bookstore Day. Gone was the author focus, partly because some authors didn’t comprehend the point of being in the bookstore wasn’t necessarily to sell their own books but instead to be fostering book culture (and buying) in general. Partly also (and you should probably sit down, this is going to hurt): the average Canadian author live-in-person doesn’t necessarily turn out a crowd. If you are the exception to this rule, I urge you to get yourself to a bookstore on the last Saturday. Bookstores need crowds. Out the door, popular people. DO IT.

But if you are more like the rest of us, with a respectable career but not (YET) with a cult following, then I’ve got a modest proposal for you. I’m not sure what’s going on with Canadian Independent Bookstore Day this year—the website seems to be down and I’m not even sure what the name is (Independent Bookseller Day in some circles?) let alone the hashtag. But I’ve already been hearing some buzz and in the spirit of projects that rely on community spirit, little work and no overhead (SO my jam), please hear me out.

If you are a Canadian author, and/or anyone who appreciates a vibrant literary culture (who doesn’t?), then head out to an independent bookstore on Saturday April 27 and spend some of your hard-earned cash.

If you have children in your life, bring them too and let them pick out a book or two. If you have people in your life celebrating birthdays in coming months, do your shopping then. If you’re thinking of end-of-year teacher gifts, pick up some gift cards. If you’re being urged toward-self-care from all quarters, buy a big stack of novels you’re dying to read and consider the job done. If you can’t think of what you’d like to read, ask the bookseller for a recommendation (or take my quiz to find your perfect literary match!). If you don’t have much money to spare, buy a paperback kids book for under a tenner. If you don’t have cash to spare at all, you can write your bookseller a thank-you note letting them know you appreciate their place in your community, and go in to drop it off. There might even be cake?

The sole advantage to not having your own local independent bookstore is an excuse for a road trip. Here are some bookshops I’ve come to love on my travels. In a recent Twitter thread, Monique Gray Smith was also sharing some of her favourites. I have found in my experiences that bookstores can often be found in proximity to great places to have lunch…

Writing books or working in publishing is one of the least lucrative jobs a person could spend her life trying to succeed at, but I still think that buying (full priced) books (from businesses that contribute to a healthy literary eco-system) is part of the job description, when you are able. You might be a writer, but you were probably a reader first, and if we aren’t buying books, well, who else is going to? This goes for book bloggers, who may become so inundated with review copies that it’s hard to seek out book purchases. But still, the most surefire way I know to get people buying books is to…go by books myself. (Done and done.) Let’s see how much of an influencer you really are. (Finger crossed: SO MUCH).

Let’s all be the bookshop customers we wish to see in the world! See you on April 27.

“Buy hardback fiction and poetry. Request hardback fiction and poetry as gifts from everyone you know. Give hardback fiction and poetry as gifts to everyone. No shirt or sweater ever changed a life. Never complain about publishing if you don’t buy hardcover fiction and poetry regularly.”– Annie Dillard, “Notes for Young Writers”

2 thoughts on “Canadian Independent Bookstore Day: A Modest Proposal”

  1. Alexis says:

    Thanks for the update on what is happening with the day. This is so disappointing. Since Audrey’s is so community minded, they have actually had authors in to sell books around Christmas time too. I was once asked to come in around Xmas to recommend books to patrons.

    1. Kerry says:

      I love that place.

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