Walking the Talk — 100% By Dan Klefstad

Every day I tell my fellow authors to partner-up with independent bookstores. After all, indie shops are more likely to stock books by indie authors, especially local ones. Then I realized my actions undermined my words. Let me explain.

I recently rebranded myself as an author who helps other writers find readers without spending money – the DIY Book Promo guy. Part of what I preach is co-branding with indie bookstores, and my social media pages are filled with photos of smiling booksellers holding my book. In each post I include the bookseller’s name, their store, and city/state. I make a point of tagging their Facebook and Instagram pages, so they know I’m keeping my end of the deal when they agree to stock my books. Indie authors and indie bookstores; we’re natural partners and more folks on both sides of the equation should collaborate.

But this only works if each side is 100% committed. About a month ago, I discovered I wasn’t anywhere near that.

I was sending a second round of emails to bookstores, asking them to stock my latest title, DIY Book Promo, when I got an eye-opening reply. A bookseller in New York was initially receptive to my pitch. Then he clicked the web address below my signature. There, superimposed on a photo of my book was an icon blaring “Get it on Amazon.” Next to that was a link to Barnes & Noble, America’s largest bookstore chain. Incensed, the shop owner wrote back to say he wouldn’t order copies because of that Amazon link.

In case you don’t know, indie booksellers have long struggled to compete with the spawn of Jeff Bezos. The behemoth he founded is famous for driving down prices and introducing Kindle downloads and two-day delivery. It’s no wonder booksellers look stressed every time I meet them. Then shoppers rub salt into the wound when they walk into a mom-and-pop shop, spot a book they like, open the Amazon app, and deny any profit to the nice folks who greeted them and asked if they could recommend a book.

After the reply from that upset bookseller, a conversation ensued. He sent me a link to Bookshop.org, a non-profit that allows you to shop online and select the indie bookstore that gets the profit. All of it. If you don’t select a bookstore, the profits go into a pool of money to be used by the site’s member retailers. True, this doesn’t address the e-book issue or Amazon’s speedy delivery. But readers who prefer paper books can now help their favorite shop compete in cyberspace. All it takes is a wait of maybe five days for your book to arrive.

Would an extra few days kill you? If you believe that locally owned businesses are important to your community, and that Amazon deserves a little competition, Bookshop.org is the tool you’ve been waiting for. I now encourage my fellow authors to make it the first link on their website, just like I’ve done. And if you’re a reader, I urge you to give this app a try. It might just save that local bookshop you profess to love.


Dan Klefstad is a longtime radio host and newscaster. His latest book, DIY Book Promo, helps his fellow authors find readers without spending money. Its based on lessons from the previous campaign for his novel, Fionas Guardians, plus his broadcasting career. Dan will speak about his unique approach to book marketing this July at the Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, not far from his home.