All Hail the Independent Bookseller

In this time, readers and writers everywhere are concerned with helping independent booksellers survive the pandemic. Indies matter for many reasons, and here are a few:

  • Indies create community. The curate and promote events. They support local and debut authors. They take part in book festivals and literary soirees put on by other organizations. They’re generally good local citizens.
  • Booksellers leverage their individual tastes to keep our reading diverse. It’s hard for a novel to break out, especially when algorithmic sellers (think Amazon) recommend the same books over and over again. But, independent booksellers develop relationships with their sales reps. They look for the “little” and “quiet” novels that they think could enrapture the customers they know by name. They hand-sell these books, often making sleeper hits of books that don’t fit the bestseller mold.
  • Indies make our communities stronger by creating jobs for local residents who then also spend local. I really like the summary of this phenomenon posted here.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, we’re lucky to have myriad independents, all with their own unique vibes. Here are a few I engage with on the regular:

  • Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books is walkable from my house. The store carries all manner of tomes and has a delightful children’s area. In particular, they specialize in native books and arts
  • Magers & Quinn is a mile or two down the road. It’s sprawling and friendly and they hosted my launch event a million
    This is me at my launch event at Magers & Quinn on Feb. 4.

    years ago in February. Their COVID online shop is well stocked and easy to navigate. I’ve got a couple of YA selections on the way right now for my reluctant middle school reader. (Have I mentioned that BOTH of my children are reluctant readers? I guess that’s their rebellion against their novelist, English teacher mom.)

  • Excelsior Bay Books and Valley Bookseller each host the monthly series I adore, Literature Lovers’ Night Out. The inimitable Pamela Klinger-Horn assembles panels of four authors and each speaks for 10 minutes. There are treats and time to mingle. I’ve often gone because I know one author, and I’ve never left without buying the books of the others. Pamela is pretty famous in the bookseller community, famous and delightful and incredibly generous.

So, that’s a little explanation of why you should find and support your indie. There are a couple of easy ways to do it even though now is not the time to go IRL shopping. can replace your Audible subscription, and you get to choose which independent gets the proceeds from each of your audiobook credits. (Mine go to the Red Balloon, a Twin Cities children’s lit treasure. That’s my unique Libro referral link above, but you can always just go to the main site, too.) And now there’s Bookshop.Org, which is as easy and quick as Amazon, but you can choose which indie you’d like to support there, as well. The homepage has a ton of curated lists to give you that personalized, indie feel. Check it out! And, let me know what you think. Love to the indies! They’re super important.

Author: Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.