On Wednesday afternoon at “Helping Bookstores, Saving Lives,” James Patterson made a number of booksellers happy when he named the recipients of a second round of grants totaling $268,000 to 43 booksellers—at least one of whom came specifically to BEA to pick up her check. The grants are part of a million-dollar giveaway by Patterson to independent booksellers who promote children’s books. In February, he mailed the first installment of just over $267,000 to 54 bookstores and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association for California Day. Nearly a half million dollars will be distributed later this year.
At the announcement, Patterson was joined by booksellers who were part of the first round of the million-dollar giveaway. Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, headquartered in Coral Gables, Fla., who received a grant to donate books to students who can’t afford to buy them at author events, served as moderator, along with two other grant recipients: Dave Shallenberger, co-owner of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., and Karen West, director of events and conferences for Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif. The former had applied for money to retrofit a school bus, renamed Maximum Ride, to bring books to school book fairs. The latter wanted to buy a van to do more book fairs and wanted to expand Book Passage’s Giving Tree program to provide free books for underprivileged children year-round.
“One of the qualifications to receive grant money is that the store must have a children’s section,” said Patterson. “There’s so much black-and-white thinking in this country now, and reading gives kids the chance to look at ideas as being more complicated than that.” It was noted that beyond the money itself, which many recipients used to coordinate more book events in schools, the free publicity Patterson’s generosity activates brings much needed attention to indies and the communities they serve.
The second round of grants will go to stores like Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., to reinstate its Young Reader’s League that encourages a love of reading in kids in grades 3–7; Changing Hands in Tempe, Ariz., to encourage reading at its soon-to-be-opened store in Phoenix; and R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., to expand its Authors to Schools program and provide books for students in low-income schools. Other recipients include Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, Ore.; Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn.; Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, N.J.; and Green Apple Books in San Francisco.
A bookseller in the audience asked Patterson a question that seemed to be on a lot of people’s minds: why aren’t more authors helping indies out financially? “A lot of authors do a lot of good things already,” said Patterson. “Many of them have their own programs.” Still, panel moderator Kaplan urged other authors to “jump on the bandwagon.”
In choosing how bookstores are selected, Patterson told PW, “I have worked to identify independent stores for whom this money may make a difference, and stores that were already doing good work. I also received bookstore recommendations from fellow authors, publishers, friends, and family. Because I didn’t want to miss any great stores, I also put up a link on my website where independent booksellers and bookstore shoppers can share their favorite independent bookstores, and over 12,000 people have done just that.”
Patterson might give away another million dollars to indies next year. “Let’s make bookstores better,” he said to a delighted gathering. Before the list of new recipients was announced, Patterson pointed to the C-Span cameraman in the back of the room and said to viewers, “As soon as this show ends, I want you to go to an independent bookstore and buy some books.” He then received a standing ovation.