Booksellers are usually tasked with selling books but, in a twist this holiday season, they’ve been invited to write the ending to one. Through a contest organized by Rare Bird, a book marketing firm with an indie publishing arm, booksellers are being asked to write an alternate ending to the Bruce Ferber's forthcoming novel, Cascade Falls, which is being published by Rare Bird in March.

“It’s something we came up some at one of the early marketing meetings,” said Tyson Cornell, founder of Rare Bird. “People all loved the ending, though there were a lot of fun responses about how the story could have gone. That’s when someone said, ‘Too bad we can’t solicit booksellers to write an alternate ending—that would be fun!’ So we all looked at each other and went with it.”

The contest closes December 31, after which Rare Bird will select one winner. The first 500 finished books will include the bookseller's ending, alongside Ferber’s.

What did Ferber think about the approach? “At first I thought it was strange,” he said. “I come from the world of television where people are always changing your stuff. I came to fiction because I wanted to have my own say, without outside input. The reason I said yes is because I’d never seen it done before. It’s a fun way for me to involve myself with the booksellers to see what they thought."

Despite Ferber's initial hesitation, Cornell was confident the outreach would be beneficial. Well known in book circles for having formerly been the marketing and publicity director at Book Soup, Cornell noted that many booksellers are also writers. “It would be really cool to see a bookseller who is an unpublished writer win this, and then hopefully lead to one of their own books being published.”

“This is one of those creative industry things that makes books fun,” Cornell continued. “I’ve always hated the divide that existed between the worlds of publishing, bookselling, writing, reading. They should bleed into each other a lot more. This is really about bridging the boundaries, and making everyone part of the same conversation. I’ve never seen a publisher do anything like this, and after we do this hopefully it inspires other authors to do something similar.”

If you're a bookseller who wants to participate, contact Julia Callahan at Rare Bird, for a galley: