Author James Patterson is spearheading a group that includes actress Reese Witherspoon, Reese’s Book Club, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), and the American Booksellers Association in an effort to raise millions of dollars to help save independent bookstores from closing permanently due to the pandemic.

The author, who has given booksellers annual holiday bonuses for the past five years and returned more than $1 million dollars to bookstores as charity, is seeding this new campaign with a personal donation of $500,000. Money is being collected at the website and the campaign is expected to run at least through April 30, at which point Binc will distribute the total funds raised to eligible independent bookstores.

"The government has a $2.2 trillion dollar bailout that will cover all sorts of industries, from the airlines to cruise ships, and all sorts of other retailers, from liquor stores to pizza delivery place, are still open for business because they are deemed essential—but nobody is thinking about the bookstores," said Patterson. "I think, and a lot of people agree with me, that bookstores are no less essential to society. Books help comfort people in in stressful times, and have a wonderful ability to make people more empathetic."

Patterson added that this is the most important moment to get money into the hands of booksellers. "If we don't get it done now, we may wake up one day to find there's a new degree of normalcy returning to our daily lives and then find a lot of bookstores are gone. If we act now, we can literally save them," Patterson said.

The author is reaching out to fellow writers and encouraging all book lovers to donate any sum they can, from $1 to $10,000. "This will be an easy place for anyone who loves books to donate," Patterson said. He wants publishers to donate as well. "It is in the publishers' own self interest: if too many bookstores disappear, publishers will suffer too."

Patterson said he's also taking it upon himself to pursue donations from people of genuine means: billionaires. "I've already called out Mike Bloomberg by name and asked him for $1 million — which I don't think he'd miss." Asked about other billionaires he might ask for money, the name Bezos came up. But it was not Jeff but rather his ex-wife and author MacKenzie who was mentioned.

Questioned how much money he might request from the fellow novelist—and the world's third richest woman—Patterson replied, that any donation would be welcome. "But I hope she would consider donating at least $10 million dollars," he said. "That would help so many people."