A consortium of independent publishers led by Seven Stories Press has launched Indie Playlist, a program that provides discounts and cash rewards for independent booksellers who order from a rotating list of titles. Besides Seven Stories, participating publishers are Europa and Catapult, all of whom will contribute to combined lists that will be offered every April, June, and October. Grove will join the group in June.
The program is intended to get books published by independent presses into indie bookshops, with a $500 prize for a bookstore that submits the best thematic display centered around the books offered in the promotion. The prize will be split between the winning bookstore and the bookseller who creates the display. The theme for the first two lists is “Prize Winning” and “Quick Reads.” Both lists contain nine titles each for the participating publishers.
“I’m really into this idea of the geography of a bookstore being like the geography of a painting,” said Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon. “When you’re looking at a good painting, your eyes travel. I hope this program contributes to that. We don't want independent bookstores to start to be just about big books from big houses.”
The program began after members of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) took issue with a direct-to-consumer discount offer from Seven Stories. In an effort to promote closer ties with independent booksellers, Simon followed up with a monthly discount on two book lists and a window display award for NAIBA members beginning in August 2018.
Simon then refined the idea through conversations with NAIBA’s executive director Eileen Dengler and then-NAIBA president (now board member) Todd Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Penn. All three noted that this was the first time they had ever participated in a discussion of its kind.
“He’s been the first person who has really continued the conversation with us,” Dengler said of Simon. “I appreciate him listening. I appreciate him being open to new ideas and being sympathetic. I appreciate him being understanding of our perspective on this and wanting to work with the independents, as he is an independent himself.”
Dickinson was also inspired by Simon’s enthusiasm and took steps to help ensure that the program could be restructured in ways that make it an easy fit for booksellers. “The idea was, how do we do this so that it doesn’t disappear amongst a thousand things, because it is important,” said Dickinson. “We want to show indie publishers that there’s a way for us to work together and promote their frontlist and backlist.”
The result of their discussions was the newly branded Indie Playlist which is open to all independent booksellers nationwide and available through both PRH and Ingram. Simon encouraged his fellow publishers to sign up while Dengler committed to pitching the program to her fellow independent bookseller associations around the country.
Simon hopes the program will continue to grow and include members of the Independent Publishers Caucus (IPC). “I’d like to see it rotate between IPC members,” said Simon. “There are some real differences between us and independent bookstores at the surface level, but once you dig past that, it’s amazing how much the similarities of spirit and size are there.”