After hearing about the Indies First campaign in the U.S., spearheaded by acclaimed author Sherman Alexie in 2013, Janie Chang decided a similar initiative should be brought to Canada. The result is Canadian Authors for Indies Day, which will take place May 2, 2015.
Last year Chang, the Vancouver, B.C.-based author of Three Souls, started speaking to authors and booksellers she knew to gauge interest in an event that would pair authors and independent bookstores for a one-day event. Although Chang originally imagined the event would be a B.C.-focused one, it has morphed into something much bigger.
As of Monday, nearly 100 indie bookstores and 270 authors throughout Canada had signed up, ranging from fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay (The Fionavar Tapestry) to financial writer Gail Vaz-Oxlade (Debt-Free Forever) to award-winning novelist Steven Galloway (The Cellist of Sarajevo).
Through the event, booksellers and authors are left with the onus of contacting each other to arrange a possible event for May 2. Chang suggests authors can spend time at their assigned store handselling books and talking to customers, but it really is up to them.
“It brings traffic into the bookstores, and hopefully that means the stores will sell more books,” Chang said. “I really hope it raises awareness of how important independent bookstores are in the community. For me, what’s really important is that it also strengthens relationships between authors and booksellers, because [most] authors are very shy and retiring.”
In a harmonious coincidence, last year’s California Bookstore Day has announced that, in 2015, its event will expand to include the entire country. The California-coordinated event is also set for May 2, 2015.
Although the grassroots campaign was started by Chang, she credits its growing success to the help she has received from volunteers such as Mary-Ann Yazedijian, who is co-president of the B.C. Booksellers Association and manager of Vancouver’s Book Warehouse store on Main Street.
“I just think it’s so important for the whole community to support each other, from publishers to reps to booksellers to authors,” Yazedijian told PW. “Because we’re seeing such a strong bookselling community in the United States now, it’s really inspirational for us to work together to do this.”
Another person who has pitched in to help is Leslie Fletcher of the Retail Council of Canada, who has access to a national list of bookstores, and is helping put together marketing materials for social media. Chang’s publisher, HarperCollins Canada, has also agreed to create posters to advertise the event. Chang even had a conference call with members of the American Booksellers Association, to pick their brains about what worked for them.
Hal Wake, artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Fest, also gave Canadian Authors for Indies Day a big boost by getting in touch with author Ann-Marie Macdonald (The Way the Crow Flies, Adult Onset), who agreed to be the public face of the event. Chang said having a “big-name author” will give the event credibility, the way Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler have done for the Indies First campaign.
Macdonald said in a statement: “We all know how tough things are for Canadian independent bookstores. Year after year they support us. They stock our books, invite us for readings, and put our titles on their 'staff picks' shelf. Let’s do something to support them back.”
Chang hopes that her event will become an annual occasion, the same way Indies First has taken off in the U.S. The list of participating authors and bookstores has been slowly growing on the event's website, which Chang and others hope to officially launch on March 15.
“When people get on the website, we want them to get excited,” Chang said. “They’ll see that there are stores and authors together, and they’ll be able to walk into their local independent bookstore and get book recommendations from an author, and talk about books.”