Carrie Deming on Small Independent Bookstores

Community , Industry ,

As a NAIBA board member I am supposed to write a very pithy article for you on some subject up to my discretion.  I’m not going to do that. I don’t have a monograph in me about any one particular topic.  But I do have a number of thoughts on a variety of topics relating to smaller shops. So here we go:

    Are you a no-staff or very small staff bookshop?  You’re not alone!  The idea tends to be that Indie Bookstores are only successful if they are large and have lots of staff.  I love those types of stores! But that isn’t the kind of store I wanted to own.  If you are a tiny store that loves being tiny, or a tiny store that has dreams of world domination – just know you aren’t alone.  There are lots of stores just like you! 

    Events.  The narrative is that events are the only thing that differentiates Indie bookstores from big box stores and that if your schedule is not chock full of events you shall soon cease to exist. That’s just not true.  Now, I am not saying that events aren’t awesome.  If your store is an event based store, please continue doing the amazing work that you do! However, if events are not what you love, you don’t need to stress yourself putting them on.  Especially if you aren’t seeing an emotional or financial reward in doing so.  My shop only hosts 6 - 8 major events a year. Are we still a cornerstone of our community? Absolutely.  Does the thought of adding more events to my schedule give me night sweats?  Absolutely.  So, I don’t.  And here we are thriving.  

    Is your store on all the social media platforms? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, other platforms I am not cool enough to even know about? Great!! If not, don’t stress about it.  I will be the first one to tell you that joining TikTok has done incredible things for my shop.  However, my presence on Instagram just wastes my time and I have zero idea how to use Twitter.  Do I have a goal of using Twitter in the future? Yes. Am I going to beat myself up about it until I have the bandwidth to tackle it? Nope. 

    As my shop continues to expand, I have been able to take advantage of the benefits offered by ordering direct though more and more publishers.  Have I cut the cord with the wholesalers? No.  As a small store I can’t order direct through everyone as I just can’t manage to make the minimums all the time.  I have seen small stores berated by large stores on how they are missing out by not ordering direct every time.  If you can manage ordering direct even some of the time – great!  If your store isn’t at that point, don’t stress. It will get there.

    The great news about being a small independent store is that people love small shops!  If they wanted a bland big box store, they would go to one.  Instead, they choose to shop with you.  They want the atmosphere you are cultivating, the selection you are curating and the amazing customer service only you can provide.  Keep up the great work!

~Carrie Deming

The Dog Eared Book

NAIBA Board Member

We invite you to view some of the fun tiktok posts from The Dog Eared Book:

How to lure a bookworm:

Good Booksellers will ask a lot of questions before recommending a book:

New book Tuesday video:

Relatable for every reader trying to read around others:

Getting a customer the PERFECT book when you hear what they like...and then they don't buy it!