Adopt a Bookstore


Bookstores throughout the United States are going through the most challenging period in their history.  The combination of online purchase of printed books and the dawn of the eBook have combined to deliver a one-two punch to the business of book retailing.

For Christian bookstores, the challenges started over a decade ago when a substantial part of their business (in some cases over a third) began to disappear when music became a downloaded media (iTunes started in 2001) and retail sales of CD’s began to decrease significantly.  A second hit came when movies and video started to be rented and sold in numerous locations, then eventually becoming a downloaded or streamed media.  To a lesser extent, audiobooks becoming primarily a downloaded media was another hit.

Remember Borders?  They positioned themselves as a “media” retailer and the loss of music and movies put them into a spiral that resulted in their demise.  Of course, the fact that they were a publicly held corporation didn’t help.  Investors bail out fast when revenues drop and profit is marginal or nonexistent.  They were not able to make the changes necessary to survive.

Add all these pieces and history together and you have the story of the challenges to be addressed by Christian retailers in 2014. The Christian Bookseller’s Association is addressing the issues from the bookseller standpoint, but I have a proposal what authors can do.

Adopt a bookstore.

No, not a legal transaction, but authors have an ability to draw an audience small and large.  Hold regular meetings of readers in the store.  Read to them.  Talk to them.  Test out your new book on them before it is published.  Encourage the bookstore. Shop there, buy something.  Get to know the staff.  Post a list of your favorite books. 

Christian bookstores have had a number of negative things happen that are out of their control.  No matter what they do, they were bound to lose the music and video market to download.  But they are still the place where a large number of people go to discover something new, buy a gift and connect.  As an author, if you make a local bookstore part of your “social media platform”, you will be glad you did. After all, doesn’t the concept of “social” mean actually meeting with real people face-to-face?

And one more thing, when you are shopping anywhere for anything, you don’t need to tell the staff, “Thanks for your time, but I am going to buy this online”.  Trust me, it’s like telling a friend that you need to go because you have a better friend you’d rather be with.  Golden rule time…that’s all.

Any ideas how to “adopt a bookstore”?  Have you done it already?  


11 Responses to Adopt a Bookstore

  1. Ron Estrada February 18, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    I’ve lived in Oxford, Michigan since ’95 and have watched at least three bookstores in my area shut down, including Borders. This is akin to closing all the donut shops within a 50 mile radius of a police station. My wife and I used to love our weekend dates at the bookstore. On our honeymoon to Toronto (big spender was I), we visited The World’s Largest Bookstore. We’re for real.

    Maybe it’s just my perspective from my bookstore desert, but I think we’re fightin a losing battle. Brick and mortar bookstores seem to be going the way of thrift shops and five and dimes. I can get on facebook right now and visit virtual garage sales in every town near mine. People still shop. They still read. But the convenience of doing it all from your home is difficult to combat.

    That being said, I will certainly adopt a bookstore should another open nearby. I’d love to have a writer’s group meet in one, especially if there’s coffee and snacks. Who knows, maybe I’ll get sick of waiting and open my own.

  2. Jeanne Takenaka February 18, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    I love bookstores too. It’s fun to walk up and down the aisles, perusing their books. Of course, the Christian bookstores in my area also sell photographs, wall decor and gifts along with their books and music.

    As an unknown, pre-published author, I’d be interested in hearing ideas for adopting a bookstore—beyond buying books there. Which I already do. 🙂

    Very interesting post, Dan!

    • J.D. Maloy February 19, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      Jeanne, I’m still thinking about this too. If either one of use gets any fantastic ideas, let’s swap them ok?

  3. Kathy N. February 19, 2014 at 6:44 am #

    My daughter and I held a joint event at a local bookstore this winter. It is a small town, but more than two-hundred people turned out to buy our books and celebrate our launch as authors. The staff has remained supportive and interested in our books, and we are looking at other possibilities there.

    The local Christian bookstore had turned down the opportunity to carry our books. (Mine is traditionally published.)

    I’m not sure what to make of that.

    • Dan Balow February 19, 2014 at 7:38 am #

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the Christian store not carrying your book. They probably hadn’t worked with CrossRiver before. Christian bookstores generally buy only from publishers they know and trust, which is the proverbial “need experience to get a job, but can’t get a job without experience” issue.

      • Kathy N. February 19, 2014 at 7:40 am #

        Thanks, Dan. That is helpful.

  4. Jenny Leo February 20, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Author Sherman Alexie participates in an initiative called “Indies First” where authors dedicate a day to serving as bookseller-for-a-day in an independent bookstore, promoting and hand-selling books (not just their own, but other people’s as as well). Details I wonder if a similar idea could be adapted for Christian bookstores.

  5. Effie-Alean Gross February 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    I’ve adopted Barnes & Noble on 90th Street and Shea Blvd. in Scottsdale, AZ. My writer friends and I have put together a program of reading our work (published or not). I’ve also supported other writers, like Holocaust survivor, Magda Herzberger. She gave a reading this month and it was quite well attended. The B&N staff is friendly, too. Thanks for the encouragement today,Dan. I’ll try to think of other ways to support the local bookstore. All the best, Effie-Alean. Also at

  6. chris February 23, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    This is one of those things that is hard to put your arms around. Amazon helps the local Indie author and even ensures financial support and gives readers the bird’s eye view of the five star system to include reviews. But, we can agree on one thing, books have been around forever and they will be here tomorrow. The truth is the publishers and editors are very important. If they weren’t there, the faceless workers behind the scene, then the reader would never enter the world of story, adventure and learning. Thank you for putting a face in the author to reader process.

  7. Catherine Hackman March 27, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Thank you for this idea. I have been trying to think of ways to help myself, of course, but other authors get their work out there to people who might not hear about them otherwise. Last month, I was going to buy a book. My daughter said, “See if the store has it before you buy online. We need to buy in the bookstores so they stay around.” You and she think alike.

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