Letter from Dan Simon, Founder & Publisher, Seven Stories Press
In May 2018, Seven Stories Press launched an online Pride Month special collection. Eileen Dengler, executive director of NAIBA, emailed with a request: Couldn’t we find a way for booksellers to participate, and not compete, in what we were doing online? I loved the question, and wrote to our sales and distribution partners at Penguin Random House. They, too, loved the idea and were willing to make the titles we selected for themed collections available to booksellers through a special promotion. Together with NAIBA, we launched periodic themed collections: “Women in Translation” and “For Human Rights, Against War.” Seven Stories included a prize for the best in-store display, juried by NAIBA, based on photographs the booksellers sent in, with half the prize money going to the store and the other half going to the individual staff person who designed the display.
We’ve learned that the right answers come if you continue asking the right questions. We don’t think we have all the answers; we’re experimenting. But we are also listening. And we enjoyed the conversations over the course of those months. There was a lot that the president of NAIBA, Todd Dickinson, and Eileen were saying that made all kinds of sense to us. The initiative succeeded well enough for us all to want to continue it.
After a few months, we decided to expand, inviting a small group of independent publishers to participate in 2019. Eileen has reached out to all the regional bookseller associations to participate. We’ve chosen three months for the collections: March, June and October. The upshot will be that not only will a bond be strengthened between independent publishers and independent booksellers, but also that within stores there will be a special place for readers to find an “Indie Playlist.”
Out of that ongoing conversation, we’ve now altered our online profile. In solidarity with our friends at independent bookstores across the nation, we are excluding from any discount all new books and all frontlist titles, meaning anything published in the past year, and our top twenty all-time best-selling titles. Consumers will find these at their local indie bookseller, along with the other discoveries that physical independent stores are all about. We still have our annual sale for the holidays, and other online initiatives. But we no longer automatically discount all the books on our site. Consumers can still come to our website for deep discovery. Physical stores may find the right book for you, but they can’t carry in their limited space the thousand or so political and literary titles on our backlist. We’ll continue to send the ebook version (gratis) of any book with an email copy of a receipt showing the purchase from an indie bookstore.