FAQs written by Janie Chang and Kate Hilton
What is Authors for Indies Day all about?
Canadian Authors for Indies Day is an annual event that takes place all across Canada. It's a day when authors volunteer at independent bookstores (indies) to work as guest booksellers. Or to do whatever the bookstore asks us to do – readings, signings, bagging books, or karaoke. Just kidding.
What makes author participation on AFI Day different from other literary events is that we are doing this to promote indie bookstores, not authors.
Why? Because indie bookstores support Canadian authors. They carry our books and put us on their Staff Picks and Proudly Canadian shelves. They organize readings and signings. If they love our books, they hand sell them for months and even years beyond the initial release date. It’s a tough business, but every day of the week booksellers do their job because they love books. So on this one day, we give back some of that love.
Customers who visit indie bookstores on AFI Day will get to meet authors and chat with us, book lover to book lover. Our job is to recommend books they would enjoy – anyone’s books, not just ours.
What's it like for authors when they volunteer at a bookstore?
It's a great experience. We think it's because Canadians are generally modest folks and while we're not comfortable bragging about our own books, we're happy to rave about other authors. In fact, you'll find yourself hand selling books by other authors in the store while they sell yours.
You get to meet other authors, make new friends, and catch up with others you haven't seen in a while. You get to build better relationships with local bookstores.
Many, many authors wrote to us after AFI Day to say how much fun they had. Some hung around "their" store past their shifts and refused to leave. We won't kid you - it's in your attitude. If you want this to be all about you, it just doesn't work.
What are my duties if I decide to participate?
After you SIGN UP, be proactive! Contact a participating bookstore to volunteer.
Once you’re confirmed with a store, help promote the event. At the very least, invite friends, family, and colleagues to come to 'your' store on Authors for Indies Day.
If you blog, write about it. If you're on social media, let your fans and followers know about it. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, share and retweet.
If you have contacts in local newspapers, radio, or TV, use them on behalf of AFI Day and ‘your’ store.
Who does all the marketing and PR to promote this event?
We have two volunteers dedicated to PR/media - but like all of us, they're doing this in-between day jobs, taking care of family, and their own writing projects. This is a grassroots movement. While team members do our best to get more support from publishers, partners, media, and sponsors, we're just a group of part-time volunteers. While we believe that two years of success has earned AFI tons of credibility which will make PR and media easier this year, we still need as much help as we can get.
Honestly, the best thing you can do for 'your' store is to bring lots of traffic. Friends, family, colleagues. Bring your own crowd, as they say.
I signed up last year. Do I still need to sign up for this year?
No, but you need to OPT IN to get your name back on the list of Participating Authors. You're in our database, thanks to your sign up last year, but you're not on the PA list.
Why not? We don't assume that just because you were available last year, that you are again this year. Plus, if we automatically put all of last year's authors on the list, we'd end up wasting booksellers' time as they contact authors only to run into some who won't be available for AFI this year. So please OPT IN.
I already know which bookstore(s) will host me. Do I still need to sign up?
Please sign up if you're new to AFI (or if you didn't in 2015). Your participation involves more than just you and the bookseller.
Signing up means your Publisher can see your name on the website's Author List. For best promo results, they need the complete picture of which authors are participating.
Signing up means less manual work for us to enter your name on the bookstore's list of authors. Once you're in the database, a bunch of functions become automated. It may seem like a bother to spend a few minutes signing up, but last year more than 130 authors did not sign up. For each of those cases, we spent a few minutes on a manual workaround. A few minutes of your time for a one-time sign-up saves us a few minutes of our time, multiplied by 130.
Can self-published authors participate?
This question is being answered by Kate Hilton, who has been both self-published and traditionally published.
There is nothing to stop you from signing up, and here's the reality: you stand a much better chance of being hosted at stores that already stock your books.
As events go, Authors for Indies is not an effective avenue for self-published authors to get their books into retail stores. Unless you already have a relationship with a bookstore, they will be very hesitant about hosting you.
We've asked booksellers whether they would host self-published authors. Responses ranged from ‘No’ to ‘Yes/Maybe, if we already carry their books’ to ‘Maybe, if they come in to the store first and I can see the quality of their books’.
How do I sign up? And what do I do after that?
Check out the SIGN UP page. Please also download the User Guide that's at the bottom of the page.
When your sign up has been approved, you'll get an email saying you can log in. Your name will be on the list of Participating Authors. This is how booksellers know that you're available. However, we strongly suggest that you get proactive and contact bookstores. After you log in, you can click on Bookseller List to see all the bookstores who want to host authors this year.
Remember also to inform your publisher and/or publicist that you've signed up. Some publishers are happy to help their authors get in to stores.
The SIGN UP form asks for Publisher name, but mine isn't on the list
If your publishing house isn't on our drop-down list, please contact your publisher to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We need your publisher to request their company name be added to this list. We’ll do this as soon as possible after your publisher gets in touch.
If you have more than one publisher, we suggest you go with the most recent one. The purpose of the publisher affiliation is (a) to make it easier for your publisher to track how many of their authors are participating and (b) let booksellers know how to order your books should they host you. Since any bookstore who hosts you will be contacting you first via email or phone, you can let them know at that time about your other publishers.
We pre-loaded the list with as many publishing houses as we could find, but obviously we can't predict which authors will sign up or who their publishers are. So we're relying on authors and/or their publishers to help us build the list. It's a one-time effort on your part and we appreciate your help.
The reason 'Other' is not on the list is because (a) it doesn't help bookstores to know which publishers/distributors to deal with and (b) we are trying to build up our database of publisher names.
The bookstore where I want to volunteer isn't listed under 'FIND A STORE'
FIND A STORE is for public viewing and lists only the stores that have confirmed authors. This list gets updated every day as stores send in their author names. Perhaps the store you want to contact hasn't sent in their list of authors yet. If you have registered as an author, log in. This gives you access to the Participating Bookstores list.
Will you be matching authors to bookstores?
No way. We’re control freaks but we’re not masochists. This website facilitates the matchmaking process by listing stores and authors who want to take part. It's up to bookstores and authors to contact each other. Recently, some publishers have indicated they'd be willing to pitch in to help get their authors into stores, so contact your publisher.
Reality: some authors will end up at the bookstore of their choice, some bookstores will end up with the authors of their choice. Or not.
What are authors supposed to do while at the store?
Stores organize their own activities, so talk to “your” store about what they are doing on the big day. They may have plans for you.
The goal is to bring in store traffic and make it a great retail day for the store. We are there to help sell books. The point is not to sell our own books – although that tends to happen organically – but to recommend books by other writers that we love. Believe it or not, this makes customers more willing to buy your books, because you've built a rapport.
How long should authors volunteer at a store?
That's between bookstores and authors. Last year, some authors travelled to several stores over the course of the day, while others spent an entire day in one store. Still others volunteered for one shift at one store because that's all they could fit in to their day.
This is an amazing idea! I can’t volunteer this year but how can I help?
1) Tell all of your friends, family, fans, followers, and fellow writers about AFI and that they should visit an indie bookstore on April 29!
2) Stay connected to Authors for Indies
- Check our blog every so often for announcements
- Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorsforIndies
- Follow us on Twitter @authors4indies.
- Tweet about the event #AFI2017
- As April 29 approaches, promote the event on every form of social media that you use
And finally, on April 29, drop in on participating indie bookstore! Send your friends and family to an indie bookstore! Have a great time!
Who is the event organizer?
We are a team of volunteers who appreciate what indie bookstores do for literary diversity, for emerging voices, for CanLit in general. We were inspired by the Indies First Campaign in the USA, started by author Sherman Alexie and organized by the American Booksellers Association. In Canada, Authors for Indies Day is a grassroots movement. This year the core team consists of:
- Janie Chang (Author): organizer, webmaster, content editor, newsletter editor, AFI founder
- Karry Eilers (Booklover): content editor, list updater
- Kate Hilton (Author): organizer, content editor, guest blogger wrangler
- Karen Lee (Communications Consultant, Writer): PR, media outreach
- Shelley Macbeth (Bookseller): bookseller communications, subject matter expert
- Robin Rivers (Journalist, Digital Entrepreneur): PR, media outreach
- Jennifer Robson (Author): 2017 spokes author and goodwill ambassador
- Candie Tanaka (Writer, Artist, Entrepreneur): social media
- Kitty Widjaja (Designer, Artist): graphics
- Mary-Ann Yazedijian (Bookseller): bookseller communications, subject matter expert