Every trip out of the house results in sad looks from strangers about how nobody reads anymore or how the bookstores are all gone. It’s not uncommon for us to tell people about thriving indie bookstores in their own towns and how sales at independents are up with more stores since 2007! This week on the pod, we welcome back Danny Caine to talk about his brand new book How to Protect Bookstores (and Why)!
Order your own copy of How to Protect Bookstores and Why here. (And here are Danny’s other book and zine!)
For most publishers, profit and loss statements are either an afterthought, something they “don’t have time for,” or a ritualistic capitalistic enterprise that they want nothing to do with. This week on the pod, we feature an extra-long episode about how to learn from them, what they can be best utilized for, and how to sort out the information from success or failure to do it better next time.
Much ink has been spilt over the illusion that big publishers have different economic models. The reality is that larger publishers benefit from scale but the economic models are the same. What does that mean? More books gets more access and streamlines costs and departments, but when it comes down to each book, well…check out this week’s episode!
From the bestselling book that went viral for traumatizing a 6-year-old and her precious grandmother (google it) comes an equally off-color coloring book. Have a laugh and decompress while coloring your way through the untamed thoughts of your favorite animals. This coloring book features nearly 60 quotes from different animals, all of whom have zero say in how you color them. They’re completely helpless and entirely at the mercy of your coloring utensil of choice (yes, even markers, you sick f*cks). Go wild!
We are a literary arts non-profit whose mission is storytelling for collective abundance. We believe in the power of storytelling, representation, and expanding models in the literary and publishing communities. Our mission is to promote voices from underserved communities and diverse backgrounds, to honor the stories of those who have faced adversity and injustice, and to provide a sanctuary space where these groups can see themselves in literature.
We host community programming and generally try to demystify the ins and outs of publishing, which is overall an opaque industry that tends towards insularity. Our major programs include: the Editor-Writer Mentorship, [margins.] Literary Conference + Book Festival, #MarginsBookselling (of course), and a host of publishing workshops and community events.
Overall, we love books and reading and the folks who dedicate their lives to the written word, and we believe that access to books and knowledge about careers in publishing (and publishing as a whole) are important.
What is #MarginsBookselling Month?
#MarginsBookselling Month is a celebration of bookstores owned and managed by and for BIPOC, LGBTQIAP2S+, disabled, and neurodiverse communities and of booksellers who identify from these communities as well. This is a community collaboration coordinated by The Word. Booksellers are on the frontline of the industry, and we want to celebrate and uplift them!
It’s a month of spreading joy and awareness of these wonderful stores and booksellers and a way of thanking them for doing the important work they do. There’s more to being a community bookstore than just selling books, and these stores exemplify the extraordinary efforts of bookstores and booksellers actively trying to improve the lives of those in their communities.
You can check out all the bookstores in The Word’s #MarginsBookselling network by checking out the interactive map here.
What inspired it?
Inequity is clearly visible in our industry, from the books being published to the demographics of employees in publishing itself. We recognize that books and bookstores are more than just sales and retail, and we see the power of indie bookstores. Diversely-owned bookstores are especially important to marginalized communities, and also to publishing at large. They can provide a third space and safe space to hold and share stories from BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, disabled and neurodiverse communities. Bookstores that center marginalized communities provide both shelter and education.
Likewise booksellers are part of the foundation of this industry. They know what books their community members need and are looking for. Indie bookstore sales matter to their community, and to publishing as a whole. It is booksellers who know what recommendations are relevant to their area and specific customers, and those recommendations can have massive impact, especially for authors that aren’t established, “big” names. Passionate booksellers and bookstores change lives for their customers and for the authors that fill their shelves.
There are not enough spaces where we celebrate this work and take time to learn from it. #MarginsBookselling Month is a chance to shine that spotlight and to give our cohort of bookstores and booksellers a chance to do what each does best, while also getting to know each other in community.
What’s so great about indie bookstores? Why focus on them?
We love bookstore stops on every road trip we take! We cherish open mic nights at our local stores. We can’t resist stopping in for a coffee even if our TBR piles are never-ending and we swore we wouldn’t buy another book today.
Reading is its own sort of magic. Books can be gates, windows, mirrors, doors, escape, comfort. Indie bookstores and booksellers can have a few minutes of conversation with someone and help them find entire new worlds to learn about, to love, or to live in.
Real people will always understand us better than algorithms. And indie bookstores are plugged into the communities they serve in ways that are unmatched by other industry retailers.
What has surprised you the most in the last few years of #MarginsBookselling Month?
It is beautiful to see the members of this community lift each other up and create an atmosphere of abundance where there is room for everyone. In many spaces, retail especially, there is often an enmity toward anything perceived as “competition” –and that has not been present at all in this environment. Everyone is always excited to celebrate each other! It’s definitely become a team of its own, and we love all the love!
How can people get involved and support The Word and #MarginsBookselling Month?
There are numerous ways to be involved:
Support #MarginsBookselling bookstores every month. Learn who they are. Spend some time with them, and see how happy they’ll be to fill your shelves with books you’d never find on your own, and are support systems that can help you find connection and community.
If you don’t have a #MarginsBookselling store near you that you can visit in-person, check out the interactive #MarginsBookselling Map, and support these stores by shopping online, either through their own website or on Bookshop.org. If you’re an audiobook listener, you can support your local or favorite #MarginsBookselling store by choosing them as your supported store on Libro.fm.
Additionally, here are a few great ways to get involved with The Word’s #MarginsBookselling Month:
What are two books you think everyone should read right now?
We love Mariame Kaba–everyone should check out her titles! And, of course, National Book Award and Pulitzer Finalist The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Ingrid is a wonderful human who we were thrilled to collaborate with last year’s #MarginsBookselling Month, celebration and said:
“The Word is doing the labor that matters most — uplifting BIPOC booksellers and giving the floor to authors and writers who are writing from the margins. What happens when the margin takes centerstage? I feel a new literature and culture emerges, one that can define and tell of what has gone ignored or untold before. I am so thrilled to be joining The Word’s Writers’ Circle and look forward to supporting their mission.”
We’re grateful to Aida to take the time to answer our questions! If you want to learn more about The Word, their social media handles are:
This is the first installment of the year-long Bookstore Solidarity Project, where we’re featuring indie bookstores and the people that love them. Want to learn more about supporting bookstores in your community? Check out How to Protect Bookstores and Why by Danny Caine!
Delve into the astrological wisdom of Nicholas Culpeper, the 17th-century herbalist and astrologer whose writing about health and herbsmade a mark on medicine that resonates to the present day. His astute eye, keen wit, and encyclopedic knowledge led him to create his definitive English Physician, more commonly known today as Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. Planetary influences were key to his understanding of illness and healing. In his philosophy, each illness is governed by astrology, and the time at which a person takes to their sickbed is significant to their diagnosis and healing. His Semeiotica uranica, or, An astrological judgment of diseases from the decumbiture of the sick was a seminal early work of medical astrology and is published here as a historical document of great fascination to astrologers as well as to historians of herbalism and medicine. This edition includes modernized English spelling and expert guidance on how to decipher the work and consider Culpeper’s influence in modern context.
Also included are a foreword by Alice Sparkly Kat, author of Postcolonial Astrology, and an introduction by Judith Hill, author of Medical Astrology.
You can read many academic articles about the need to get more people reading and how wonderful this would be for critical thinking and education. But most publishers focus on fighting over the exact same shelf space at the exact same stores. So this week on the pod, we talk about how to reach new people with your books and turn them into readers!
Vic Liu’s Bang! delivers a walloping dose of information about masturbation; probably more than most readers have ever thought about it. And we think that considering it in more depth is a good thing. So this week we talk to Vic about what led her to pursue talking about these things in public.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets a drunken Eat, Pray, Love in this unique tour of global Beatlemania
Did you know that there’s a Beatles monument in Kazakhstan? Jack Marriott didn’t, and he thought he knew everything there was to know about the storied band from Liverpool, England. He did some investigating and found that there were Beatles monuments, statues, and shrines all around the world, from Brazil to Mongolia, Peru to Japan. Meanwhile, his life in England was quickly deteriorating into drunkenness, the staff of his bar having walked out and his girlfriend having left him. So he did what anyone would do: “borrowed” a press pass and set off on a two-year quest through 23 countries, relying on the kindness of fellow fans to help him find these Beatles monuments and connect with the communities that built them. His goal: to find new stories about the Beatles, win back his girlfriend, and remind an increasingly insular post-Brexit Britain what the Beatles mean to the world. He just needed to push through the hangovers to do it. How hard could it be? Find out in this real-life account of one man’s quest to find every Beatles monument.