Tag Archives: indie bookstores

Improving Indie Author Events

By Shane Solar-Doherty

On Monday night I went to a reading at Lorem Ipsum Books, a local used shop, a business I get great pleasure out of supporting. They were hosting Lindsay Hunter and Christian TeBordo, two authors with debut story collections with Featherproof Books, an indie publisher out of Chicago. Featherproof sent Hunter and TeBordo out on a five-stop tour that they dubbed the Road Read tour. Their fourth stop was Lorem Ipsum.

Hunter and TeBordo picked funny and daring stories to read and delivered them well. Their stories were very short, and they were read quickly, which the pace of the stories called for. But the reading only lasted about ten minutes, or to measure it another way, approximately one minute for each audience member in attendance. The audience and the authors were crammed into chairs and stools in a corner of the store. And there was no discussion to wrap things up, the part of a reading that I look forward to the most. In the end, I felt lead on, like I was supposed to anticipate what was to come next. And that’s a quality I admire at the end of a well-written story. It’s not what I expect at the end of a reading.

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Where We Go From Here: Some Ideas for the Indie Bookstore

By Shane Solar-Doherty

In August 2005, just three months after celebrating their 50th anniversary, Kepler’s Books, an independent bookstore and beacon for cultural progress in Menlo Park, CA, closed their doors. With anniversary banners and advertisements for upcoming events that could be seen from El Camino Real still hanging inside the store, it may have seemed like a crude practical joke, like the lights would be turned back on the next day, that it would be business as usual. But the next day, the store remained dark.

The store’s loyal customers and employees were dismayed by the sudden shutdown. Gerry Masteller, former co-owner of Printer’s Inc., an indie bookstore in Palo Alto that closed it’s doors four years before Kepler’s followed in suit, found it “embarrassing” that such an established intellectual community couldn’t support this hub for progressive thought and dialogue.

And then, a little over a month later, the store reopened, as if it all really had been a practical joke. In reality there was nothing funny about it. The store had cited a number of reasons for its closure, including a significant drop in book sales and steep rent costs. But Kepler’s was able to make its expeditious recovery because of monetary support and sound business advice from individuals who cherished the bookstore’s rich tradition. With the help of a concerned community and local investors, Kepler’s was once again in business, with a whole new business model structured by volunteers and more than $500,000 from new shareholders.

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