Author James Patterson has announced the first round of grants in his goal of donating $1 million to independent bookstores.
Six independent bookstores in the region were among more than 55 across the country selected in the first round of Patterson’s giveaway, including The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass., which just finished celebrating 50 years in business in 2013. The bookshop was awarded $5,000, which children’s department director Hannah Moushabeck says will go toward office needs like a color printer and Photoshop. She says some of the grant will help fund a program in which the store partners with Girls Inc. of Holyoke, a youth development organization.
“What we want to do is offer a lot of these girls who are not in a position where they can buy books on their own, to donate books specifically from author events,” Moushabeck said. “So they’ll have the opportunity to meet the author, they can get their book signed and then they can take that book home with them. That in itself is an opportunity that I remember when I had for the first and it was such an amazing experience. We would really love kids from all financial backgrounds to be able to experience.”
Marc Galvin co-owns The Bookstore Plus with his wife Sarah in Lake Placid, New York. He says the $2,500 grant they received will go toward needed fixes in the 40-year-old store that is home to 10,000 titles.
"Things are original to the building,” Galvin said. “So as you can imagine with the salt, sand and snow that is in here, especially all the bottom shelves, stuff is sagging and we have it propped up with bricks.”
In September, Patterson announced he was going to give $1 million over the next 12 months to independent bookstores, making his pledge on CBS This Morning. In November, independent bookshops nationwide submitted 500-word essays laying out what they would do if awarded thousands of dollars. Patterson was a guest on NPR’s Morning Edition announcing the winners.
"The government has stepped in to help banks, automobiles, anything where money is concerned, but nobody seems to care about books and our bookstores," Patterson said. "And I'm telling you, American literature is in jeopardy."
Moushabeck says there’s been a recent trend of authors, booklovers and the general public realizing the important role independent bookstores play in the community and the literature world. On Small Business Saturday last November, The Odyssey hosted 10 authors, including five New York Times bestsellers, who worked stocking the shelves and helping customers, according to Moushabeck.
“All big-time authors were once small-time authors,” Moushabeck said. “I think they really realize and acknowledge that it’s really the independent bookstores that really make their books a success in the world. We’re the ones who blog, write reviews and really push their books. We hand sell them and when we love them they become a success often. So I think it’s sometimes a rite of passage for authors that when they become big-time it’s paying back to their lineage to pay honor to the independent bookstores that supported them along the way.”
Moushabeck says the Odyssey’s historic lifeblood of selling textbooks has drastically dropped off in recent years because of high prices and online options. But she says the children’s department has seen a jump in both titles and sales. Meanwhile, Galvin says sales over the past two years have been the best in his store’s history. He adds independent bookstores deliver an experience not found in larger chain outlets.
“I handpick every single adult title that’s in the store,” Galvin said. “I do it from having conversations with my customers to find out what they’re reading and what they like and getting a pulse for that. My wife Sarah, she buys every single kid’s book that’s here in the store. She does the same thing. It’s having conversations. It’s talking to other booksellers to find out what’s out there and really filling our shelves with the best of the best.”
In all, Patterson awarded more than $267,000 in the first round. Other area recipients include The Bookloft in Great Barrington and Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, Massachusetts, Oblong Books & Music in Millerton, New York and Phoenix Books in Essex Junction, Vermont.