A pandemic might be a good time to catch up on your reading, but that doesn’t mean it is any kind of boon to local bookstores. Although they generally offer online sales, most local bookstores depend on foot traffic to generate the kinds of sales that put a dent in their rent.
That’s why a group of writers, publicists and others has rallied around Bay Area booksellers under the aegis of #WeLoveBookstores. The group hosts Zoom video conferences with literary guests, and all proceeds go directly to a designated independent bookstore.
#WeLoveBookstores emanated from the Bookstore and Chocolate Crawl events organized by writers and book-lovers Charlie Jane Anders, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Jackie Risley. The group was organizing its next event when the coronavirus made it clear a May Crawl could not happen.
“You could tell pretty quickly when the shelter-in-place order came down that bookstores were going to be hit hard,” Anders says. “Bookstores have high rents, especially in the Bay Area. They can’t change the prices on the products they sell. They are very vulnerable enterprises in the best of times.”
The group’s fundraising get-togethers feature readings, performances and discussions. The group also helps book lovers find gift cards, start a libro.fm account or place preorders with local booksellers.
“We wanted to help boost authors with books coming out around this time who couldn’t do events in person,” Anders says.
“I love bookstore events—seeing everyone in person, signing hard copies of the book, the glow that you share with your pals. I missed all of that, deeply,” Tokuda-Hall says. While the virtual events may hold an air of bittersweetness to them, Tokuda-Hall adds that the series still offers, “its own kind of magic.”
Recent events in the series include a virtual authors’ pet show with Chuck Wendig, Meg Elison and several other writers hanging out with their furry friends; and a sci-fi author talk between Hugo Award–winners John Scalzi and Sarah Gailey and Michael Zapata, founding editor of MAKE Literary Magazine.
The virtual series’ next event will feature Rachel Khong, R.O. Kwon and Cathy Park Hong in conversation with Evan Karp on July 15 at Noon to benefit Point Reyes Books.
Khong is an editor and writer who recently founded The Ruby, a work and event space for women and nonbinary writers and artists in San Francisco’s Mission district. Kwon is best known for the nationally bestselling novel, The Incendiaries. Hong’s prose and poetic works have earned her a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship.
The fundraising goal for this event is $2,000, and registration for attending the Zoom meeting is offered on a pay-what-you-can basis.
“One of the unexpected joys of these events has been the way video conferencing makes the conversations feel more intimate,” Newitz says. “I wouldn’t trade live events for online events all the time, but there’s something refreshing about seeing writers in their own homes, talking casually.”
Original article by Michael Berry, with Charlie Swanson contributing to reporting. Welovebookstores.org.