Know a Great Bookseller? Nominate Them for Holiday Cash Bonus from James Patterson!

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James Patterson as Santa Claus? It may not be a natural fit, but this holiday season he is playing the role of Jolly St. Nick. Patterson is giving away $250,000 in bonuses to employees of independent booksellers. It has been a rough decade for independents and the big guys alike, with national chains going bust and beloved independents (like NYC’s Shakespeare and Company and Murder Ink and San Francisco’s sci-fi fantasy treasure trove Borderlands) closing their doors forever.

But there are increasing signs of life in the book business, most of it from independent booksellers. According to the American Booksellers Association, independents have increased by 27 percent since 2009. My city has seven(!) independent book stores, including two that opened within the last three years and two catering just to children. And they are thriving.

I was a bookseller for more than 10 years. I worked as a children’s bookseller, and I loved the part of my job that involved making recommendations to parents who were looking for a novel for that hard-to-please young reader. I didn’t love the low pay, which unfortunately has a lot to do with the tough economic times in the publishing industry.

That’s what makes this opportunity from Patterson so exciting. The bonuses actually go to the employees and range from $1,000 to $5,000. To nominate someone you just have to fill out a form and describe in 250 words or fewer why this bookseller deserves a holiday bonus.

Patterson is the best-selling author of the Alex Cross novels. Last year he gave away $1 million in grants to independent bookstores. He came up with the idea when John Hugo sent in a bookstore grant application to give his father a bonus. Hugo’s father works at Andover Bookstore in Andover, Mass and hasn’t had a raise in 10 years. Patterson told Publisher’s Weekly “Booksellers should be considered heroes in our society.” He will personally review each application. Checks will be mailed the first two weeks of December.

These grants are directed toward independent bookstores, but it would be wonderful if someone also stepped up to do something similar for independent comic stores. We have had great experiences at our local comic shops, whose employees are constantly giving us great recommendations. They may also be encouraged to fill the void left when a place like Borderlands goes out of business. If you spread the word about the Patterson bonuses, just maybe the idea will catch on.

Bri is the founder and co-editor of What the Fangirl. She loves chai lattes, Disney and fairy tales.

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