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Lessons of a self-published writer: independent bookstores are good, Amazon not so much.


June 23, 2021, 10:23am

In 2019, self-published novelist Mason Engel set out to promote his novel by visiting 50 bookstores in 50 days, heading across America to spread the good word, filming it as he went. At that point, he’d still planned to just sell it on Amazon, which remains the most important place for self-published writers to make money from their work—but his trip changed everything.

As most of you reading this probably know, independent bookstores are very often delightful, idiosyncratic community spaces. They are filled not only with highly curated selections reflecting what booksellers actually like but also with the spirit of a neighborhood or town, that particular personality that shapes itself around thousands of quiet conversations about what matters in the world. This is what Mason Engel discovered on his trip, and what led him to leave Amazon.

Fast forward a year and Engel decided to go back on the road, this time with a purpose beyond his own work. Despite a pandemic, Engel—and his cameraman Brady—visited 30 bookstores between New Orleans and New York, asking booksellers why they did what they did, and why it’s important. The results are now here, in a second documentary called The Bookstour, which you can watch by making a donation to BINC, the wonderful nonprofit fundraising organization that supports booksellers in need. BINC has been an invaluable supporter over the last 18 months to a bookstore community in dire need of financial help.

The Bookstour – Trailer from Mason Engel on Vimeo.

This all seems like a pretty good deal: support booksellers while bathing in their wisdom, insight, and hopefulness… Thanks Mason Engel!

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