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Local independents: where everybody knows your name

‘If it weren’t for independent bookstores, I don’t think [my book] would have been a national best-seller.’ ‘If it weren’t for independent bookstores, I don’t think [my book] would have been a national best-seller.’
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Globe Correspondent / November 28, 2010

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When independent bookstores close, local authors may stand to lose even more than local readers. For these writers, neighborhood stores offer unique resources to help book projects succeed.

Consider Brunonia Barry, the Salem author who rocked the publishing world in 2008 when her originally self-published novel, “The Lace Reader,’’ was rereleased as a trade title and became an award-winning New York Times best-seller.

Barry has relied on Spirit of ’76 in Marblehead and the recently closed Cornerstone Books in Salem to assemble focus groups to read manuscripts when they’re still “pages in a box.’’

These readers offer important feedback, she said, long before publication. Independent stores have also helped her sell by convening book groups and hosting book-signing events.

“If it weren’t for independent bookstores, I don’t think [“The Lace Reader’’] would have been a national best-seller,’’ Barry said. “They were so helpful. They passed the word because they hand-sell. Certainly, Amazon doesn’t have a chance to do that because they’re online.’’

Writers and aspiring authors, drawn to the region’s rich cultural and intellectual resources, have long made their homes in communities north of Boston. And bookstores specializing in local interest topics have long celebrated the synergies that come with touting a local author’s work.

Now booksellers are sometimes going one step further to help local scribes break into commercial markets.

Spirit of ’76 will for the first time this winter offer a class on the how-tos of self-publishing.

It will be one of several classes offered on various subjects as the store explores new ways to offer value and bring in customers, according to general manager John Hugo.

Readers, meanwhile, feel they, too, benefit when local stores help their writing neighbors succeed.

“We have authors who live here. We have people who do beautiful photography who live here, and a local [bookseller] is really going to help them,’’ said Martha Mayo of Marblehead. “It’s helping artists.’’