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Local authors turn into booksellers again for Indies First day

Local authors will be playing bookseller at bookstores across L.A. for Indies First on Saturday

These days, pretty much everyone knows about Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers line up outside huge retail chains to take advantage of sales and discounts. But owners of small independent stores are hoping Americans remember that the day after is Small Business Saturday, when people are urged to support locally-owned shops.

Authors and booksellers across the nation will be celebrating the Saturday after Thanksgiving with the second-ever "Indies First" day. The event aims to bring together writers and readers by having authors volunteer as booksellers at their local independent bookstores.

Indies First day started last year, the brainchild of author Sherman Alexie ("The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven") and Janis Segress, owner of the Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle. Alexie had missed a reading at the store ("It was Little League season and I completely spaced out"), and Segress urged him to atone by working at her store for a day. 

Alexie and Segress realized they had a good idea on their hands, and brought it to the American Booksellers Assn. Last year, Hector Tobar wrote about participating in the event by working at Vroman's in Pasadena for a two-hour shift. "The idea that we authors would guide customers to our own books was part of the idea of Indies First," Tobar wrote. "There were big holiday crowds at Vroman’s, but they weren’t necessarily swarming around us authors. I sold and signed a handful of my own novels." Tobar also ended up selling books by the late Oscar Hijuelos to curious customers.

Several Southern California bookstores are participating in the event this year. Vroman's is scheduled to feature authors including Lian Dolan, Ron Koertge and Sandra Tsing Loh, while Skylight Books will play host to Geoff Dyer, Mimi Pond and Attica Locke, among others.

Pages in Manhattan Beach will welcome Jason Boog, Rick Reilly and Dennis Lehane, while West Hollywood's Book Soup has a lineup of authors including Francesca Lia Block. Boog and Mark Sarvas will work shifts at Diesel in Brentwood.

Young adult authors like Leigh Bardugo and Marie Lu will be among those lending a hand at Once Upon a Time in Montrose while Eso Won Books in Leimert Park is scheduled to feature mystery authors Gary Phillips and Kwei Quartey.

The event is nationwide, though, and readers can find information on their local bookstores at the Indie Bound website. It won't be as hyped as Black Friday, of course, but for shoppers looking for presents and who don't want to camp out for hours in an interminable line -- and meet some favorite authors to boot -- it could be the perfect solution.

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