August 21, 2018

Parnassus and the Southern Indie Booksellers Okra Picks

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

I am a big fan of Indie Book Stores and one of my favorites is Parnassus Books in Nashville TN. It is owned by author Ann Patchett and her business partner Karen Hayes. I highlighted Parnassus Books in an October 19, 2017, Suite T post The Sin of the Desert and Book Sales. In it attention was brought to the importance of the Indie Book Stores and Indie authors partnership. If you haven’t read it hope you will do so.

I recently had a chance to visit Parnassus and visit with Karen Hayes. The book store as well as the operation there is most impressive. It is reader friendly and a special emphasis is placed on the younger reader. There is an area with a small magical entrance for the children to slip through and discover a world of books inside. I spent a lot of time there and enjoyed every minute. I’m looking forward to returning on my next trip to Nashville.

I made several purchases and upon checking I noticed several bookmarks were dropped into my bag. Looking through them I found one from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.  It was their #okrapicks for Summer 2018. In their words, “Okra Picks are a bushel of fresh titles chosen each season that SIBA Indie Bookstores want to handsell.

These books should be southern in nature but can cover any genre, not just fiction. Southern readers love their writers, and we want to be at the forefront of bringing them a strong selection of southern titles not to be missed each season.” The bookmark is a great tool to highlight some 18 authors and their works. SIBA has done a great job with this and each reader receiving it with each purchase. But this bookmark went a step further.

On each side there was a QR code. The front side was for the book The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival by author Terry Roberts. The back side at the bottom was for the last book of the 18 listed which was Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a former White Nationalist by author Eli Saslow. With the use of the QR reader app you could download the first chapter of each book. I tried it with The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival and within seconds I had the first 22 pages including chapter 1 downloaded.

I have to say I was impressed with this marketing idea. I am not sure of the cost to an author, but I would be hard pressed to think it would not sell enough books to pay for itself. I would want to make it one of my marketing tools to use. Just having the first chapter of your new book in the hands of every customer at Parnassus Books much less every book store in the SIBA would be a big step toward more book sales. I say thanks to Parnassus and SIBA for a job well done.

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