Making the Most out of IndieBound

By now, most of you who are ABA members have heard about IndieBound, the brand new program that has replaced Booksense.

You have received the Liberation Box full of eye-catching materials, and the most pro-active of you have hung up the fantastic SLEEP EAT READ poster in the front window and pasted the IB sticker on the door. You’ve put out the Indie Next List. Perhaps you’ve ordered some of those great t-shirts.

So now it’s business as usual, right?

I hope not, because IndieBound is much more than its predecessor. Ergo, it will require more to get the most out of it, too.

After much hard work, and some help from one of the best idea development agencies in the country, ABA has just delivered a DIY Buy Local revolution to your doorstep.

If the full potential hasn’t hit you yet, I’m not surprised. IndieBound is such a scalable and flexible program that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it on first glance. That little red box is just the tip of the iceberg.

IndieBound has got all the bells and whistles: a fantastic consumer website, print collateral, tools for creating materials, inspirational copy, hip design, a program that will work for all business sizes that can be tailored to appeal to just about every customer, and it is of-the-larger-cultural-moment with plenty of press potential. Just exploring all of the materials and the site will take some time.

IndieBound can be many things to many people, but I can tell you what it isn’t.

It isn’t just a box of materials. It isn’t designed to be implemented overnight. It isn’t just a re-branding. It is a re-building from the grassroots up. And, like any good revolution, the materials are only as good as the revolutionaries: namely you and your staff.

It’s time to get busy.

Let’s call it Operation Indie 2.0.


IndieBound University — Learn the nuts and bolts

IndieBound Free Will Catalog — See what’s possible

The IndieBound Identity Manager — The high-test toolbox for making it your own (ABA login required)

IndieBound at — The complete links list, including ordering information for bags and much more

Contact Paige Poe-ABA IndieBound Outreach Liason — She’s there to help!



Revolutions never go backwards. – Wendell Phillips, 1861

As I mentioned above, implementing IndieBound will take some time. The stores that will be most successful are the ones who can fully digest the program, make a concrete game plan, and who are then able to do the following:

Tell the Story

As booksellers, we appreciate a good story. Studies have shown that stories are way more effective than any other kind of communication tool.

IndieBound and the whole Buy Local Movement is a good story. You and your business, the independent spirit, preserving the uniqueness of your community—those are all good stories. The little guys living happily, the big guys moving in, the starvation of downtown, the David and Goliath story of the indies coming back—all good stories. (Great stories, actually.)

Successfully implementing IndieBound will hinge on figuring out how to tell your story effectively within your community. Introduce IndieBound to your staff by literally telling them the story of your store and its indie journey. “Once upon a time there was a little store named Sally’s Bookshop, and it lived happily on mainstreet…. etc.) Then look to tell the story as a part of your marketing. Your store is the Little Engine That Could. Your store is the upstart. Your store (and your community) are independent thinkers.

Make good use of the IndieBound spirit lines throughout your materials and your store. They encapsulate the IB story very effectively. Make use of the Public Relations Primer, and use all of the great materials and language in IndieBound to make your case.

As you plan your IndieBound program, keep coming back to this question of how to tell the story. Make sure all of the elements are working together to fill in the picture in lots of little ways.

Inoculate the staff

IndieBound is designed to be a grassroots retail movement, and so it will go nowhere if you don’t get everyone in the store onboard, from the most lowly box unpacker on up. In fact, your most youthful frontline booksellers have the potential to be your most hardcore propagandists.

Call a meeting, and explain the whole program, taking special care to TELL THE STORY, both of your business, and of the rise of Buy Local movements. Arm them with a few key statistics. Get excited, and get them excited too. Start broadly, and then walk them through the pieces of the program. (You can ask Paige at ABA for help in doing this.)

Don’t impose the program; show them the tools, and ask for their ideas in implementing them. Give them three things they can do on a day to day basis to help spread the word. For instance: Spot them their favorite IB shirts to wear outside of the store, ask them to think about ways to use the IB resources to create some new materials, brainstorm ideas they might have for IndieBound in the community. Leave the door open for ideas, and check in from time to time to update them on developments and progress.

Create personal IB branding for the business

One of the strengths of IndieBound is its incredible flexibility, and the range of customizable tools at your fingertips through the IndieBound Identity Manager.

This tool is a one stop powerhouse for creating an entire IndieBound program for your store, and if you’re really ambitious, you can use it as the basis of a fully fledged Buy Local movement in your community.

There are logos in several versions, font and palette variations, spirit lines, and templates for signs, bookplates, in-store display materials, bookplates, stickers, as well as a thorough yet concise section on best practices for handling files and fonts, and working with designers.

Want a different color? Great! Want to make your own signs? Great! The only constraint is your imagination, and your willingness to think big. For instance, just scanning the spirit lines, we can think of a bunch of fun giveaways you could make to launch your program….

By being playful and fun your community will really gravitate to the message.

Amplify the message

Go big with the message in the store, and look outside of the store for ways to pump up the volume.

  • Give the IndieBound door sticker to all of the local businesses in your community (ABA will send as many as you like.)
  • Organize your own Buy Local program using IndieBound as the jumping off point
  • Look for community partners to co-market the independent message
  • Consider giving your book groups and teen reading groups their favorite IB T-shirts that they can wear around the community
  • Print IndieBound Post-its—a great form of viral marketing, like thousands of mini billboards
  • Sponsor an “Independent Thinker” contest in the local schools
  • Celebrate “Independents Day” with other local businesses

The bottom line

The bottom line is that IndieBound is a program that can be used not only to market but to inspire. The key to doing this effectively is making it personal and making it authentic.

Take the time to craft an IB plan that is tailored to your store and your community and that plays to your strengths. Ask your staff, fellow business people, and your customers for ideas and help. The more people you involve, the more buy-in you will have.

IndieBound has infinite possibility. Now it’s up to you.


3 responses to “Making the Most out of IndieBound

  1. Wow. What great ideas! And you’re far too kind to call us one of the best idea agencies in the country…but we’ll take it!

    Keep the dream alive and the revolution moving forward. As an independent company ourselves, we’re proud to be a part of the movement!

  2. Kristen and ABA,
    This is a dream come true. You really get what IndieBound is all about and have figured out how to transmit the infinite possibilities to your members. I hope each of them takes a piece of what you’ve presented and incorporates it into their store’s presence in their communities. Thank you so much for doing this so brilliantly.

  3. Kristen and ABA,
    This is a dream come true. You really get what IndieBound is all about and have figured out how to transmit the infinite possibilities to your members. I hope each of them takes a piece of what you’ve presented and incorporates it into their store’s presence in their communities. Thank you so much for doing this so brilliantly.

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