Special BONUS Podcast Episode: The USA Today Bestseller List Is Back! with the Novel Neighbor’s Holland Saltsman

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In this special BONUS episode of All Things Book Marketing, host Olivia McCoy speaks with the Owner of The Novel Neighbor, an independent (bookstore) and Founder of the nonprofit The Noble Neighbor: Holland Saltsman. Recent breaking news in the publishing world brought Holland to the podcast to discuss the return of The USA Today Bestseller List and why this news is especially exciting. Let’s dive in…

Why is the return of The USA Today Bestseller List such big news in the book world?

The USA Today Bestseller List has always been regarded as “the people’s booklist” because it is purely generated by book sales and what people are buying without any massaging. It’s a 150 spot list, which is longer than others, and has just been a great representation of what people across the country are reading.

The most exciting part of this breaking news is that there is a heavy independent bookstore influence as the list returns, not only in what makes up the list but in how readers can purchase the books.

How is the list different than it was when it existed before?

The list is now working with Bookshop.org, which is known as the online purchasing place for books that supports independent bookstores. If a buyer wants their money to go toward independent bookstores as opposed to bazillionaires, Bookshop.org is a phenomenal resource as it’s given over $20 million dollars back to independent bookstores.

Bookshop.org is sending some of their sales numbers into this book list, and more independent bookstores are reporting to the list. In the past, there were perhaps five big indie bookstores reporting to the list, but this list has a lot more independent bookstores reporting which will help the list be more diverse in flavor and more interesting – it’s no longer just what’s being sold in big box stores.

The list itself has Bookshop.org highlighted as the place to buy books, which is huge, because it should really help independent bookstores across the country and shows a great display of support for the independent bookstore community, which is fantastic.

How is The Novel Neighbor working with The USA Today Bestseller List?

We were first approached in a sort of consulting capacity, as it was clear the list wanted to support indies and have the support of indies. So we began having conversations with the team about what that could look like, and one of the ways we came up with was highlighting a different indie bookstore every week. Luckily, there are no shortage of indies, so there is plenty of content week after week and plenty of stores to feature.

The Novel Neighbor was lucky enough to be featured as the first “get to know your indie” highlight, where bookstores are able to share why people should shop at indies, the books they can’t keep on their shelves, what they’re looking forward to reading in the next month.  The second exciting development is that our social media director, Kathy King, is doing original content for them once a week. Each week, she’ll present some phenomenal reads in a really unique and original way. And the third way we will be involved – and I believe this is how we got on USA Today’s radar in the first place – is through our “dear bookseller” mystery box initiative. It began during the pandemic, when people couldn’t come into the store to shop but would write letters to us letting us know about what was going on in their lives and what they’d like to shop for, plus a budget. And we would curate these “mystery boxes” specifically for them and their needs. Now, weekly, we will be featuring one of those real-life letters along with our suggested books to fit that particular letter. It will be really fun and different!

What are the best ways that people can support their independent bookstores?

One of the top ways is to continuously share on social media. If you visit an independent bookstore and purchase something, post about it so people will be reminded that the store is there. Posting and resharing is huge!

Attending events held by and at indie bookstores is also another great way to show your support. You can actually go on bookshop.org and find a generated list of stores near you – and can look up what events they’re having in the near future that you could go and support.

Just sharing as much as you can about independent bookstores with those you know, sharing links to buy books at independent bookstores versus large online retailers, etc. – all go a long way in gently educating people about independent bookstores and their role in the community.

How can authors be included on The USA Today Bestseller List?

Authors can be independent, self-published, traditionally published – all are eligible to be on this list. Authors interested in getting on the list will want to make sure to hold events at independent bookstores, get those sales nationwide (a mix of independent bookstores, online, and in-person sales). Authors are encouraged to check with their local indies to see if they report to the list.

We thank Holland for joining the All Things Book Marketing podcast to share these exciting updates and her unique insight, and congratulate her in her involvement with the reprised list. This is surely wonderful news for independent bookstores and readers everywhere!

Holland Saltsman is the owner of The Novel Neighbor in St. Louis. MO. After 15 years in Higher Education Administration, Holland was looking to create a space for carefully curated books, a showcase for local/independent artists as well as a community gathering space and that concept for The Novel Neighbor opened in 2014. That vision of “more than a bookstore” is now a space where people can take a cocktail class, drop their kids off for a book-themed birthday party, attend a nostalgic “Grown Up Book Fair” with community partners, engage in a Q and A with bestselling authors, all while getting personalized book recommendations from some of the best staff in the business. In 2019, Holland founded the Noble Neighbor after seeing the need to connect authors / books with underserved St. Louis school districts. Holland is originally from Kentucky where she still visits the family farm and travels – especially to music festivals – as often as she can. For more information, visit thenovelneighbor.com and follow Holland @hollandsays and The Novel Neighbor @novelneighbor.