Emma Straub on Creative Ways to Support Binc

Emma Straub is the queen of finding creative ways to support Binc, which in turn helps book and comic sellers in need. We talked to her about why Binc’s mission is so important to her, and about some of those ways she offers support.

“Binc got on my radar through Ann Patchett when she did a fundraiser at her store, Parnassus Books. I loved it immediately. People need help everywhere but I’m especially conscious of young people hustling so hard. Binc is so important as a place they can turn to with a need.”

Emma was working as a bookseller at Book Court in Brooklyn when a small press published her collection of short stories, Other People We Marry, in 2012. It was the bookstore she grew up in and the place she returned to after earning her MFA at the University of Wisconsin.

“Riverhead printed 2,000 copies and I sold 800 of them at Book Court. My bosses were so supportive, hosting a launch party and selling the book at the register. I was in charge of the store’s Twitter account, and I made friends with other booksellers across the country. Through those friendships I was able to get my small press book on the shelves at Skylight Books and Porter Square Books and Powell’s, so many stores. I went on a self-financed book tour and other booksellers were so kind to me and I made so many friends in the book business that are still my friends.”

First creative way: Emma donates 100% of the royalties from that first book—about $700 a year—right to Binc.

“I would have no publishing career at all if the independent booksellers of America had not supported me. If I hadn’t worked at an independent bookseller I don’t know if or when I would have been published. I made all my connections to editors and publishers and readers and booksellers through my job at Book Court. Giving back feels like the most natural thank you I can offer.”

Fast forward a bit. Emma is the New York Times-bestselling author of six books for adults: the novels This Time Tomorrow, All Adults Here, The Vacationers, Modern Lovers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. She is also the author of three picture books. She and her husband own Books Are Magic, an independent bookstore with two locations in Brooklyn, New York.

And that brings us to some of the other ways she made it a priority to Think Binc.

The first Books Are Magic opened in Cobble Hill in 2017 after that bookstore—Book Court–that started it all closed. “There are definitely ups and downs about owning a store; parts I love, parts I’m terrible at, parts that bring so much pleasure and joy to my life. One of those is being a space for the community.”

When the pandemic hit the store started selling t-shirts that said stay safe, read books. “People were rabid for a way to support not only us but every independent business they loved. They understood acutely had precarious everything was. The whole world was on pause, but our rent wasn’t. We were still operating but in this extremely reduced way. Customers around the corner and across the country supported us. We went from 10 online orders a day to 500. Books Are Magic sold thousands of t-shirts to benefit Binc and to provide bonuses to their staff.

Last fall one of Straub’s booksellers had an idea for a calendar. “We made the most ridiculous, most beautiful bookstore calendar and we’re donating proceeds to Binc. The thing about authors is most of them will say yes to something if it’s not taking up a lot of their time. Our shoots took like 10 minutes. Pretty much everyone we asked said yes. My husband designed it. We sold 100s.”

Before our conversation ended Emma had words of advice for both her fellow authors and fellow store owners:

To authors: “More of you should be writing thank you notes to bookstores. I personally write a thank you note to every store that hosts me because it takes time and labor and choice and effort and will. It’s no small thing to be invited and welcomed by a bookstore. It’s something I still don’t take for granted.”

To stores: “There are so many creative ways to support whatever cause is near and dear to your heart; Binc is easy, and there are always goofy ideas to be had. I personally find the goofier the better.”

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The Book Industry Charitable Foundation

3135 S. State Street, Suite 203 Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Toll Free: 1-866-733-9064 | info@bincfoundation.org
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