Born and read in YEG
Inside the mission of Audreys Bookstore
to boost local authors
By Bailey Stefan
A MAINSTAY ON Jasper Avenue, Audreys is the oldest independent book shop in Edmonton. Not only does it carry new releases but, perhaps more important, the store holds an extensive library of offerings by local authors, traditionally and self-published.
The shop has a dedicated portion of its online store for authors from the area. With more than 200 titles ranging from children’s novels to cookbooks, to anthologies, Audreys has been the go-to carrier of local authors since it opened in 1975.
For manager and buyer Kelly Dyer, the decision to carry local authors is not only a pillar of the business, but a no-brainer.
“I think many people will be surprised at the wealth of writers in this community. Without those authors, we wouldn’t be around. Bookstores wouldn’t be what they are. As an independent ourselves, we are always looking for the support of our community.”
In addition to stocking works by Edmonton writers, Audreys hosts book launches and events for the local writing community. In pre-COVID times, the store was averaging about 70 events a season, and, though it has not been able to host quite as many, there have been virtual events throughout the pandemic.
“Audreys has been invaluable as a direct link between local authors and the reading public,” says writer Roberta Laurie (who also teaches at MacEwan University). Her book, Weaving a Malawi Sunrise, is carried by the shop and was launched there.
‘That acts as a real barrier between
the reader and local writers’
Laurie says that, though such large book chains as Chapters Indigo occasionally carry works by Edmontonian and lesser known authors, it is rare for those writers to receive prominent display, which would increase sales and build audiences.
“That acts as a real barrier between the reader and local writers. Stores like Audreys and Glass Bookshop [another independent Edmonton bookshop] really elevate us.”
In addition to works by established authors, Audreys also carries student anthologies, such as Liminal Spaces and Sighting Stories by CrW, the University of Alberta’s creative writing club. The club is made up of mostly Edmonton-based writers attending that university. For the majority of members, the club’s anthology represents their first time seeing their names in print.
“It means so much to us, because we’re able to reach more people than we ever could on our own,” says Bree Meiklejohn, who is president of CrW and works at Audreys. “Seeing how popular both books have been and how much they’ve been selling shows us that Edmonton values student work, and that’s a really incredible feeling.”
Self-published authors looking to have their work carried by the store can submit an email pitch and review copy to the store where it will be assessed by a dedicated employee. The time frame from pitch to stock varies depending on the season and events occurring at the shop, but Dyer says that it is rare they don’t accept something.
“We try to bring in most authors. We want to help them find their audience,” Dyer says. “Some of them are first-time authors and so we want to definitely help them out as best we can.”
Dyer says stocking locally written and published books doesn’t just help the writers out, but it boosts the sense of community in their patrons, too.
“There’s some local pride when you crack open a book and see that the author’s from here in town.”