A new charitable initiative at Word Bookstore (126 Franklin St.) will donate 10% of the purchase price of authors’ books to the social justice cause of their choice. Word Association launched on Monday and showcases 20 American authors through June 21.
Brooklyn authors including Emily Gould and Emma Straub selected Planned Parenthood as their organization, Carmen Maria Machado and Nicole Dennis-Benn elected the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) as their cause, and sales of titles by Hanif Abdurraqib and Mira Jacob support AYO! NYC. Books can be purchased online for shipping, or to pick up outside of the Greenpoint bookstore.
“We sell books primarily, but we’re a community bookstore and have to try and think about all the different ways we can serve our shared communities,” explains bookseller Jeff Waxman about Word Association. He defines community as not just Word shoppers, but Brooklynites, New Yorkers, and really, “everyone else they meet.”
“Community book selling is about who we’re with. If we’re going to be an independent store, and talk about how independent stores are different, this is how we do it. You can get books anywhere, but when you get them from us, we take are of the people who need taking care of,” says Waxman.
The concept for Word Association started when Word closed for COVID. Sales stayed steady, thanks to community support, and most full-time staff didn’t have to lose their jobs. In the midst of the crisis, Waxman soon realized that “the government is not going to save us,” and he wanted to support “all the aid organizations that are doing the work that people need, performing all the services that a good government should.”
Eager to give back to lower profile organizations this spring, Word reached out to authors, asking which causes they champion and created a list. After the first round of fundraising ended in May, Word spent two weeks focusing on raising money for BailProject.org.
“We all want to help, but we’re not all doctors, we’re not all social workers,” Waxman says of this current era. “Authors write. Booksellers sell their writing. We’re just trying to find ways in which every one of us can help with the thing we do best.”
Word Association has helped Word promote titles on the backlist, that is, books that were published years ago, and are no longer promoted by publishers. “We still love and value the work,” Waxman notes of titles that stop receiving buzz shortly after they’re considered new releases. “It’s nice to add another dimension to our relationship with the authors we love. We want to be that place where authors can connect with their readers.”
Boosts in sales of backlist titles have helped Word Association raise over $1000 in donations. Authors have continued reaching out to Word, to be featured in the weekly Word Association lists, which Waxman hopes will continue serving the community for the foreseeable future.