When an author visits bookstores around the country to promote his online-
only novel, he discovers a community of readers who buy their books locally. These
readers make their case for local bookshops in the short documentary film: "The Bookstour."
100% of your money goes to the Book
Industry Charitable Foundation
All proceeds from the film go straight to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, also known as Binc. Binc is the safety net of America's booksellers and is devoted to keeping local bookstores on Main Street.
"Mason has been an incredible advocate for the Binc Foundation. He understands the role books, bookstores, and booksellers play in our communities. I applaud his passion for making films to highlight the essential need for our industry."
- Kathy Bartson, Development Director, Binc
From Left: Kit Mundus-Steinway, Programs Manager; Kathy Bartson, Development Director; Pam French, Executive Director.
About the documentary
Public TV + National Book Festivals
In addition to playing on 150+ public television stations around the country, "The Bookstour" has been screened at some of the nation's largest book festival, including:
Brooklyn Book Festival
Portland Book Festival
Louisiana Book Festival
Newburyport Literary Festival
Brattleboro Literary Festival
Miami Book Fair
The premiere of "The Bookstour" was covered in Ron Charles's famous Book Club Newsletter for the Washington Post. And that was just the start. The film also received attention in the following notable publications.
Independent We Stand Blog
City Lights with Lois Reitzes
and 20+ regional outlets around the country
You can check out the full list here.
Documentary Trip #1 (2019)
In 2019 I took a road trip from Indiana to California and back,
visiting 50 indie bookstores in 50 days to promote my self-published novel.
A lean operation
I saved money by staying with friends, camping out in Wal-Mart parking lots, and getting sponsorships for the books I gave away. For $5, supporters could sponsor the delivery of my self-published novel to the store of their choice.
The whole purpose of this 50-day trip was self-promotion. Only after getting back home did I realize how insensitive that was. I'd visited bookstore after bookstore, asking each one to promote a novel that was available only through their direct competitor: Amazon. And yet, all the booksellers I talked to were exceedingly kind. This, I decided, was an industry I wanted to learn more about. It was time for a second trip, but this one wouldn't be about me. It would be about the indies.
Documentary Trip #2 - 2020
In 2020 my cameraman, Brayden, and I interviewed 30+ booksellers around the East Coast. The result is a 25-minute documentary.
Challenged by the pandemic
It was March of 2020, and we were all set to take the trip: me, two camera operators, and 30 days around the East Coast. Then came Covid. At first I thought it would be the death of the project. Then I realized that indie bookstores would need support now more than ever. So I found Brayden, my new camera guy--the other two ops had fallen through--and pared down the trip to 17 days. It was going to be a logistical nightmare, but we would make it happen.
The big question
I didn't have much of a plan when we first started the trip. I had the logistics taken care of--filming times, accommodations, etc.--but the narrative of the film wasn't yet clear to me. All I knew was that I wanted to answer one big question: Why should people shop at an indie bookstore?
I began investigating my big question with the in-store experience. The first five bookseller interviews gave a clear picture of the in-person value proposition: browsing, professional curation, human interaction ... the whole experience. But that made me wonder if everyone wanted that experience. What about our young folk, who seem more interested in posting dance videos on Tik Tok than talking to people in real life? That question prompted a new topic for my next set of bookseller interviews: children's programming, and why the physical locations of indies are more conducive to fostering a love of reading than the internet is. And so went my investigation, one set of interviews leading to new questions for the next set, constantly moving me closer to an answer to that big one: Why should people shop at an indie bookstore?
The big answer
There are plenty of reasons to shop indie. The in-store experience, book clubs, author events, community involvement, economic contribution--the list goes on. But in all my conversations with booksellers, there was a common thread that I found most powerful of all, the reason to shop indie that no one seems to talk about. I'm excited to share the big answer with you ... in the film :)