It’s the season. It was kicked off by the usual horror stories of shopping violence on Black Friday, appropriately so named. It’s a dark patch of ugliness on the calendar.
But a lot of folks stayed home and refused to be a part of it. Good for you if you’re one of them. I have a further suggestion. This year, shop where your money will truly be appreciated, and where you are not just another body in the crush.
Consider the local craft fair. Perhaps there is someone selling wreaths they made themselves. Or socks knitted by a person instead of a machine. Or hand-crafted Christmas ornaments. When you choose something nice and say, “I’ll take this,” you get a grateful smile. You have just given a gift merely by buying the present.
I have a stake in this myself. My book, Archimedes Nesselrode, was published by a small press. No plush advertising budget. No major publicity campaign. Just me, doing the best I can to get it out there. There are lots of others like me, authors who didn’t slide into the marketing expectations of the major publishers and agents, who don’t have the right connections, whose manuscripts didn’t fit their publishing needs at this time (translation: YA, dark dystopias and literary books by foreign authors are hot right now, and you don’t fit the mold). Small presses are where we go when we have a great story, a marvelous book, that doesn’t fit the Big Five agenda. Some of us are even brave enough to self-publish.
The point is, like the artisan at the craft fair, we have wonderful things to sell but must struggle because we haven’t been advertised on prime time and we aren’t available via a Black Friday sale at Walmart.
If you go to the library, don’t just grab the latest best-seller by the author you know. Ask about local authors. Take out books by people you’ve never heard of. It costs you nothing and you may discover something delightful. Then you can impress your friends by sharing this unknown gem with them. But you are also helping someone who depends on people like you for their success.
James Patterson and Stephen King don’t give a damn if you liked their book (“Of course you did” they think), and it makes very little difference if you rave about it to a friend. They’ve already made it and you’re nothing but a tiny fraction of a percentage point to them. Same thing with your unfriendly neighborhood mall store. You are just a tiddling bit more profit. Just another damn customer to their underpaid, overworked (now even on Thanksgiving!) “associates”.
But to the independent bookstore, to the small shop, you are a person whose name they might come to know. Your business keeps them alive. Buying that book by that unknown author, giving it as a gift, recommending it to a friend, asking for it at the library, all this is of huge importance to a writer like me. We are deeply grateful. (By the way, don’t do it just because you want to be nice—do it because you genuinely love the book. And believe me, there are some mind-blowingly awesome books out there waiting to be discovered by a clever person like you.)
This year, shop local. Shop personal. Strike a small blow against dehumanized corporate capitalism, and support businesses and creators in your own community. Support the ones who really need and appreciate that support.
And add a bit more joy to the season.
[In New Hampshire, Archimedes Nesselrode is available at Gibson’s in Concord, River Run in Portsmouth, Water Street Books in Exeter, and will soon be available at Toadstool in Keene, Peterborough and Milford. In Massachusetts, it’s available at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester. If you don’t live in those areas, yes, you can click on the link on this website and buy it that way. But first, go to your own local independent bookstore or library and search for that hidden gem waiting to be discovered. The author, librarian, and the bookstore owner, will thank you. Sincerely.]