This Five Minute Interaction Made Me Love Small Presses Even More
Growing up, my favorite day of school was always the day the Scholastic Book Fair came to town. There aren't as many opportunities like that for adults (since we can go to the bookstore whenever we want), so imagine my delight when a new festival in my city was announced and I heard it featured an indie book fair.
The Flyover Fest was two weekends ago and among some fantastic musical acts, films, and panel discussions, there was a big book fair featuring small press publishers and local booksellers. I love small presses and there were still so many there I hadn't heard of. Fem Rag Lit Mag, The Dorothy Project, and Two Dollar Radio were some of my favorites.
But there was one that particularly impressed me. Coach House Books is a publisher out of Canada; one I'd never heard of before the book fair. I was especially drawn to one of their books, The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier, which was described as "a moving homage to books and to those who write them." Doesn't that sound like something I'd love?
There was just one problem. My card was declined when I tried to pay.
It'd been working fine all day when I was buying other books and I knew I had the funds, so I'm assuming my card was declined because they're Canadian and my bank thought it was fraud or something.
It wasn't a huge deal. I could've just got on their website and bought it there, though I'd have to pay shipping too. But that isn't what happened.
To my surprise, they insisted I take the book and said they'd send me a PayPal invoice later. I asked them if they were sure about that since that's not typically how retail interactions work. I've never heard of any store letting you take home merchandise before paying. But they said it was fine and they didn't mind at all.
Sure, it's possible I could've not paid it and got the book for free, so I was amazingly impressed that they were willing to take the risk and trust me. (I paid them, obviously, because I'm not an asshole.) But the fact that they trusted me when they had no reason to do so beyond the sheer kindness of their hearts made me even more excited about the book and the other books they're publishing. If my card had been declined at Barnes & Noble or on Simon & Schuster's website, they'd tell me I was shit out of luck. They would've never insisted I take the book and invoice me for it later.
In an alternate universe, Coach House didn't let me take the book and I completely forgot about them by the time I got home, probably never to read one of their books. But since that's not what happened, they're solidified in my memory and I'm definitely going to be recommending their books to friends.
Because, when it comes right down to it, I want to support businesses with heart. There are thousands of publishers in the US alone, not to speak of all the ones abroad and all the self-published books out there. If you want to find good books, you don't have to look far. But if I have the choice between a good book from a kind small press or a good book from a giant Big 5 publisher that gives neo-Nazis book deals just to make a buck (I'm looking at you, Simon & Schuster, and I'm still pissed), I'm going to pick the small press every day of the week. As Maya Angelou says, "when you know better, you do better." And I'd rather not have my dollars supporting assholery.
Long story short, the folks at Coach House Books are good people and they have great books. Support them.