Why You Should Get to Know Your Local Booksellers
[image description: a long row of bookshelves along a dimly lit hallway]
You always hear people saying to support indie bookstores (and you should!) but what about the booksellers?
Of course, supporting indie bookstores means supporting indie booksellers, but I’m talking about in a more direct way. I’ve recently had some lovely interactions with booksellers that have really showed me the value of getting to know your local booksellers.
First up, Bookspace Columbus.
I posted an interview with Charlie awhile back, so you may remember him. One of the things I appreciate most about Charlie is that he knows TONS of small presses. Whatever obscure niche or thing you want to learn, I bet Charlie knows a book or press that focuses on that very thing.
He’s also good at keeping up with the scandals and drama that happens in the world of small publishing (of which there is a lot, unfortunately) that can sometimes fly under the radar given the small size of the press in comparison to the Big 5. A few weeks ago I posted about a book by a small press indie publisher (message me and I’ll tell you who it is since I don’t want to out Charlie on the internet in case these assholes come for him) and Charlie let me know about the problematic behaviors of this publisher.
I had no idea and wouldn’t have posted about the book had I known. I immediately deleted the post and have committed to not supporting this press. I might not have ever found out about the problematic publisher if Charlie hadn’t felt comfortable telling me and hadn’t felt certain, knowing me, that I wouldn’t want to promote such a person.
I try to be mindful about the books and publishers I share on this blog and social media and strive not to encourage support for people and presses once problematic behaviors have emerged. However, I’m one person and can’t keep up with everything, so I’m thankful to people like Charlie who keep me in the loop so that I can better serve the Off the Beaten Shelf community. I know you don’t want to read books written or published by assholes either!
Another bonus to being friends with Charlie is he knows my taste. The last time I saw him I said, “This is probably a stretch, but do you have anything on art heists?” And I’ll be damned, he did.
Next, Gramercy Books Bexley.
So here’s the thing. I love supporting indie bookstores and I love buying online, but you’d be surprised how many indie bookstores don’t offer online shopping, even in 2019. I refuse to buy books on Amazon, so I normally end up defaulting to Powell’s. But while I adore Powell’s, they’re in Portland and I’m in Columbus. I’d rather support a local indie.
That’s where Gramercy Books comes in. They’re in Bexley, a neighboring city to Columbus, and about a 20 minute drive for me. While I’ve certainly driven farther for books (have you seen my literary tourism series?), sometimes I just want the ease and convenience of online shopping––especially if I already know what I want. I love just browsing bookstores and seeing what calls to me, but sometimes I’m having a hella busy week and just want the book I want delivered to my doorstep, even if the shop is a short drive away.
I’ve ordered online from them several times, but I never expected them to know who I was. So imagine my surprise when I went to an author event last week and one of the booksellers exclaimed, “YOU’re Mandy!” I mean, I knew I’d ordered a lot of books, but I didn’t realize it was enough to be memorable. Ha!
Then that bookseller introduced me to two others, one of whom said, “Your last order filled a whole shelf in our cabinet!” Then the other told me that because one of the books I ordered kept having the publication date pushed back my name was on their list of outstanding orders for so long it became a running joke. (The book finally came this past week––it’s Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country & Other Stories by Chavisa Woods.)
Hearing all this made me laugh and totally made my day.
Last but not least, Two Dollar Radio.
Two Dollar Radio has been a longtime friend to me and Off the Beaten Shelf. They were the first bookish folks I met when I moved to Columbus and I’m thrilled to share a city with them. It makes me endlessly happy that when I go to their bookstore (which I don’t visit as much as I’d like because it’s also a 20 minute drive for me… maybe I should get out more) they seem genuinely happy to see me and always ask about my life.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference. It doesn’t take much to make someone feel special and they consistently do it (even though I’m consistently awkward and probably blush a lot).
And because Two Dollar Radio are publishers and booksellers, I love getting the scoop about new releases.
Booksellers are the best people and they consistently prove that to me. I hope this post will inspire you to get to know your local booksellers too!