Buying Local isn’t just a way for hipsters to make themselves feel better about their consumeristic behavior patterns. There’s another major benefit of buying local that many people don’t realize.
An Author’s Incomes
As a member of the MNSpec Writer’s Group, I see many fellow authors struggling for months or even years with their stories, laboring to make their novels the very best that they can. Despite what Na-no-wri-mo would have you believe, novels take a long time to write well. Musicians and Filmmakers would agree with Authors that good art takes a lot of time, resources, and a lot of physical, mental and emotional energy.
When you finally finish that sure-to-be-a-bestseller, when you finally see the hard copy on the bookstore shelf or view the listing online, there’s more than just money soon to be coming your way. In fact, there are several different ‘incomes’ that you receive as an author.
There’s the satisfaction of a completed project. Fan mail. Reviews. Stalkers.
Death threats from political/religious factions will start up, but the death threats from your agent and publisher will stop, so that’s a wash.
But one of the incomes that will always bring you a warm fuzzy is the simple action of selling your book to someone.
Signing a book for someone, dedicating it to them specifically and handing it to them directly is a perk of being an author that few people will ever get to enjoy. This is an invisible currency, but every bit as valuable as cash.
I had the opportunity to experience this myself firsthand. Handing out copies of The Blackness Within (a compilation containing my first published short story, Big Game) to my friends and family was a thrill in itself, but there was more:
“Aren’t you going to sign it? You have to sign it!”
They didn’t just want my story. They wanted it signed by the author.
I’ve been on the Please-Sign-This-Book-For-Me side of the street many times before, so I know exactly how that feels. But the feeling that comes from autographing books for other people – part humility, part pride, part hack and part superstar – is a rare blend. Maybe famous authors get used to it, but for unfamous local authors like myself who are still amazed that they actually got their work published, much less that anyone would want to read it…
The sale is nice and all, but the bonus compensation of Gratitude and Praise are part of a writer’s income that makes me feel good about what I’ve done. That it was actually worth the countless late nights, lunches and weekends spent slaving over a hot keyboard when I could have been doing… well, pretty much anything else.
Supporting Your Local Arts and Artists
If you really love books, then check out local authors at readings and book signings. Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis has a continuing series of monthly readings by local Speculative Fiction authors, and you’ll see plenty of regulars from the MNSpec Writer’s Group in attendance.
Sure, you could jump online and buy the book right now. Or you could go to the used bookstore and get it dirt cheap. But think about it. The author gets nothing from your purchase of a second-hand book, and you’ve also denied them the satisfaction of interacting with the people who read their work. You’ve also denied yourself the experience of meeting the person who made the book possible. Learning what the author is like might make you more (or less) excited about buying their books.
When you buy directly from the author, you not only get the book you wanted, but you’re giving back a lot more than just a purchase. You are casting your vote for the kind of art you want to see in your area.
Best of all, you’ll be able to say that you helped out one of your own local authors, and that you actively support your local arts community.