Eight years ago, Patrick Darby opened Novel Books, a small independent book shop located in Clarksburg, Maryland. Every summer during these past eight years, Patrick along with his family and staff have brought their small-town bookseller charm an hour east to the Shore Leave convention, which convenes every July in Hunt Valley.
As part of their preparation, Patrick and his team see to it that each of the convention’s author guests is represented by stock from their respective backlists, which he makes available for sale to con attendees looking to get a book signed. This is especially helpful on Friday night when the annual “Meet the Pros” mass autograph signing takes place with all of the author guests. Most years, Patrick and company are able to “debut” at least one new title at the convention, including releases which aren’t due in bookstores for a week or more. I’ve benefited from this little bit of publicity myself, with both my Vulcan and Klingon travel guides along with Summon the Thunder, the Star Trek Vanguard novel I wrote with Kevin, premiering at the con. The Novel Books gang is just as much a part of Shore Leave as any long-time attendee. For them not to be there would be disappointing, to say the least.
But, that’s exactly what’s in danger of happening, and that’s just a small part of a much larger concern.
Most people know running an indie book shop in this day and age is a hard road to travel. The hours are long, the profit margins are slim, and the behemoth that shall not be named here looms over your shoulder every minute of every day. It doesn’t take much to send things off track, and in the case of Novel Books several things happened which now threaten to take the train right off the tracks. They’re in something of a financial bind and could use some help. From the GoFundMe page they’ve established:
Novel Books opened 8 years ago in Clarksburg, MD. The store was growing each year, until last year, when very large, unexpected costs put the business in jeopardy. The losses are hard to recover, and the store is on the verge of closing.
Patrick, the owner, is a dedicated bookseller, who wants to provide a space, and selection, for the families of the Clarksburg area to enjoy books, events, and classes. Novel Books currently offers Story Time for toddlers, space for local books clubs, and gaming tables for chess clubs and Magic: the Gathering card tournaments. New programs include multi-week courses on music for toddlers and using Legos to teach science and engineering. A goal is to bring authors to the store for signings and new release events.
Patrick has been a successful advocate for infrastructure in the historic district. He hosted a nine-month-long candidate forum for the recent midterm elections. Novel Books has been a champion for small businesses in the shop local movement.
Patrick uses an RV for multi-day off-site events. The vehicle left him stranded in Tennessee last year for over a month, with a major engine overhaul. It is also intended to be used for pop up sales at local events, and communities.
The other, more personal, problem from last year is medical expenses for an undiagnosed problem with Patrick’s right arm. It’s progressively harder for him to use his hand to carry things, and do daily activities. He has no insurance.
The requested funds would go to catching up with debt for rent, and vendors. It would be applied to medical expenses and further tests. And finally, to make additional repairs to the RV. If the goal is exceeded, Patrick would like to hire someone to help plan more events and programs at the store, especially if his condition worsens.
Novel Books can grow again, just like the book industry has been doing over the last five years, but is asking for your help to be strong again.
Thank you for your support.
It’s an uphill climb, to say the least, but the farther their signal can be boosted, maybe the more help they’ll receive. So, I’m hoping my fellow Shore Leave peeps of every stripe will help attract attention to the cause so Patrick and the Novel Books family can get the help they need, and the store can stay open and continue to play a valuable role in its community…and return to the con each year. So, if you’re a lover of indie booksellers, authors, and conventions like Shore Leave where such folks tend to gather, please check out the Novel Books GoFundMe page, consider supporting their effort, and sharing their info:
Thanks for reading!