iOS app Android app

Andrew Shaffer
Andrew Shaffer is the founder and creative director of Order of St. Nick, the greeting card company whose irreverent cards have been featured on a variety of popular media outlets including The Colbert Report and NPR.

His books include Fifty Shames of Earl Grey (under the pen name Fanny Merkin), Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, and Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors.

You can visit his official website at

Entries by Andrew Shaffer

Waving the White Flag in the War on Christmas

(1) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 5:54 PM

"Merry Christmas or happy holidays? Which strategy should retailers use to cash in? Here for a fair and balanced debate is Andrew Shaffer, owner of the Order of St. Nick [greeting card company]," FOX & Friends host Steve Doocy explained.

It was December 2008. The clock read 6:24 AM at the FOX News studios in New York. An early hour by anyone's watch, but it was 5:24 in Des Moines, where I was live via satellite to defend my "atheist Christmas cards" (think Charles Darwin in a Santa hat).

My fiancée had grilled me late into the previous night with questions we expected a FOX News host would ask a heretic, such as, "Where are your horns?" and "Why do you hate America?" It had taken a hotel wake-up call, two cell phone alarms, a Red Bull, and a gas station coffee just to pry my eyes halfway open.

Greg Stielstra, a Christian marketing expert, joined the conversation from the FOX & Friends set. Greg's position was that, by using "happy holidays" in advertising and store displays instead of "Merry Christmas," retailers risk alienating a majority of their customers.

This wasn't semantics; this was war.

GREG: Businesses play a numbers game. They carry the most popular products. They open their stores in the busiest intersections. If 96% of the population is celebrating Christmas, and 77% consider themselves Christians, why wouldn't you speak to Christmas as a retailer?

STEVE: All right. Andrew, what do you make of that argument?

ME: I actually agree with that. I think that if you're trying to reach the widest possible audience, that's a great strategy.

The atheist--I'm actually agnostic, if you want to get technical--and the Christian, finding common ground? The debate was over before it had even begun. I'd waved the white flag.

While "happy holidays" is meant to be inclusive, is there a need for it? As evidenced by Greg's own statistics, Christmas is already a secular holiday for many. Richard Dawkins, the world's most famous atheist, exchanges gifts with his family and loves singing traditional Christmas carols. "I am perfectly happy on Christmas day to say Merry Christmas to everybody," he told Radio Four's Today program.

Celebrating Christmas without subscribing to Christianity is like watching the Super Bowl without watching a regular season game. Some people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials; others watch it for the halftime show. NFL fans might turn their noses up at the party-crashers, but there are some spectacles so awesome you can't help but be drawn in by them. Christmas sits like a black hole on the calendar. Just try scheduling a meeting at work the month of December.

Maybe I'm just a bad heathen. Perhaps I should take offense at nativity scenes on city property; perhaps I should roll my eyes every time someone says that "Jesus is the reason for the season." But I'm an agnostic, not a vampire. I've never burst into flames at the sight of a cross in a school Christmas pageant.

While I may have waved the white flag, the War on Christmas isn't over. I may not be offended by Christmas, but I can see why others are. Christmas is aggressively pervasive. I can sympathize with those who feel alienated or marginalized by the holiday.

Still, I can't help but feel Bill O'Reilly's pain when the War on Christmas claims another victim. Whether it's a city council rebranding the town's Christmas tree as a "friendship tree" or a school administrator banning red and green decorations, I think the same thing: Can't we just back off? Baby Jesus has been through enough already.

Besides, as Prince Adam says in He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special, "Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but the spirit of the Christmas season is within us all. It's a season of love and joy and caring."

Adapted from "Frontline In the War on Christmas," an essay in my free collection of stories and essays, The Shelf on the Elf: Holiday...

Read Post

Five Stars for Five Dollars: Buying Reviews, Reviewed

(2) Comments | Posted September 30, 2013 | 11:22 AM

"For $5, I'll leave a five-star review of your Kindle ebook, purchase it (up to .99), 'like' it, and vote down negative reviews!" -- listing


Sounds great, I thought. What could it hurt? Everybody's doing it, apparently. That's how at least...

Read Post

The Book That Disappeared

(5) Comments | Posted May 22, 2013 | 5:31 PM

"People write for different reasons and, from the very beginning, I've told y'all that I write for you, that it's more than just a paycheck. Well, I'm about to prove that what I've said is true." - Michelle "M." Leighton, in a blog post titled "The Final Tale...

Read Post

Silence of the Poets: Writers and Antidepressants

(16) Comments | Posted March 28, 2013 | 5:29 PM

"Had Prozac been available last century, Baudelaire's 'spleen,' Edgar Allan Poe's moods, the poetry of Sylvia Plath, the lamentations of so many other poets, everything with a soul would have been silenced," New York Times bestseller Nicholas Nassim Taleb writes in his latest book, Antifragile: Things That Gain...

Read Post

How To Be a Literary Rogue (PHOTOS)

(21) Comments | Posted February 4, 2013 | 6:28 AM

Way before musicians and actors cornered the market on misbehavior, writers were flooding hotel rooms and testing their livers' upper limits. My new book, Literary Rogues, turns back the clock to consider these historical (and, in some cases, living) legends, including Oscar Wilde, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest...

Read Post

The Most Banned Book in U.S. History? Hardly

(35) Comments | Posted November 19, 2012 | 2:46 PM

"Have you seen the new book?" a banner on Tim Ferriss' blog reads. "Banned by 700-plus bookstores nationwide!" His marketing partner, BitTorrent, adds that the book in question, The 4-Hour Chef, is "poised to be the most banned book in U.S. history."

What is so controversial...

Read Post

Publishing's Drug Problem

(29) Comments | Posted August 28, 2012 | 12:45 PM

Last week, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles over doping allegations. Baseball has had its fair share of drug problems, most recently involving the MVP of the All-Star Game Melky Cabrera (who could still win the batting title, which would be a huge black eye for...

Read Post

17 Shades of Parodies, Knockoffs, and Tie-ins

(5) Comments | Posted August 9, 2012 | 1:37 PM

Ever since Fifty Shades of Grey topped the Kindle chart and New York Times bestseller list, dozens of similar-sounding books (ebooks, mostly) have appeared in the Kindle store. Some are intentionally hilarious; some are accidentally hilarious. From Fifty Shames of Earl Grey to Fifty Shades of Louisa May, here's a...

Read Post

Tuesdays With Morrie Author Takes on Fifty Shades

(7) Comments | Posted June 25, 2012 | 9:47 PM

"It's official. I've become a prude." -- Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press

Thus begins Albom's tirade against what he sees as a flood of "racy" novels, movies, and television shows. From Fifty Shades of Grey to Girls to the vibrator comedy Hysteria, female sexuality is taking...

Read Post

PayPal Takes Controversial Stance Against Sex

(332) Comments | Posted February 27, 2012 | 1:46 PM

"Most of the stuff on Smashwords is porn," Jonathan Bloom, whose ebook Hell Is Above Us is available on Smashwords, tweeted recently. "I feel like someone trying to sell a homemade quilt on the street next to a line of high-end hookers."

On Saturday, February 18, PayPal contacted...

Read Post

Johannes Franzen: "Print Books Are Damaging to Society"

(2) Comments | Posted January 31, 2012 | 2:15 PM


"Maybe nobody will care about hand-copied books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book that's been painstakingly transcribed by hand, I'm handling an object that took a scribe six months to a year to copy," Johannes...

Read Post

Are You a Spammer? A PSA for Authors

(17) Comments | Posted April 27, 2011 | 11:36 AM

Late last year, I signed up for a review copy of Draculas, an ebook authored by self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and friends. Hundreds of bloggers and reviewers signed up for review copies. Unfortunately, one of the e-mails sent out from Konrath's crew was CC'd -- and not BCC'd -- to...

Read Post

I Can Has Kafka? "The Meowmorphosis" Reviewed

(9) Comments | Posted March 23, 2011 | 7:03 PM

"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten."

In less capable hands, such a prompt would have resulted in a book that simply replaced the word "insect" with "kitten." But Quirk Books wisely commissioned an extremely...

Read Post

Rehab, Religion and the Resurrection of Filter's Richard Patrick

(2) Comments | Posted February 28, 2011 | 11:39 PM

When I tell friends that I'm going to see Filter, there are two questions that come up: 1) When did they get back together?; and 2) Isn't their singer the Terminator's brother?

The answers are: 1) Although vocalist Richard Patrick formed Army of Anyone with ex-Stone Temple Pilots members...

Read Post

'New Rules For Writers': Reject Them

(74) Comments | Posted January 17, 2011 | 11:50 AM

There's a virus going around the Internet right now that threatens to change the way you look at the world. It seems to be infecting unpublished and "under-published" (unsuccessful) writers at an alarming rate.

Once you're infected, everyone you come into contact with becomes an "arrogant gatekeeper" standing between you,...

Read Post

The 13 Most Obnoxious Publishing Stories of 2010 (SLIDESHOW)

(42) Comments | Posted December 13, 2010 | 2:50 PM

I asked literary Twitterers to use the hashtag #WhyIDrink to raise a glass to the publishing stories that drove them up the wall in 2010. From Snooki's book deal to "write" a novel to James Frey's fiction "factory," here are the controversial stories that generated the most votes. Tell us...

Read Post

Not All Steve Martin Events Suck

(1) Comments | Posted December 6, 2010 | 5:17 PM

Six days before the Steve Martin debacle at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, the comedian gave a delightful reading from his new novel, An Object of Beauty, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble.

"Mr. Martin is here tonight as an author," Barnes & Noble events...

Read Post

Keeping the Oktoberfest Spirit Alive Year-Round

(2) Comments | Posted December 1, 2010 | 4:20 PM

While fond memories of Oktoberfest brats and beers may seem like a lifetime ago now that colder weather is here, that doesn't mean the party ends when the beer gardens close.

"We feature 50 great beer gardens around the city in our app, and all but two of those venues...

Read Post

Critically Acclaimed Authors Franzen and Ross on "Bad Sex in Fiction" Shortlist

(12) Comments | Posted November 26, 2010 | 12:48 PM

When writing sex scenes, there's often a fine line between lust and laughter. The Bad Sex in Fiction Award, presented annually by the British magazine Literary Review, highlights the "best of the worst" sex scenes published in literary fiction.

The judges hope "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless,...

Read Post

Totalitarianism, Enlightenment Philosophy and Werewolves with Andrea Cremer

(2) Comments | Posted November 13, 2010 | 3:52 PM

I have a confession: I'm 32 years old and I read a young adult novel about werewolves.

I'm not afraid to admit this, because Andrea Cremer writes with an accomplished and intelligent voice that won't give adult readers headaches. Cremer's Nightshade is a smart blend of romance, action, philosophy,...

Read Post