Thursday, September 4, 2014

Authors Behaving Badly--Customer Service

So, right on the heels of yesterday's gushing post about how my readers, not I, are the ones who will build my success as an author, I read about another author who did pretty much the opposite.  Hence: Authors Behaving Badly, Episode 1.

Customer Service.

But first: holy crap, you're saying--I blogged two days in a row!  I know, I slacked off this summer.  Stuff happened, and so forth, and if you look at the history of my blog this isn't the first time.  I apologize, but sometimes the batteries need recharging.

Oh, and second: hey, I got a cool new badge for winning yesterday.  Check it out!

Pretty, ain't it?

Now, back to the topic.  In one of my Facebook groups, somebody commented about somebody else posting the following to their social media presence:

I am not your personal customer service hotline. Do not ask me the order of my series or when the book is coming out in your particular country or how to make your fucking Kindle turn on. Google it. It will take you less time and turn up a much more reliable answer.

Holy crap, I'm horrified on behalf of well-behaved authors everywhere.

You know, part of the problem is that many successful businesses actually train people in how to work with the general public before they expect them to do so.  Usually they even hire people with specific qualifications, backgrounds, and non-pissy personalities. But not authors.  Many authors are just great with the public, but that's in spite of quantity of training, not because of it.  It's not like "interacting with others" is on the list of "Top 10 reasons to become a writer," after all.  Writing consists of an awful lot of hours doing the exact opposite, actually--I've had plenty of times sitting here at the keyboard wishing I could be somewhere all by myself.  It's not that I don't enjoy the company of those around me; no, it's because when I'm in creative mode, I need my brain in a vacuum.

So yes, I get the desire to not be bugged.  I also get the frustration you feel when you're answering the same question over and over.  Trust me, I've spent over eight years as a dean.  You can only ask students what the syllabus actually says regarding grading policy so many times before you start imagining far more creative ways of phrasing the question.  You can only tell instructors that yes, you know the copier is down so many times before your brain comes up with crude suggestions for fixing it that your IT background knows wouldn't help at all. 

But I don't say it.

See, there's this thing about customers.  Most of the time when we hear the word we think of people standing in line to check out at the register of a department store, but the word isn't limited to that.  As a dean it never escapes my attention that the students are my customers.  Their tuition, after all, pays my salary.  At the same time, the faculty are my customers--yes, they're my subordinates, too, but in doing my job effectively I serve them as much as the other way around. 

As an author, you, the gentle reader, are my customers.

I know that relationship might get clouded in a traditionally published situation in which the author might start thinking that readers are the publishing company's customers, and that the publishing company is the author's customers, but--well, just no.  Readers are customers. 

Readers are customers.

One more time: readers are customers.

If a reader wants to take the time to ask me what order my series goes in, trust me, I'll be overjoyed to answer.  Yes, I might--hell, I have--engaged my internal engine of snarkiness and think things like "that's what the big circled numeral one on the cover means, sweetheart," but I'll never say it.  Instead, I smile and feel happy that somebody meaningfully engaged the work of art I'd put out. 

Not sure how to turn your Kindle on?  I'd be happy to tell you where the button is, but more than that is probably beyond my skill set.  Still, I can run a Google search, too, and forward you a meaningful result. 

Now, please, I'm not asking for anybody to bombard me with silly questions just for the purpose of asking silly questions.  You probably already knew that, didn't you?  I am, however, asking that you give me the questions you have, especially about characters in my books.  That, I really am the expert on. 

Trust me, I won't just tell you to Google it.  Because when it comes to my work, I really am your personal customer service hotline.

Thank you!


1 comment:

  1. I spent many years moderating a forum for professional bodyworkers. They were educated people, lovely people, actually, but sometimes, they could be clueless. I still loved them, of course, and being their de-facto shepherd, I created an FAQ and put it up on my web space for them to use whenever one of those "frequently asked questions" came up! What a time saver for me, and how well it defused my frustrations to paste that URL in a response instead of getting bitey on someone. I grok the eye rolling, I do. But nobody likes that, and it isn't helpful. Bless those folks who just go a few extra steps for their fans/customers/members. Loyalty is an important factor in success.