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Y is for Your Customers

December 11, 2012

It’s hard to think of writing as a customer-service job, but it really is. The people who read what you write are your customers. In some cases, they actually spend money to buy and read what you’ve written down. Since it hasn’t actually happened to me yet, I don’t know how I’ll feel when it does happen.

I would imagine I’d be gratified. How could would it be for someone to spend their money that they worked hard for on my words?

Most writers get this. I once went to a Robert B. Parker book signing and watched as a fan brought more then 20 books for Mr. Parker to sign. Mr. Parker was, of course, nothing less than professional about the whole thing. Even if the majority of the books were paperbacks, that’s still more than $150 this guy spent to read his words.

In my experience, most writers get this in a big way. Almost everyone I’ve dealt with in the industry has been nothing sort of amazingly generous. And the people who haven’t have been professional and appropriate. So customer service isn’t the issue.

According to this guest post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog (recommended reading if you don’t know about it), customer focus might be the problem. For all his warts, JA Konrath has it exactly right. Readers are our customers, not writers. And while we spend a lot of time getting smart about the industry–the Big Six, err, Five; which agents are hot; and what the hot genre is right now, readers don’t care.

The points in the blog are reasonable. The members of the Florida Writers Association are writers and though they may also be readers, they aren’t necessarily indicative of writers in general.

So while the best platform is the best book you can write and your critique group is, with luck, a great group of people, they aren’t the people who will, with luck, buy your book.

It’s not to say all that stuff is any less than necessary. It’s just not your ultimate audience. (And in the world of self-publishing and shrinking marketing budgets, keeping your eye on the customer is vital.)

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