Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.
I have a new way of looking at things that go wrong. I’m looking at them now as “course corrections.”
These can be simple things like the behavior of a server at a favorite family restaurant might be taken as a sign not to return-ever. Or some underhanded dealings that are very minor may end a business relationship and keep me from getting into further debt through deepening the partnership. Or BankAmerica’s screw-up with billing me for a credit card I never signed up for, didn’t want or need, had tried to get them to cancel three times, and their unwillingness to wipe out a finance charge might just mean it’s time I pay off that car loan with them, sell off their stock, and sever all future efforts with them. So there. Thanks for the putting me on the right course.
I spent about 5 absolutely furious minutes today that ended up being a course correction. I’m calm about it now, even though I was livid for a few minutes.
I make it as easy as possible for customers to order our books at Spilled Candy. I give price breaks wherever possible. Because of the spiritual nature of the work, I haven’t always run it in the best fashion to maximize my profits. Yes, I’ve run it as a non-profit. That’s been a conscious decision. If I were selling erotica instead of spirituality-related teachings, I’d never give such price breaks. As it is, I still give a very nice break but every order now pays for itself instead of cutting into my hide.
It took a couple of bad bruises last January to change
my mind about offering cut-rate prices. I was willing to go sooooo much further when people appreciated my efforts, but then maybe I needed to see that they weren’t appreciated to jolt me out of my philanthropic mindset. You know the one: the one that says that spiritual pursuits aren’t about the money, and therefore, shouldn’t make a profit. All my profits went right back into getting more spiritual books out there and available. But selling a particular book at cost to give it a boost not only wasn’t appreciated by the author, but I got whacked metaphorically between the eyes. It hurt badly at the time, but ended up being good. I needed to see that not only was I not being paid for my efforts, but sometimes they were costing me money.
I got another one of those today. A whack between the eyes.
If a bookstore wants to order our books, they’re available through Ingram, BT, and many through New Leaf. Or they can order direct from us, usually at a 40% discount, depending on how and what they’re ordering. When the RavenHart Circle grant was in effect, some bookstores ignored the caveat and demanded a 40% discount on top of the 50-70% discount-just incredible!- when we were already giving them a better-than-40% discount.
But today when the phone rang, I knew empathically that it was a disgruntled bookstore. Which confused me, because we’d just gotten some nice checks the day before from some stores in Pennsylvania, but I’d forgotten about this one, perhaps because they’d had the books for several months and my mind was on more recent bills.
Empathically, I picked up the woman’s emotions from the phone call and they were all about money and the lack of it-and she quickly tried to pass those along to me, but without being forthcoming. I would have worked with her so readily, but getting blasted cured me of that.
She’d ordered a substantial number of books-our bestsellers, too-and asked to be billed for them. Past history with her had been good. But today, she claimed she never ordered them, merely asked what the price would be, and we’d sent her the books unsolicited and then had the nerve to bill her at retail or some huge price, and she was sending them back.
Okay. Fine. I don’t get paid, but I get the books back to sell later-hopefully not so damaged that it’ll be impossible, but time will tell. But all it takes is 30 seconds to look up her email order and related correspondence where she gave us the order and we confirmed it to her.
To add insult to my injury, I’d given her an unadvertised break on the 40%-off price because she’d ordered so much, and charged only actual shipping costs. Of course, being empathic, I know that it’s not about our agreement or the price breaks or anything else she said on the phone-it’s about her bookstore’s financial condition and she can barely pay the utility bill, let alone her suppliers. It’s a situation a lot of metaphysical bookstores endure or lose out to, but it trickles UP the chain to the suppliers who don’t get paid either.
Once I shed the bookseller’s barrage of ugly feelings, I recognized this as a course correction and a lesson or two.
• Shannon, as my summer assistant, got a chance to see how business really is, that people don’t always pay, that some people can’t pay, that people will lie and steal, that people won’t take responsibility for their actions, and that the ethics I’ve taught her aren’t always what she’s going to encounter in the world. This is an especially hard lesson for her be- cause in business, if not socially, she’s seeing otherwise respected and so-called spiritual individuals who never pay their bills. This is true for “fine, up- standing Christians” and renowned pagan leaders, both of which we’ve dealt with behind the scenes.
• Shannon suggested we create a banned list. Too late. I’d already decided to. We’ve had a list in the past of bookstores, reviewers, and other businesses we don’t deal with anymore for reasons like this. So we’ll make our list official, though we’ll keep it private and not notify anyone on it until they come around next time wanting books for a booksigning or flyers or whatever. I’m not sure what to tell the authors who want to do signings and workshops for these stores, but I’ve already had a couple where the authors have to bring their own books because I’ve been stiffed by the book- store and won’t let them bite me again. And that includes the store that sucked up to the author and all the employees bought her book and had her sign the books to them with personal notes…then the store returned them to me (personalized and signed!) for full credit once she left the store.
• All bookstore orders will be paid before we ship.
Even if they ship back the books, the extra wear in transit can render them less-than-retail worthy. And then there’s the time and the extra costs to us…. Meanwhile, in talking to other small presses, we’ve noticed the trend. Way too many delinquent accounts with bookstores.
• No more credit for bookstores. I’m encouraging bookstores to order more through our distributors and wholesalers if they want to order on credit. They’re less likely to abuse the relationship when they know they can’t get any publisher’s books from the distributor until they bring their account current.
• No more extra price breaks or special deals just because we like to give people a pleasant surprise. We’ve learned this one already at metaphysical festivals where we’ve slashed the prices to support a poorer audience and then been expected to bar- gain to an even lower price and to donate 10% of festival income to an organizational charity—and pay $100-$300 for a table to sell our wares at.
• In the future, other than obligations we’ve already made and sequels to current books in our catalog, we’ll take on only books that will hold their own. No matter how much we love the work. Business decision. We hate to be like every other publisher, but the market is tough these days.
• And a reminder that it is a business and a self- supporting one, and that if it can’t be, then it’s no longer meant to be. We do plenty of charity work, but it can’t be 100% charity. For as many freebies and specials as we offer, we can expect to be paid for our efforts for the rest of it.
This little course correction today cost me, but in the long run, these course corrections will make the business more profitable, even if some books aren’t available in particular stores or on their websites.
It’s time to move forward and spiral into our next stage of life.