Course Corrections

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.”

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

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.