Stuck in the Trenches

I was checking twitter earlier, and saw something @BrianReed said:

“If B&N didn’t have lousy customer service, & if Nook weren’t a train wreck, AND if it wasn’t $50 more than Kindle, they might have a shot.”

He’s clearly referring to the announcement that Marvel would be supplying exclusive digital content to the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and Nook Color.  That, of course, is a counter-offensive in response to DC offering exclusive content to the Kindle Fire.

And as a writer and a book lover, Brian Reed’s comment just pisses me off.

First of all, I should clarify that I don’t like exclusives like the ones described above.  By allying with Amazon, DC cut off it’s digital reach to other devices.  By allying with B&N, Marvel has done the same.  Exclusives, from a creative standpoint, diminish the potential size of the audience.  Exclusives encourage those who don’t have the funds to purchase the specific device (Nook or Kindle) to pirate the content; sometimes this encourages people who can afford the device to pirate as well.

As a writer, I don’t want the reach of my writing to be cut off.  That’s why Kerlak Publishing has made Dreams of Steam II: Brass and Bolts available for multiple devices.  Some people like Kindles, some like Nooks, some like PanDigital.  Some people just want a copy of the book, a physical copy.  As a writer, I want you to be comfortable purchasing my work.  I want you to get my work as easily as possible.  Thankfully, I’ve worked with a publisher who shares this philosophy.

In a few months, I hope to release Vitamin F as an ebook.  Will I put it on the Nook because I am familiar with PubIt?  Yes.  Will I go out of my way to put it on Kindle as well?  Yes.  My hope is that I can get some attention and, at some point, get it and my other works published physically as well.

Now, the bigger part of my frustration: Wood’s attack on retail employees.

Listen, the employees don’t set corporate policy.  The employees don’t get to decide who gets to have what exclusive.  I can tell you for a fact that the employees at my local Barnes & Noble were upset that they had to remove DC product from their shelves.  The employees might have to ask you a ton of questions at the cash register, but that’s not their choice.  Someone else made that choice, someone else said what the employees had to do in order to keep their jobs.

You have every right to not like the customer service of a store, but if you don’t tell someone, they don’t realize it’s bad.  If you think the customer service is bad, tell somebody.  If you think the customer service is good–tell somebody!

My good friend Jonathan is a bookseller.  While I was at Dragon*Con, he was working a Barnes & Noble customer service desk.  While I was out having fun, he was talking to steampunk fans putting Dreams of Steam II in their hands.  You, Brian Reed, say he gives “lousy customer service.”  I say he’s promoted my work, trying to sell someone a book that he actually thinks they will like.

How many times have booksellers promoted Patrick Rothfuss?  Rothfuss made his name on booksellers hand selling The Name of the Wind.  Yes, he wrote a good book, but the booksellers, from independent bookstores, to Barnes & Noble, to Borders, to Books-A-Million, they promoted it.  Without booksellers, Rothfuss would be a little-known fantasy writer, not a New York Times Bestselling author.

How many people have, in the course of their work, told a colleague or a customer about something they read or saw on TV or a movie they watched?  How many times have you been told by a friend about a good place to eat or a wonderful clothing store?

I’m just starting out as a writer.  I’ve only had one story published, but I plan to do more.  I know I’ll need the people in the trenches making meager wages, dealing with difficult customers.  I’ll need them to see my work and tell people if it’s good or not.

I don’t pretend to think I’m a saint.  Everyone gets mad and everyone has their preferences.  Brian Reed is entitled to proclaim Barnes & Noble gives lousy customer service, just as I am entitled to disagree.  I would hope, since he is a writer as well, that he needs booksellers to hand sell his work, just like all writers do.

In short, I feel I must thank all booksellers from all stores, all readers who discuss writing, anyone who decided to tell someone else about my work.  Thank You, from the fullness of my heart.  Thank you for all your work, stuck in the trenches, living most of the time in a void of appreciation.  Thank you because, despite what some people may think, I know you’re trying your best.


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