jueves, 23 de abril de 2015

The customer is the market

[UPDATE AT BOTTOM]I like going to market. Not "the grocer" or "the mall". Think something similar to Borough Market (London, UK). I was raised going to market, I'm raising my kid... It develops a certain sensibility of the relationship between seller and customer.

My father went from travelling salesman to co-CEO of a mid-sized business during some of the worst crises in Spanish history, current one included. I learned certain ideas of capitalism on his knees.

I've said before that bookselling seems to piss on both, customer relationships and capitalism. It's not the only one.

You see, my market experience and my awareness of small and mid-sized businesses makes me try to buy local, makes me glad every time I find a local business for something I used to call from far away. And yet, I keep doing it less and less.

Why?

Last year, about this time, several hatchet men were joining voices to raise the prices I paid for my books. Some months earlier, several bloggers at a SF imprint’s site were both insulting anything out of their experience and saying "my way or the highway"; my answer to that kind of rhetoric has been predictable since... forever.

This autumn I kept trying to tell several writers that keeping exclusivity on Amazon was not sensible. I was discarded, unimportant, a nuisance of an anecdote. My reaction was about that, yes. So was, probably, the one that scores of readers had after searching those books to no avail.

Some days ago I tried to reach a fountain pen store through email; it's maybe a third of a mile from home. I explained them I'd been a fountain pen user and I wanted to get back on the horse. Their first answer directed me to the website (which I had already told him I'd visited), their reply to my further questioning is yet to arrive...

This Christmas I was searching for some whisky rocks, at an "off-license" shop [*] maybe 200 yards from my own door. It was Christmas, so some delay was understandable. Yet, I insisted after that... and I'm still waiting. Well, no; waiting no more. Haven't bought him a beer since.

A friend had the same happen with knives. He had to buy some Spanish knives, a specific kind of knife and a grinding wheel (Spanish brand) at foreign suppliers. Two burst of shopping, about 400 bucks, for something he spent several days searching around, finding problems everywhere.

But markets dwindle. I was talking with a butcher last week, and when the refurbished market opens, there will be about a fourth of the butchers that were there when he started, about half the number that were five years ago.

Fountain pen users are not getting any younger, but, sure, please do alienate returning customers, much less new ones.

And, guys, don't think for a second this does not apply to writers. The recent Hugo ruckus made drop several writers I'd enjoyed, made me recover one (kudos to Mrs. Kowal). And yet, some writers insist on pampering their publishers, on being gross to some abstract group of readers, not realizing that readers are everywhere, that they don't often match their perception, and that... we can go somewhere else.

And people still wonder if the SF market is diminishing. That of the Big Names? Sure. But small publishers are everywhere, Kris Rusch is publishing a long novel a month... in a specific series, above and beyond her normal, and smaller similar stories are everywhere. Published from a garage, sold through amazon, while the Big Names in publishing and bookshops falter.

Don't put hurdles in your customers' path.

Don't insult your customer.

Is it eally that difficult?

Take care.

[*] It works different, here, but the idea is about that.

UPDATE: Got the pens through amazon-ES and Fontoplumo, a Netherlander site. A place that sells fountain pens a sneeze short of 7000 €, but also in the teen-range, plus inks and notebooks. A place whose caretaker sent me a personal email warning me that Monday is a national holiday for them and the post is going to be delayed. And a slight discount for future orders. I can assure you I didn't buy anything in the high price range. And, yet, I got customer service. Compare.

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