A small publisher recently posted the following message on one of the publishing discussion groups where I am a member.

“I have just received this return request from a customer. ‘I bought 3 books at your sale in Texas in 1999. Do you buy back books? We didn’t really use them. Thank you, J.’”

No, you did not read that date wrong. It says 1999. Yes, this small publisher received this message this summer, in 2011. That’s 12 years after the books were purchased.

First, I congratulate this small publisher for lasting 12 years in the publishing business. Obviously, they are doing something right, and I am sure that includes good customer service. However, asking a publisher to purchase back books 12 years after you bought them is ridiculous. No one truly expects this publisher to buy these books back.

I believe this little example illustrates just one of the many interesting, weird, and sometimes crazy things that will come your way as an author or publisher. Just be prepared.

I got a strange request just the other day. Someone sent an email to Christian Small Publishers Association with one line: “How do I publish cards?” That was all, no salutation, no closing signature or contact information (other than the email it came from).

The old saying, “It never hurts to ask,” is true. However, sometimes the answer depends on how you ask and other times, the answer will not change regardless of how the question is asked.

As for good customer service, I believe that we need to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” meaning that we should treat our customers with respect, even those that ask the strange or impossible. However, we are under no obligation to comply with every request we get.

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