"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Monday, September 16, 2013

Business Math for Creative Professionals (or) How Alienating Your Fan Base Can be Costly!

Let's face it. Creative professionals have a reputation for not being the most business oriented.
Take for instance, Iyanla Vanzant, who went from being an award-winning author and talk show host to living in poverty. In an interview, she confessed that she was a "millionaire with a welfare mentality." Talented and brilliant, she simply made some bad investments, in addition to not knowing about contractual law, (and got sued for a lot of money).

Or look at Barry Manilow, (a phenomenal singer and lyricist, of whom I own just about every song he's ever performed). This huge star had to go back out on tour after many years to "reinvent" himself after making the mistake of blindly letting others handle all of his finances, and thereby causing him to go broke, despite his mega-success.
Horror stories abound, about folks going from "riches to rags."

Even though you may not make millions of dollars, or enjoy celebrity status, there are other ways to protect your "bottom line" as a creative professional who deals with public opinion. And there are compelling reasons why you should.

But before we tackle that aspect of today's post, I need to rewind for the purpose of clarity...

THE SITUATION (that inspired this blog post):
Some time ago, in my efforts to check off a few things on my ever-growing "to-do" list, and manage my time and projects more efficiently, I shot off an email to an editor and publisher with whom I have worked many years.

It was a simple request: I merely wanted to know if she had received a submission I had sent about a week prior. Mind you, I didn't want to know the status, or when she would actually look at it---just wanted to know if it had been received.

I did this because:

A). I have had numerous mishaps where email messages have been lost in "Cyberspace" due to no fault of my own, nor anything done incorrectly by the sender. Since then, I periodically will follow-up on submissions and important correspondence.

B). Editors, as much as we love them and hold them in high regard, are not infallible. I say this as a person who HAS BEEN AN EDITOR. Sometimes things get accidentally deleted or lost. Shift happens. :-)

Well, to make a long story short, she got back to me. Quickly. But rather than responding with a simple "yes" or "no" she went on, in her email, to tell me how I had wasted her valuable time in checking on the submission. She also shared that I neglected to include my Bio, etc.
This coming from someone who should have had this info on file, in that I have placed dozens upon dozens of pieces in her publication for many years, as a regular contributor. Go figure.
Don't get me wrong: we all have bad days. And I'm not perfect either. But in this instance, I found her to be unjustifiably condescending, dismissive, and offensive.

So, here's what I did:

A). I apologized for "bothering" her.
B). I unsubscribed to her newsletter.
C). I decided against purchasing her recent book.

Here's the moral of the story and the lessons for today:

1. We should all keep in mind the Golden Rule. Treat people as you would want to be treated.
The role of an editor is to "reduce errors" not to "reduce people."

2. No matter how "small" you deem someone to be, you never know how "big" their influence is.
In other words, to her I was just a small-time freelancer with a modest following. In her mind, not really worthy of consideration, priority status, or even proper protocol. And she's certainly entitled to that opinion.
But, what she didn't know is that I also serve on the Board of Directors of a prominent arts organization in a big city. I had intended next year to recommend to my board that we book her for a conference or book signing. That won't be happening. That could have potentially represented hundreds or thousands of dollars to her "bottom line." I also serve in an advisory capacity to many folks in the business and literary community. The trickle effect is important.
The guy that picks up your office garbage just may be the cousin of an important record executive or a big-time publisher. You just never know. Tread carefully, before you step on any one's toes. :-)

 3. The busier you are, the more important it becomes to have effective tracking and time management systems in place.
For me it's my Yahoo Calendar, files, and stick-its. :-)

4. Never underestimate the cost of poor "customer service" in your writing business.
In the book, "How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life" author Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D. shares "68 percent of customers quit dealing with companies because of an attitude of indifference toward the customer by the owner, manager, or some employee."
Can you afford to be "guilty?"

5. Remember, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Karma is a great example of how business math works in the creative world.
I have been blessed to see it pay off in immeasurable ways. And you can too, by following today's tips and principles.

Thoughts? Have you ever been "injured" by an editor? Ever gone to a restaurant or business with bad "customer service" and vowed not to return? How do you provide good "customer service" as it relates to readers or clients? Do tell.


  1. Oh, Jen. What a very, very important post. I've been insulted and "burned" by a couple of editors and it hurts. It puts such a sour taste in my mouth for everything they do after that - if I even keep up with them. We can learn from bad examples as well as good. The Golden Rule applies forever. Oh, and my favorite Manilow? "When October Goes." Sighing.

    1. Sue,

      Thanks for weighing in and starting the discussion off. So often we read about editors' pet peeves, but there are two sides to everything. As Dr. Phil says, "It takes two to make or break a relationship." You make a smart point here: "we can learn from bad examples as well as good.
      Keep smiling. :-)

  2. OOps, I forgot the end quotation mark. Sorry folks. As for Manilow heart-melts? Weekend in New England, Mandy,and so many more...

  3. I have heard several successful business people talk about how they nowaday's do business with people they initially started off with on the wrong foot.

    So it makes me wonder if such a situation couldn't also be a great opportunity to possibly actually establish a better relationship, turning such a disadvantage into an advantage?

    Sometime ago I wrote a post about the Greeting Card Market, and how there seem to be opportunities in the Every Day Category because of all kinds of complex and new emerging Sentiments & Occasions.

    Your post inspires me to come up with possible ideas for designing special Post- or Greeting Cards for such difficult occasions, Thanks.

    1. H.P.,

      You make an interesting point here. You are right; sometimes mishaps and misunderstandings can lead to better relationships, depending upon how they are dealt with. It has happened with me as well. And I'm always open to forgiveness, (well...almost). :-) Thanks!

  4. I would like to comment on the issue of the treatment of people and perception. Like you said, in the editors mind, you were "small", but the reality is, most people who do great things are "small" people with big visions, good work ethics and persistence. And you just never know who that "small" person is connected to or when you will need that "small" person. The Golden Rule must be applied in all interactions.

    1. Marcie,

      Very well stated! Thanks so much for adding to the mix here. Much appreciated. :-)

    2. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 18, 2013 at 1:57 AM

      Though math may not have been my "favorite" subject back in college, I do understand the "Law of Diminishing Returns." :-)

  5. Interesting timing for me - got an email this morning from a parent of a student I teach online. They want me to adjust a lesson requirement. No big deal really, but it does require considerably more time on my part, and it would have been nice to know about this before class started a few weeks ago. I might have charged more had I known. I must tactfully answer now...so I appreciate this insightful post. Thanks, Jen! :)

    1. Always good to hear from you, Karen; I'm sure you'll handle it well. :-)

  6. i do believe in Karma--which is just another way of saying follow the golden rule or you'll get bit in the butt. I think you handled the situation pretty well!

    1. nutschell,

      Welcome! I really appreciate your feedback on this topic. Thanks so much for "chiming " in. :-)

  7. Hi, Jen:

    I'm sorry that editor felt the need to put her unhappiness in writing, and aim it at you. Hurting people hurt people, my friend. I'd keep her email if I were you.

    I was once unjustifiably "bitten" by an editor who had shown some evidence of being unhinged in the past. I did what you did--I apologized for "bothering" her, I stopped submitting to her publication, I stopped commenting on her blog posts, and I stopped following her blog. Just a drop in the bucket, right? Well, I will tell you that she must have gone on to offend others with her email rants because her name disappeared from the publication a few months later. Moral of the story? I'll bet that this editor who offended you isn't practicing proper protocol with others either. Try not to take it personally. I know it stings.


    1. Janette,

      I really appreciate hearing from you on this. I don't know if she was "unhappy"; I think it was just a position of "superiority." As mortals, we have only one "superior" and some folks just don't get that. :-) I wasn't as much offended as I was shocked. But, you're right; another writer friend shared that she too had found this editor difficult to deal with. But, I'm putting it behind me. Not worth the time and energy. :-)