Starting my own publishing company and becoming a writer in my mid-forties has been exciting, empowering, a huge learning experience, but also somewhat frightening. There is so much to learn, and mistakes are made, one after another until you figure out how to do it right. Then when you figure out how to do that one thing right, you inevitably do something else wrong. But you do learn, and you grow, and eventually, you start figuring it all out (well maybe not all, but at least most of it).
At some point, you begin to realize you are not as clueless as you once thought you were. You start writing and even selling books. People begin to ask you when your next book is coming out. Mothers e-mail you to tell you their daughter liked your first book so much, she can’t wait until you write another one. You start feeling great. You even feel a little bit proud of yourself, which is something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. You’ve been proud of your kids, your husband, even your friends, but it’s been awhile since you’ve really and truly been proud of yourself. It feels good.
Then you meet someone you think you can trust- someone who convinces you he wants your business and is more than happy to help you navigate the world of printing and publishing because he knows you’re a novice. You put your trust in him, you hire him, and you think you are in a good place.
Then this happens…
You realize there are snakes out there. You painfully accept that there are people who lie, cheat, and bend over backwards to get your business, but then betray your trust and even make sure you know that you are only a small fish in a sea of much larger ones. And this person only respects his business relationships with the larger fish. His time is more important that yours. He is more important than you, and at some point, his true colors show and he tells you exactly what he really thinks of you and your tiny business.
Our first meeting went well. He was charming and knowledgeable. He bought me coffee. He told me how impressive and brave it was that I decided to start my own publishing company instead of selling my books to a larger publishing house. He said he admired my hard work, and he told me how good my books were. He even told me that I should visit his wife at her school (she’s a teacher), and read one of my books to the children in her class.
I published my first book, and it was a small success. I paid him well for his part in the printing of the book and his time- not a lot, and certainly not as much as his bigger clients, but it was a lot for me. After all, I had just started this new business and my company didn’t have a lot of money to spare.
When it came to my second book, of course I thought I’d use the same printer and I thought the relationship I had with this point of contact was a good one. You see, it’s always been very important for me to publish ALL of my books in the United States. I know it’s usually cheaper to send the printing out to other countries, but for me, I want all my books printed in the USA. In fact, I want all my books printed in Michigan. That’s one of the big reasons I chose this specific printer-- they were a family owned business right here in my home state. That meant a lot to me at the time, and it still does. It is a bit more expensive, but in my opinion, it’s worth it.
The second book was a bigger chapter book, so it took more time to write, more time to edit, and a lot more time for my graphic designer to layout. My point of contact at the printing office wanted me to go with a new product they had- a print on demand option that would be located right on their web site.
At first, the print on demand option sounded great. I spoke with my contact about it, and told him that it sounded like something I would like to do, but that I wanted to talk with my business partner (who also happens to be my husband), before I made any decisions.
After my husband spoke with our printer contact, and after my husband and I did our research and figured in the cost, we decided the print on demand option wasn’t as cost-effective as we once thought it might be. We decided to continue having customers order my books on my web site. We informed our printer contact, and at the time, I didn’t think he seemed very happy, but I let it go. After all, I was the customer, and I needed to do what was right for my company. Certainly he could understand that. I was still going to use his company for the printing of my second book, and the four more I had just waiting to be printed, so there was still quite a bit of business coming his way. Our contact provided us with a quote for printing book number two, so we were just about ready to proceed.
I let my printer contact know that I still had a few edits to make on the book, so it would be a couple months before I would be completely ready to go ahead with printing. He seemed fine with it, but looking back now, I think he was getting tired of me. Waiting for me meant waiting for payment, and waiting for the small amount of commission he would receive.
In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, the printing company I had been using merged with a much larger company. Strangely enough, my contact had sent letters out to other clients he worked with alerting them to this change, but he didn’t tell me. No longer was the company a small, local printer, they were now a very large company. But after doing some research, I found out the new company was actually family-owned and based in Michigan. I was happy with that news and decided to stick with them as my printer.
Once all the edits were finished and my graphic designer was able to get the entire book laid out for me, it was finally ready to go to print. I was excited and a bit nervous. After all, I had spent the last two years of my life writing, editing, finding an agent out of New York, NY, re-writing, and pouring my heart into the 152 pages it took all of my blood, sweat, and tears to write. I’d created characters I loved, and this book was really my “baby”. I couldn’t believe we were finally at the point where I would soon see my very first chapter book in print.
Since it had been a couple of months since the last quote we’d received from the printer, my contact there said he’d provide me with a new one. The new quote was sent (by a new person I’d not worked with before), and the cost had increased by $500.00. Of course that amount isn’t much for a larger company to pay, but for a small, new business, it’s a lot of money. My husband asked why the quote was so much more than the last one for the same book.
The new person who’d sent the quote said she would check with the quote department and get back with us.
The next quote came and it, too, was incorrect. It was still $500.00 more, and it didn’t include measurements of the book, nor did they include the cream-colored paper I had specifically requested for the inside pages, they had quoted them as white-colored paper (which is more costly). So we asked again, why the increase (because that had not yet been explained), and to please include the measurements of the book, as well as change the paper color.
My original contact at the company, the man who assured me he’d work with me, be understanding, hold my hand along the way, sent back a very abrupt, rude, and dismissive e-mail indicating that too much time had passed, too many questions had been asked about this, and that he’d deal with us “tomorrow”.
Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. My husband called him, and that’s when all Hell broke loose. My husband informed the printer that the quote wasn’t right, there was information missing, and we still hadn’t been given a reason as to why the quote had increased in price. He told the printer that maybe the new girl sending the quotes wasn’t sure what we had asked for (since she hadn’t been working with us at all until that very day), or maybe the department she was getting the quotes from didn’t understand, because they were “zero out of two” for quotes.
The printer guy went absolutely batshit crazy. He screamed at my husband for “bashing his staff”, told him he wasn’t going to talk with him anymore about this and that my husband should “call me tomorrow and just tell me what you want to do”.
Well, that’s when I lost my shit. And it’s never good when I lose my shit.
But it didn’t stop there.
The printer guy then sent a flurry of text messages to my husband that were completely uncalled for, immature, and extremely disrespectful. This is just some of what he wrote, word for word…
"Good luck with the publishing company you tout. Good luck on finding a vendor with a competitive price. Good luck with the whining in the future with you and everything. I know that the $2000 job that I'm missing out on is going to change my sales numbers for the worse for the rest of my life. The 20 conversations we had on it were not worth the 200,000 job but I'm glad that you know all about me and my company. And since you are researching my company you can see that we do $35 million a year in production but good luck in contacting the President about a 2000 job".
With my shit already being lost, I didn’t think I could get anymore angry, but I did. I sent an e-mail to EVERY single executive at this guy’s new, large, “$35 million a year in production company”, that didn’t have time, nor gave a crap about working with a small, stupid, question-asking company like mine. I also sent an e-mail to the printer guy’s old, smaller, local company’s office manager. The executives at the new company responded immediately and assured me that the behavior of their employee was unacceptable and definitely not in line with their business motto and philosophy. The office manager at the printer guy’s former company also sent me a follow up message assuring me that the matter would be investigated.
The best part of the whole thing was that at 7:30 this very morning, a mere nine hours after I’d sent my e-mails to the executive team, Printer Guy was contacted by his new company’s President, and he was not happy. I guess when Printer Guy said we’d need “good luck in contacting the President about a 2000 job”, he didn’t realize we must have some really good luck, because his boss wasted no time in contacting him about my “$2000 job”.
I learned a lesson in all of this, and it was a painful one. I was won over by this person’s charm, the glossy and fancy printing samples he brought to our first meeting, the fact that his wife is a teacher (I have a soft spot for teachers), and he has young children. I thought for sure a husband and a father would be a good person and someone I could trust. Next time I will be more careful.
I have no idea what’s going to happen to the guy after this, but I suspect that I am not the first, nor will I be the last customer to complain about his rude, bizarre, and disrespectful behavior. I have a feeling that at some point, this arrogant bastard will get what he deserves. I only wish I could be a fly on the wall when that time comes.
Business is tough, and it would be easy for me to say, “This is too much. I can’t trust anyone. It’s not worth it.” But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to quit, nor will I stay silent. I have had it with people, men in particular, who think they can call me names, intimidate me, or try to make me feel “small” because he thinks he’s some sort of important salesperson who works for a big company, and he looks down on anyone who isn’t up to his standards.
My company may be small now, but it’s mighty, and it’s growing. The future is wide open and there’s no telling what could happen for me. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I lose my shit, but you better believe that when it happens again, I’ll be ready.