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A Bad Client In So Many Ways You Could Write A Book

, , , , , , , | Right | May 16, 2022

I am contacted by a potential new client looking to rebrand their book series. It sounds like a great project, plus the client is actually a small publisher rather than the indie author and that’s always nice to add to a resumé, so I take the job.

The actual design process goes well. I get the proofs done quickly, get them approved easily, and start polishing up the final design.

This is where the trouble starts. First, the breaks between responses get longer and longer. I can’t get answers to questions or approval for drafts for up to two weeks at a time.

Then, I suddenly get a response from a new person who says they’re taking over for my original contact. Okay, cool. I don’t need to know the inner workings of their company.

The new person is even worse about responding in time but puts it off on the author, saying that they’re waiting to hear back from the author about some details about color and image choices. At this point, I’ve filed this client away as “not the best, but I’m loving the project, so whatever.”

At one point, I don’t hear from them for eight weeks. My follow-up email goes unanswered. My second follow-up email also goes unanswered.

Finally, they reply with a one-sentence approval. I finish the project and send the final proof and an invoice. This is at the end of September. October passes. November passes. December arrives. I send a final follow-up and then decide to heck with it. They have my information, and they don’t have the files, so I’m going to enjoy my holidays in peace.

Come January, I decide to do a little investigating (just making sure they haven’t tried to use one of the watermarked proofs as an actual cover) and find that the domain for the company is no longer active. Their email addresses are linked to that domain, so now I’m concerned that no one has even been receiving my emails.

The company is an imprint of a larger publishing house, which lists my first contact as one of their staff members, so I reach out to her through an alternate email.

Two days later, I get an email from the marketing department coordinator of the imprint, very condescendingly informing me that she’s the person I should be speaking with and sending my invoices to.

Cool. Fine. I’ve never heard of you before in my life and you are neither of the people I’ve interacted with but… fine. Here’s your invoice and the final proof again. Approve it, pay me, and I’ll send you your files.

I finally get paid and I send the files.

Two weeks later, I get another email from my original contact… asking for the files. Insert banging head on wall here. Apparently, no one at this company talks to anyone else.

They need an e-book and paperback. We’ve discussed this, and I sent a JPG of the front cover for the e-book and a PDF of the full cover for the paperback. But there are different print-on-demand (POD) services, and I now learn that they need files for two different ones. This was not previously agreed on, but it’s a pretty simple matter of just inserting the design into a different print template, so I just do it and don’t argue.

Then, they tell me, “Oh, sorry, when we said we wanted [POD company #2], we actually meant its subsidiary company, [POD company #3].”

They use exactly the same templates because they use the same physical machines but okay, here is the same file; it just now has [POD company #3]’s logo on it, instead.

The client complains that they don’t want a version that has all the “extra” bleed room and markings that the template uses, and I explain that this is how [POD #2 and #3] require their files to be submitted. At this point, they have four different files, three of which are full paperback covers; one of them should work.

I hear nothing for almost two months.

At 2:00 am one night, I get an email that says, “I don’t want to be a pain, but you’ve given us PDF versions in the past. Can we please get that for this project? This is how we’ve always submitted our files and we want to keep doing it this way.”

…the files you have are PDFs! The original file without the large template I sent was a PDF!

This is the first time I’ve ever worked with your company. I don’t think anyone cares how you’ve “always” done it. If you don’t submit the files correctly, they won’t accept them. Period. But you have all the potentially workable files you might need. This is no longer my problem.

I send an email saying, “Dear Client: On [date], I sent you a PDF of the cover without any excess bleed or margins. If [POD #3] is going to accept the files that way, they should accept that one, as it’s the exact same thing as what’s on the proper templates, just without the appropriate layout.”

That was three weeks ago. I have not heard back from them. They wanted me to do this author’s entire series, but after this escapade, I am firing them as a client and will not be working with them again. Even if I charged twice my rates, it’s not worth it.

Not All Family Hires Suck

, , , , , | Working | April 5, 2022

When I was still in college, I got a summer job through literal nepotism; my uncle was the publisher of the magazine I worked at. It was a small office and everyone knew and liked my uncle.

One day, after I’d been there for several weeks, some of the editors started talking about how happy they were that the other intern and I turned out to be such great people to work with and that it seemed like the intern they’d been dreading wasn’t going to show up after all. Apparently, the previous year, someone high on the food chain had hired their kid for the summer and she was horrible. This year, they’d heard that the publisher was hiring his kid and they were all extremely relieved that hadn’t happened.

I looked at them quite quizzically.

Me: “Um, no, it’s the publisher’s niece. And he did hire me!”

They were completely gobsmacked. They had all spent weeks dreading being forced to work with someone who would do nothing and make their lives miserable again, while also quite enjoying my presence. How they missed that I was the person they were dreading, I don’t know. We have an extremely unique last name. The only people who come up when you Google that last name are very close relatives of mine.

At Least We Can All Agree On What NOT To Say

, , , , , , | Working | August 3, 2020

Forty years ago, I worked for a small microfilm publishing company as a newspaper indexer. While the company filmed the paper, the indexers read the articles, choosing subject headings for the article and writing a short sentence describing the content.

I had recently been promoted to assistant editorial which basically meant that, yes, I got a raise, but it also meant I did a lot of leg work when the big bosses decided it was time to fix things that weren’t actually broken.

The bosses, upon looking at the index, felt that African-Americans reading the index would be offended if the words “race” and “racism” were in an alphabetical list with the words “race track” because it was disrespectful to black people. From then on, anything about racing, the sport, was under the name of the item being raced — cars, horses, greyhounds, jumping frogs, etc. We could not even put in a “see” reference from racing to the new terms because that would be so hurtful.

The discussion of race then put them in mind that using the phrase “African-American” didn’t sound right, either. It was going to sound offensive and they didn’t like it.

So, it became my job, the vice president decided, to call every black cultural group on every college campus in the county until I got some kind of consensus. 

In what was one of the strangest little projects, I called the three closest and largest colleges. The first two “African-American Cultural Centers” were, oddly, run by white people. They told me this up front. Number One said she had no clue as she wasn’t African-American and had no one to ask, but she felt sure that the term “Afro-American” was preferred over “Black” or “African-American” because it sounded “hip.”

Guy Two was some kind of didactic intellectual who went off on a long diatribe about how “Afro-American” and “African-American” were somehow insulting — he did not explain why — and it was much better to refer to them as “Black” which was descriptive and therefore preferable.  

Then, I hit Number Three. The gentleman who answered had a deep James Earl Jones voice and what seemed a sour and disinterested manner. I explained my dilemma and I finished with, “And so, I am embarrassed to ask this, but my boss insists I ask exactly this: do African Americans prefer to be called ‘African-American,’ ‘Afro-American,’ or ‘Black’?”

There was a long pause and then he said, “I prefer ‘Steve,’ actually,” before he burst out laughing. He went on to say, “Your bosses aren’t very bright. We are people of African background who were born and raised in the U.S. We are African-Americans. What the heck else would they call us?”

We talked for a bit and he assured me that as a professor of Black History, he was pretty sure he knew his terms.  

I went back to my boss with my findings and she took it to the big bosses.

And, despite what Steve said, they went with “Afro-American” because they agreed with the idea that it sounded hip, happening, and now.

Consequently, an entire year’s work had to be redone because a bunch of people who were so not equipped for their big important jobs needed to meddle in the work of their employees who knew what they were doing and how to do it.

“Trippin’ Magazine” Would Be A Great Name For A Travel Publication

, , , | Right | April 2, 2020

(When I am eight years old, my father is the editor of a small literary magazine, which refers to a species of trout in its name. He brings me into the magazine’s office to supervise me. One night, he has to go off on an errand, leaving me alone. The phone rings, so I pick it up.)

Me: “Hello?”

Caller: “Yeah, can I get some red beans and rice?”

Me: “I’m sorry, this is a magazine. We don’t sell red beans and rice.”

Caller: “What? Girl, you trippin’. Can you deliver that to [address] in Los Angeles?”

(Los Angeles is hundreds of miles south of my location.)

Me: “Um, sorry. This is a magazine. We don’t make food.”

Caller: “You trippin’! Isn’t this the [Magazine]? That’s red beans and rice, okay?”

Me: “No, we really don’t make food. I think you have the wrong number.”

Caller: “You trippin’!”

(The caller hung up. I was confused, and didn’t understand what “trippin'” meant in this context for another couple of years!)

History Will Record This Job As Never Existing

, , , , | Working | March 6, 2020

After graduating, I am struggling to find a job that fits my MA in history. In the year after that, my sister sends me an email about a vacancy she saw. It turns out that a certain book which has something to do with a prominent Dutch historical figure will be republished, and therefore they want to make a glossy(magazine) about the historical figure. Obviously, they need historians to help them with the research and writing the articles. 

Interested, I apply for the job. After a few weeks, I get an answer by email. The person doing the applications mentions that he selected a few of the candidates and will make a definitive selection from these. Therefore, we have to supply some ideas, to show how professional and creative we are. Since this is one of my first job applications since college, I do not think too much of it and start working on ideas. This is tough, since I am not experienced with making this kind of article and have no clue what kind of audience they want to reach. After a while, I deliver my ideas by email. 

After that, several weeks go by without any reply. Looking back in the email, I realise the guy never gave us a deadline when we had to deliver nor a date when he would let us know. With the weeks passing by, I am starting to wonder whether I will hear more of him or not.

Much to my surprise, the guy sends another email. By this time, almost a month has passed. His reply, however, only mentions that he will look at our “ideas” and then will let us know of his final decisions. Again, no date is mentioned. Also, he never explains why his reply is so late. I feel tempted to ask him, but I decide not to do so, since it could threaten my chances.

Not very surprisingly, I never hear from the guy again. I conclude that either he took all of our ideas for himself — a conclusion many people I know made — or that he did take on some people after all, but simply couldn’t be bothered to tell the people who failed — which is also likely, since he never put on any deadlines or dates, meaning he might be kind of careless. A few years later, I mention the story to someone, who replies that if you want a job and you don’t get an answer “you have to go after them.” Although that might be true, I am quite sure that it would have been a waste of effort with this bloke.