On my way to work the other morning, I was stuck at a traffic light when I noticed a hand-made sign on the other side of the street. There are tons of these signs. Usually they advertise things like “Mattress Set – New! $550!” or “We buy ugly houses!” But the sign that morning was different.
I would have taken a picture of it if I had been more awake that morning, but the light changed before I could fully process what it was I was seeing.
It was brightly colored paper with mismatched stick on letters and a hand written phone number advertising low-cost dental services.
To be fair, I don’t know anything at all about this company. The practice could have the best dentist in all of the US. He or she might be able to create filings that are the equivalent of the Mona Lisa in the world of dental arts. They may have intentionally decided to not to create a shinier ad as way of keeping their overhead costs low in order to offer patients the greatest possible savings.
Unfortunately for their practice, I, as well as several others who pass by that stop, likely will not be making an appointment any time soon. Why? Because a sign like that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. I’d rather save money by skipping a dental appointment altogether than have my teeth treated by anyone other than a professional.
As I’ve written before, the independent bookstore which has agreed to stock my book has a strict policy against carrying books produced by an Amazon company (i.e. CreateSpace). When I decided to change publishing companies I had to take their policy into consideration. I decided to try out Lulu which is a local, and highly rated, company for my on demand printing. For the most part their service is fairly straight forward. All you have to do is upload your manuscript and cover image, specify a few keywords and your price and Presto! You too can be a published author for the price of a proof copy and shipping.
Only it isn’t quite that simple. Some sort of black magic goes on behind the scenes as their servers manipulate your Word file into a file their printers can use (CreateSpace has a similar process. Smashword’s ‘Meatgrinder’ provides even more joy). You watch the status bar patiently… then not so patiently… Your family shouts from the other room, “are you coming to dinner?” You shout back, “Just a minute.” Ten more pass. You give up because your stomach is now growling and return later only to discover that your right page footer has been indented while your left page footer has not. You curse, make corrections, and hit the submit button again. The print ready interior that eventually spits out on the screen at you now has a random blank page between chapter 6 and 7.
Fifteen tries later, your interior is almost to your satisfaction, except there is an extra period on page 50 and, oh for the love of Pete, is that typo on page 217? Your children have celebrated another round of birthdays while you’ve been at your computer. You start telling yourself, it’s good enough. Your cover at least was done by a professional. No one is going to notice anything wrong with the interior.
Except that they do. The little things matter, especially when you are trying to grow a business.
My older sister visited not too long ago, and I showed her a rejected proof copy. I had rejected the copy because the cover wasn’t trimmed correctly, but that wasn’t what she noticed. Instead the first words out of her mouth were, “what’s up with the font?” I love that my family doesn’t hold back the truth when it matters.
I don’t want potential customers eyeballing my book on shelf to think of me (and my work) as anything less than professional. She forced me to return to my manuscript and start another round of submission roulette. Yay! I can only hope the hard work is just as eye-catching as its opposite.