May 14, 2011

Angry Readers are the Best

So, my wife runs two internet cafes in Bangkok (one on On Nut 44, and one on Udom Suk).  Our customer base is about 40% Thai kids, 40% Thai teens/young adults, and 20% members of the African community (primarily from Nigeria, but also some from Cameroon).  Occasionally, I help her in these small business endeavors, and I've learned a few things about doing business in Thailand.  1) It's a bad idea to have an internet cafe open on Songkran, 2) Thai teenagers with goofy haircuts and souped-up scooters may be not liked in the neighborhood, but they are welcome at our place (assuming they have at least 15 baht), and 3) Nigerians are the best customers.  Why are the Nigerians that live in the eastern part of the city the best, you ask?  Because they tend to complain about everything.

I realize I am making some broad generalizations here, but Thais usually do not complain to my wife or our staff, as Thailand is a culture known for its modesty and respect.  While this makes it a pleasant place to live and have a family, it is absolutely detrimental to business.  If a customer is pissed off about something and they take their business elsewhere, you will never know how you can improve and you just lost money.  However, if a customer makes a big stink about the headphones being screwed up or Skype not having the latest update on computer #14, then you can fix it and similar other problems with your business.  The customer becomes gratified that you have addressed their complaint, and they recommend their friends to you.  In essence, you have to kiss a lot of ass when it comes to small business.

Some people may say that writing is an art and above all this sort of petty service provider - consumer relationship, but I don't see it that way.  So, if something is messed up with my writing, I hope that someone will raise hell about it so I can adjust my technique.  Both Stephen Knight and Stephen Leather have advised not to write shit, but it's helpful if you could get an idea of what readers think is "shit".  If the world of e-publishing is as big a revolution as some are saying, then the only thing important is whether your readers like you or not.  Nothing else matters.

I was a JO in the Navy for close to 7 years, and I am already familiar with all the sorts of abuse people can heap upon each other.  So, please, feel free to be angry.


Stephen Knight said...

Oh for sure, your readers will tell you what's wrong and write (ha-ha, I made a funny), but what I meant was: don't spew out first draft crap and put it on sale. You don't want to alienate your readers needlessly, and not taking them into account when you try and sell them stories or books is just all around bad juju.

1001 Secrets of Successful Writers said...

I know what you're saying about the business stuff. My wife and I owned two cafes and negative feedback helps to give direction.

I tend to think you're better off writing crap rather than not writing at all. I had to write a short story for uni recently and had about three attempts on three different ideas with no concept where any of them would head. I kept persevering with one of them and suddenly ended up with a pretty good story. I always say, "You can't edit nothing. You have to have something to start with."
Thanks for your support.