Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Feedback, General Musings, Marketing, Society | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, feedback, honesty, integrity, jim downey
This framed item has been on the wall of my bindery (at various locations) since I started work in 1992:
Here’s the same text, taken from the Services Offered page of my business website:
I am dedicated to preserving the legacy of books and documents that we have inherited. To the best of my knowledge and ability I use techniques and materials that will last for generations. Whenever possible, the materials are of archival quality: acid-free and buffered papers & board, inert and reversible adhesives, unbleached linen thread, et cetera. The techniques I use for binding and conservation work are likewise archivally oriented, non-damaging, and reversible in the event the book or document requires additional attention in the future. All work is, of course, unconditionally guaranteed.
That last line sometimes surprises people. But it is extremely important, and has stood me in very good stead over the years I have been in business. As I told a client by email this morning, concerning work on a recently-completed project (a 1910 D.A.R. charter on natural vellum which had been poorly framed and stored):
Well, I’ve done all that can be done, I think. The document is flat, the remaining wrinkling is where it was once wet and then dried in contact with the glass.
But as it says on my website: my work is unconditionally guaranteed. I want to wait until you have a chance to see the condition of the charter, and if you’re not satisfied with the work, just don’t send me payment (or if payment has already been sent, I’ll hold onto the check until you have the charter and can judge for yourself). Seriously, it is much more important to me that you be satisfied with the work than the few hours of labor I have invested in this project. I have always operated by this policy, and it has been by far the best thing for my customers and reputation.
You might think that people would take advantage of such a policy to try and screw me out of deserved payment. And maybe a couple have in my 23+ years of business. But I think the vast majority of people are honest and well-intentioned; if I think that a client isn’t trustworthy, I just don’t take the job. That has probably filtered out a few potential problems. And the others I chalk up to being a cost of doing business. Because when I tell a client that if they are not satisfied with the work, and I will either do what is necessary to make them satisfied or there’s no charge, they see that I’m not trying to cheat them in any way. And having that reputation as a craftsman is priceless.
Recently I was helping out a local NFP arts organization, by getting information together for some renovation work they need to have done. I met with several contractors, walked them through the facility so they could see the scope of the work, and then asked them to provide estimates for what needed to be done and at what cost, so that the NFP Board and Executive could seek funding.
With the first two contractors, things went exactly as expected. However, when the third contractor went through the facility, he saw something which caught his attention and he started reconsidering the whole project (one of the other contractors had noticed the same thing and remarked on it, but didn’t investigate further). By the time we were done, he turned to me, shook his head and said something along the lines of: “I’m going to talk myself out of a job, but I think that the problem you’re having isn’t the one you think you’re having. I think you should get a qualified structural engineer in to do a formal check, but I don’t think you need me to do the work you asked me to bid on. That’s just a symptom of what is really going on, and it’d be cheaper and easier to correct the actual source of the trouble.”
This was a construction job which was going to run into the low five-digits, so it wasn’t just some little thing. For a small contractor, walking away from that sort of job isn’t done lightly. Particularly when it would have been very easy for him to just bid, do the work, and then figure the repairs would hold up long enough that nothing would come back to haunt him in the future.
That, my friends, is integrity.
I reached out my hand to the contractor, thanked him for his honesty, and told him that from now on if I knew of anyone who needed the kind of work done that he did, that I would have no hesitation in recommending him as honest and trustworthy.
That’s why I have the policy I do for my conservation work. And yeah, I am convinced that it is far and away the best possible policy I could have.
Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, Kindle, reviews, Science Fiction, writing
Two new reviews of Communion of Dreams:
on March 23, 2015Very well written..kudos to author. Just like seeing an engrossing sci-fi movie. Time flies as you turn the pages in this book!
on March 17, 2015An excellent new version of a future, well presented, lots of new ideas and interesting characters Enjoyed not being able to predict what was going to happen next!
Agree? Disagree? Nah, don’t tell me — go write a review yourself! After all:
Filed under: Feedback, Podcast, Society, Survival, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: belief, blogging, feedback, jim downey, loss, podcast, This I Believe, violence, writing
The folks at This I Believe have now put up the audio of me reading my essay “The Power to Forget“, as part of having it included in their weekly featured essay podcast, as I mentioned previously was in the works.
And I’d like to ask a favor: if you know of someone who might benefit from this essay, please share it with them.
No, not for any benefit to me. I’m not above self-promotion, but that isn’t why I ask for your help in this case. A decade ago when I wrote that essay, I had hoped that it might help others navigate through their own anger and loss. I thought that it had just disappeared into the foam of internet verbiage, until the people at This I Believe contacted me the beginning of this year. And now it feels somewhat like it has a second chance to do some good.
I don’t expect it to work miracles. Each of us who has suffered a loss — whether of a loved one, or our health, or our dreams, or an opportunity — have to deal with that loss in our own way. But it’s sometimes good to know what path others have taken, what worked for them. So maybe my essay will help someone.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, movies, Privacy, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, Her Final Year, humor, introvert, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, literature, Monty Python, movies, privacy, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, This I Believe, violence, writing
Today’s the official Third Anniversary for the publication of Communion of Dreams, and in celebration, you can download the Kindle edition today for free! Who doesn’t like free? I mean, yeah, sure, if someone walks up to you and offers you a free punch in the nose, you might not like it, but other than that …
Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I was honestly surprised when I looked and saw that the last blog entry was ten days ago. I haven’t been ill, or traveling, or anything. But after I recorded the essay for “This I Believe” I was feeling very … quiet. As I explained to a friend:
It may be hard to understand, and I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it (recording the essay) was actually a very hard thing for me to do. It wasn’t just any essay or promotional piece I’d written, not like doing interviews or anything. The essay was powerful because of the emotions behind it — I’m certain that’s why it has resonated for people. But that same source of power cuts very deep for me. Particularly after the stuff last month, it took a hell of a lot for me to come to terms with it all again, and to do so in such a public fashion.
You probably wouldn’t think so from reading this blog (or the book which came out of it), but I am actually a very private and introverted person by nature. My writing has always been a way for me to push myself out of my comfort zone, to force myself to be somewhat more public, more sharing. And it’s worked. Mostly. But there are still times when I just need to withdraw, to recover my energy and self-confidence. This last week+ has been one of those times.
Thanks for understanding. Now, go download that book if you haven’t already.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Connections, Feedback, Publishing, Science Fiction, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, Maureen Kincaid-Speller, nerds of a feather, reviews, Science Fiction, writing
Interesting discussion about how the online culture has changed the nature of reviews, and what that means for both authors and fans: BLOGTABLE: The Positive Value of Negative Reviews Here’s a good passage about the topic:
I think a lot of fan coteries miss the fact, as they rally round their authors and go after the so-called bullies, that we all exercise critical judgements every day. Something as mundane as ‘I prefer apples to oranges’ is a critical judgement, but I’ve never noticed orange-lovers hounding apple-lovers because of it. There is a clear understanding that a preference for one fruit is not a judgement about the people who prefer another kind of fruit. And yet, these days even a slightly less than totally stellar review can have people behaving very oddly, trying to suppress reviews or silence an errant reviewer.
As I noted in one of my earliest blog posts here:
It’s OK if you don’t like my novel. No, seriously, if it doesn’t do anything for you, that’s fine. It could be that you don’t care for Science Fiction. Or maybe you just don’t like my writing. Sure, I want people to like it (or at least respect it for being well-done), but I long ago learned that tastes differ widely – what I like in art or literature may be completely at odds with what you like. And that’s OK. To argue otherwise is to basically come down to saying “you can’t like blue. Red is the superior color.”
In the eight years (!) since, of course, I’ve published two books, written a couple hundred freelance articles and reviews, and churned out something in excess of a couple thousand blog posts for here and elsewhere. And trust me, *none* of those were universally liked, and even the ones which were generally well received also garnered critical responses, sometimes very nasty responses. It happens. You’re never, ever, going to make everyone happy. Worrying about it will drive you nuts, and stop you from writing anything more.
You can’t let that happen. You just have to decide whether or not you think the critical comments and reviews are valid, and what you can learn from it if it is. Yeah, sure, sometimes a “slightly less than totally stellar review” smarts, no matter how thick a skin you develop. But that is part of the process of creating any art, of choosing to take the risky path of putting your work before the public.
It’s also part of being human, of taking the risky path of living in the world. Embrace it.
Filed under: Feedback, Podcast, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, feedback, jim downey, This I Believe, writing
I mentioned the other day that I would be sharing some interesting news. Well, here goes …
On Monday, I got a rather unexpected email. From the folks at This I Believe. It seems that an essay I sent them nine years ago was now one of the most widely read items of the 150,000 they have on their site. And it was one of the few in the top 100 which hadn’t yet been recorded. They asked me if I would be willing to record it for them, so that they could include it in their regular featured essays and podcast at some point.
After picking my jaw up off the floor, I said yes, but that I would need some time to “wrap my head around that – it’s such emotional material for me that I’ll need to work up to it.”
Emotional material? Yeah. See for yourself: The Power to Forget
They were very understanding on this point. That gave me the breathing space to come to terms with the whole mix of emotions I felt — satisfaction that my words seemed to resonate for others, memories of deep parental love, an aching sense of loss which still remains, worry that I was somehow exploiting that loss, other emotions I couldn’t quite characterize — and over the next couple of days I spent a lot of time, processing it all.
Now after some back and forth to sort out the logistics, we’ve scheduled for me to record the essay next Thursday. How long it will take before it will be available for listening on the This I Believe website, I have no idea. But I will be sure to post a note here when it is.
Wish me luck.