The Value of Good Customer Service

This  post is by Carrie Spencer.

Hi all! My name is Carrie and I’m a customer-service-aholic. Yes, I just made that word up. I’ve been in the restaurant business for twenty-two years as a bartender, a waitress, and a manager—occasionally all at the same time.

In order to be successful in the restaurant business, you must provide good customer service. This isn’t just refilling an empty tea glass or picking up dirty plates. Instead, you have to know what your customer wants—are they here for a good time? A quiet business dinner? A fast meal so they can get back to work?

Who cares? You don’t work in a restaurant, you’re a writer. And so am I. And I’m here to tell you, you need to provide your readers with the same customer service I provide to my customers. Let me explain.

Everyone’s heard about branding. Your writing style is a brand, the way your covers are designed, your voice. It’s all your brand. It’s who you are. If you write rollicking comedic romance with lots of pratfalls and witty dialog, that then becomes your brand. People who buy your book will expect to have a fun read any time they purchase one of your books.

Look at Janet Evanovich with her Stephanie Plum series. The book covers are bright colored, with big bold letters. Each read is guaranteed to be fast, fun, and entertaining. Now look at Stephen King. His book covers are dark, ominous. When reading a Stephen King novel, you’re almost guaranteed to sit up late at night, turning each page faster and faster, horrified yet enthralled.

What would happen if Janet Evanovich suddenly decided to toss Stephanie into a horror novel? Her readers would be shocked, and hate mail would be written. She’d lose readers. Why? Because she didn’t provide what the customer wanted. What they expected. When I buy an Evanovich, I expect to have a belly laugh or two, something to brighten my day and giggle about later.

When someone comes into our restaurant, they know they’ll get good service, a drink they’ll be happy with, and a plate full of delicious food. If we suddenly started serving Asian fusion rice paper-wrapped salmon with seaweed, our regular customers would be horrified. They’re expecting a rib eye and mashed potatoes.

This doesn’t mean you always have to write a romcom and can never change. But if you do, you have to give your regular reader some advance notice. You can write under a pen name as Nora Roberts did when she began her series as J.D. Robb. On a book that is part of a series, you can write “A Stephanie Plum novel” on the cover to differentiate it from Janet’s new Wicked series which features a different style of cover and typeface.

Providing customer service is part of my every day life. You, as an author, will need to make it part of yours as well. Make sure your reader gets the satisfaction from your novel that they are expecting and that they walk away pleased with their purchase. And more importantly, that they will buy from you again.

Now, do you care for fries with that?

Tell me your opinion: What should readers expect from your “brand”?

About the Author: Romance author Carrie Spencer belongs to Romance Writers of America, Yosemite Romance Writers, Romance Writers Online, Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Group and was a former Girl Scout. She works as a restaurant manager, jewelry and website designer, and is learning how to use a flat iron. Her claims to fame include: lifting 50-pound bicep curls, stirring up a mean Mai Tai and concocting an even meaner Long Island Iced Tea. She lives on a farm in Iowa with seven cats and her English husband.

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K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Great post. Thank you. What I wonder is, can someone like J.K. Rowling write horror and be taken seriously (considering her YA streak)? Or would it be best to use a pen name considering the big shift from YA to adult horror audience? Curious.



  2. Rashad, with the infamous J.K. Rowling, she’d face the same issues Nora Roberts did when she took on a pen name. If you’re THAT famous, it’s a tough call! Even on the J.D. Robb books, her name is written as “Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb” so people know they’re getting a high-standard book ala Nora, but a different style of writing entirely. If J.K. chose a different pen name, my guess is she’d definitely keep the J.K. Rowling on the front page as well!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Carrie!

  4. Hi, Carrie. Great post! I’ve heard horror stories about authors writing outside their genre and readers getting upset with them. It makes me understand why authors who want to genre hop write under pen names.

  5. Carrie – I’ve found this is true even for unpublished writers. I write two types of books, contemporary romance and paranormals than have some humor, and romantic suspense stories that are a lot darker. I like writing both, but my critique partners were shocked when I first sent them those romantic suspense stories. They knew me, and they had formed a mental “brand” image that did NOT include dark, scary stories.

    Nora Roberts, with her J.D. Robb alter ego, seems to have it nailed. Her fans know what kinds of books to expect with those names on the cover. I’m glad to see a lot of other authors going in that direction – if I ever get published, I’d hate to be pigeon-holed in one genre at the exclusion of all others.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking blog!

  6. Thanks for having me K.M.! Looking forward to seeing you on RU in March! =)

  7. Adrienne, I’ve always known if I were to write middle grade AND romance, one would definitely have to be a pen name. =) I’ve heard the same horror stories!

  8. Hi Carrie!! You are one busy woman!! But I knew that….

    My brand? Off-beat, funny, but thoughtful and/or thought-provoking. Like me. And occasionally rather mushy, but hidden between lots and lots of laughter and wit.

  9. Thanks Becke! It helps too that her book covers are so different – the JD Robb ones are dark, and always have the words “In death” somewhere in the title, with big bold text. The JD readers KNOW what they’re getting when they pick one of those! =)

  10. Great post, Carrie. This is a good explanation of why a book doesn’t satisfy sometimes — if a reader’s expectations aren’t met, it’s not a good read, no matter how wonderful the story is. 🙂 Now I need to go back and work on my blurb, to make sure everything matches. LOL

  11. MsHellion – you do hide your mushy side quite well…lol…but I quite enjoy all the laughter and wit!

  12. Great post Carrie – I think the key is to live up to reader’s expectations and give them the time to acclimate to change. I think once you’ve proven that you can deliver, loyal fans will give you the benefit of the doubt – once.

  13. Donna …get to work on that blurb! =) I agree, if you’re expecting one type of story, and it turns out to be another – it’s definitely unsatisfying!

  14. lol Robin..I agree. Once. You can certainly make changes, but if you don’t deliver in your new genre the same as the old, they won’t check you out again!

  15. I am not at a point yet where’s that an issue, but it’s definately worth considering.

  16. This is where I worry a bit about being trapped with my current novel. I have the protagonist of a lifetime, Jinxx, who has a very distinctive voice. I love and adore her. But the rest of my fiction tends to have different voices and wouldn’t sit comfortably on the same bookstore shelf as the two or three novels I plan to write with Jinxx. I strongly feel that each character exists to examine one or more themes, and that once they’ve done that, they need to be retired. Not great for branding, alas, but it feels like honest writing to me.

  17. Hi Carrie & Kate!

    I tend to write what I like reading. And when I’m writing, I always think of readers who say “I felt like throwing the book against the wall” or “I couldn’ finish it”. For the most part, it’s a character doing something completely out of character or an implausible plot.

    When someone buys your book, they’re not just out of pocket for a few bucks, but they’ve also invested their time. That’s something I try to keep in mind. It’s a writer’s job to deliver.

    And what’s wrong with salmon wrapped in seaweed? I’d eat it!

  18. Carrie, great reminder. As a new author, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my brand will be. Sometimes I want to go dark as dark with my writing and sometimes I want to frolic in the light. 🙂

  19. Carrie,

    Honestly, I think this frustrates some writers because we begin writing to write what WE want, not what readers want. But then when you publish, like you said, you have expectations to fulfill.

    What are your thoughts on readers who lambast a writer? I know Lori Foster got some real flak when she put a paranormal element in one of her contemporary romances a couple of years back.


  20. London, write where your heart tells you to go of course! There may be themes and other similarities that you don’t realize connect your books. Until my CP said “do you know you start every story with a breakup?” I didn’t realize! Best of luck with your writing!

  21. Thanks for stopping by Galadriel….=)

  22. Jennifer, don’t even get me started on seaweed! =) I once not only threw a book against the wall, but ripped the pages out, and threw it in the trash. It still haunts me today as being the worst book I’ve ever read – the plot, the character, etc. Plus the hero dying at the end didn’t help. Unfortunately, I’d borrowed the book from a friend of mine, so had to purchase it again!

  23. Tracey, I’m always on the light side, even when I try to write dark! Branding is a tough business!

  24. Kelsey…I’m a firm believer that if you don’t like something – an herb in the soup say, or a paranormal element in a book – you should say something. Just to the server/author. I don’t agree with lambasting anyone for something you personally didn’t like. Others might like it just fine. Lambasting because you just discovered you hate oregano and giving a restaurant 1 star and refusing to eat there again? That’s YOUR preference. Doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone else about it!

  25. An eye-opening post and food for thought. I’ve chosen to write under a penname. Now I realize I may have to use more than one for what I want to accomplish/write. Thanks!!

  26. Yes!

  27. Thanks for the advice. I am so multi-genre that maybe I need a lot of pen names. :.)

  28. Ahh, I just couldn’t agree more with all of this. Ideal customer service is, indeed, the lifeblood of any enterprise. Writers must be able to come up with something special to make readers ‘crave’ for more of their pieces. =)

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