Customer Support Lines… for books?

William Rabkin blogs that he got contacted by the "Consumer Communications Department" at Penguin Books with a complaint about his PSYCH book:

We have a consumer complaint about pages 210-213. The consumer states that these are the only pages in the entire book that mention characters by the name of Kent Shambling and Nancy, and he says that there is no mention of these two characters leading up to this point and they seem to have nothing to do with the story.

It wasn't the complaint that surprised Bill…it was that Penguin has a "Consumer Communications Department."

Who knew that […]if I found a bit of a book I didn’t like, there were operators standing by to take my complaints? If I wrote to the CCD at Farar Strauss Giroux and pointed out that after almost a thousand pages of 2666, I still didn’t know who killed all those women in Mexico, would they send me back the name of the murderer?

I've never heard of this either. I wonder if all publishers have these hotlines and if they outsource their customer support to India like the computer companies do ("Hello, this is Rajneesh, how may I assist you with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo today? Is this a plot-related or prose-related problem?").

6 thoughts on “Customer Support Lines… for books?”

  1. Lee,
    This was very funny, especially “Is this a plot-related or prose-related problem?”
    I just hope it doesn’t become common knowledge that publishers actually act on consumer complaints about content. Just imagine all those curmudgeons out there sitting by their keyboards just waiting to slap back the ears of unsuspecting mystery writers and show them a thing or two.Most of the letters would open with “in my day we didn’t….”

  2. Most libraries have forms where customers can complain about books, for whatever reason. That publishers would also want to know about negative reactions, and set up a mechanism to process those reactions, isn’t too big of a stretch.

  3. Publishers’ customer service usually deals with manufacturing or delivery problems, such as missing pages, torn jackets, billing errors, flawed binding, and so on. I suspect the Penguin customer service people simply recorded the complaint and passed it along to the author, and that Penguin does not have a special unit devoted to editorial content.


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