Going In Person.
A few years ago, at one of my usual conventions, I spoke on a panel with other webcomic creators about the business side of making your own comics. The topic of shipping books came around, and I said that I rather enjoyed shipping them out myself. That I enjoyed going to the local post office and sending out my work myself. That I felt like I was giving each copy of a book a little send-off on its way to a loyal reader. It not only gave these transactions a personal touch, but it let me get to know the local post office workers and create new relationships with them.
I’ll never forget the reply of a fellow panelist, who was a creator I greatly admired. He said, “Why in the world would you do that?! I HATE going to the post office! I hate having to deal with other people! I much prefer having a system in place where something else takes care of that for me. It’s so much extra work!”
His reply wasn’t meant in malice. It got a laugh from the other panelists and the crowd, and most importantly it got a laugh from me, too. But that retort lived somewhere in the back of my head for years. Was I giving myself extra work by doing this on my own? Was I stubbornly stuck in an inefficient method of doing business? I’m prone to huge bouts of self-doubt, so all my post office trips in the years since that day had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind.
This past weekend, I’m happy to say my doubts were alleviated and my way of doing business was vindicated.
It was time to ship out books for the Kickstarter campaign to reprint volume 1 of “Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire.” I had close to 300 books to ship out, and thanks to my wife handling all parenthood responsibilities I had a day to make regular trips to the post office, shipping them out in batches at a time. I thought it was going to be the first step in a weeks-long process, with the hopes of getting a good chunk of the books shipped out on that day.
But because I’d been regularly going to this post office in person for years, establishing a relationship with the workers there by virtue of just being nice and neighborly, they did something extraordinary for me. Because they knew me and liked me, they let me drop off every single one of my orders over the course of two days without having to wait in line, and they volunteered to process them over the course of those days in between other customers. Because of their generosity and kindness to me, every single book order was processed and sent out over the course of a day and a half. I was stunned, and a huge workload was taken off my hands.
“Why in the world would you do that?!” he had asked me. Years later, I can confidently say that this was why I do business the way I do. It’s not always about efficiency and the bottom dollar. I even hate to call it “doing business,” because that feels cold or implies an ulterior motive. For me, it’s about building relationships with the people around me and, if I’m lucky, making some new friends along the way.