Measuring “Total Author Experience”

Our publishing business is like a three-legged stool. Its success rests on the happiness of three primary constituents: our employees, our authors, and our customers—in that order.

Stool-2

The rationale is that if we take care of the employees, they will take care of our authors and customers. As a result, the very first point in our vision statement says, “We maintain an inspired work environment where people connect with the Company’s purpose and values.”

We have really made an effort to focus on this over the last two years. Based on the results of our recent employee survey, I think we have made good progress. We are not where we want to be, but we have come a long way.

The employee survey has been a hugely helpful tool. It has shown us exactly where we are doing well and were we are not doing so well. It has revealed specific areas where we still need to improve. As a result, we are able to focus our resources on those areas that would be the most meaningful to our employees.

This morning, I started thinking it would be good if we could similarly survey our authors. In Tough Choices, Carly Florina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, talks about something called “Total Customer Experience.” Much has been written on this, but the basic idea is simple. You have to take responsibility for every interaction you and your colleagues have with your customer. Each one either enhances or diminishes customer loyalty and, hence, your brand.

This is also true of authors. Every interaction—whether it’s with the receptionist, an editor, a marketing director, a publicist, an accounts payable clerk, or the CEO—shapes the author’s perception of our company. This is why I have resisted the idea of creating a separate Author Relations Department. From my point-of-view, “author relations” is not a department; it’s a way of life. Or to say it another way, keeping our authors happy is everyone’s responsibility.

To that end, I would like to see us create an author survey and send it to all of our authors. Perhaps we should do this 90 days after a book releases. This is long enough to get through the product development and launch cycle but short enough that the experience is fresh on the author’s mind. We could then summarize these a couple of times a year and generate a Total Author Experience (TAE) Score. This would then enable us to focus on improving those areas that are important to our authors.

As someone once said, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. I think that’s true, and I think it’s time to start. Any volunteers?

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  • http://thedoubleu.blogspot.com Thom

    We’ve talked about something similar to this in Editors Guild meetings. Widening this out to include not just an author’s editorial experience but their experience of every element in the company is a much better idea. Thanks for building such high standards into every aspect of what we do!

  • http://www.merriedestefano.com Merrie Destefano

    I understand that much of what you wrote focuses on the inner workings of your company, but as an outsider looking in, I have to say that your goals are fantastic. And it all makes perfect sense. When employees are treated with respect, it is much easier for them to go the extra mile.

    Years ago, when I worked at Focus on the Family, the company hosted a luncheon, during which Dr. Dobson and his VPs served the meal to the staff. It was both humbling and inspiring, and I will never forget it. Did it make me want to be a better employee? Absolutely.

  • http://www.em.missouristate.edu Philip Rothschild

    Hello Mike. I’m noodling your idea – I know you asked for volunteers from your company but as an outside, neutral party, and a professor of entertainment management, this really piques my interest. I think it might be interesting to summarize and compare results across publishers. Which publisher ranks highest on the TAE index? What is the TAE index when comparing Christian publishers as a whole to secular publishers, among top ten publishers, small versus large, A list versus C list authors, etc. I might do a lit review on the topic of “client satisfaction surveys” and see what emerges. If we find funding, perhaps an annual survey could be conducted by my department at Missouri State University.

  • Lindsay Terry

    Mike,

    As an early TNP author (1974), a recent author (2002 Integrity), and an author with a book in the process of being published, I was delighted to read “Total Author Experience.”

    I appreciate Kathy Baker’s efforts to make my book, “I COULD SING OF YOUR LOVE FOREVER: Stories Behind 100 of the World’s Greatest Worship Songs,” a more attractive, better received book, even though it is beening delayed, somewhat, in the process of getting it on the bookshelves.

    Thank you for NOT creating an Author Relations Department.

    Thanks to you and TNP for allowing me to be in your stable of authors.

    Lindsay Terry

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Lindsay, you are welcome. I am glad you are on-board!

    Philip, thanks for your offer. This would be the ultimate. We are going to evaluate our options, then decide.

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    As one of your authors since 2002, I love the access I have to all the different divisions within the company. When I hear of great work (like Julie Jayne’s recent success in placing Abomination on the front fiction table at BN and BAM) I can send them a personal thank you rather than having to ask someone to pass it along. Every single employee I’ve come in contact with has only strengthened my desire to be part of the TN family for a long time.

    And your recent decision to do away with imprints and put ALL my team together has only helped the communication process. I love having the marketing and publicity team focused on our fiction. I tell every author I know about my experiences with my team. They are awesome! Allen Arnold, aka Superman, actually LEADS and inspires all of us, even his authors, to reach for the stars.

    TN is a model for other houses. I love them.

  • http://www.juliedearyan.com Julie Scudder

    Enjoyed all of your posts on this page. This is the first time I visited this blog and I learned a lot. Especially about all the publishing hurdles. Wonderful, helpful, info. Thanks so much.

  • http://www.inscribe.org/glynisbelec Glynis M. Belec

    When I read about people like you who head up companies and are concerned about their employees (and this case, your authors) I am thankful. It is no wonder that your company has survived in the market. You demand excellence in your final product, of course, but from what I have learned in the past about TN and read today in your post, you also desire contentment in those who work for you no matter the capacity. I think a TAE survey is a superb idea. Your goals are commendable and when I hear ideas like this that focus more on relationships rather than always on the $$$ bottom line, I say good for you. I truly believe that God will bless you beyond measure ($$$ or otherwise) when you put people and relationships first! Keep the crew happy and you will have smooth sailing.