So about ten days ago, I received the print proofs for Mending Heartstrings. At first, everything looked great. I mean, have you seen this cover? Even more beautiful when holding it in your hands.
Until I opened the book. Lo and behold, it was filled with weirdly small or extra-large margins and crooked pages. Instantly, my mood plummeted. And this happened on a Friday night, which was even worse. So I emailed IngramSpark, incredibly disappointed because this company is known for their terrific-quality product—and far-from-stellar customer service. When I saw the option, I also sent them a message through their new chat-answering-service-type feature. Saturday, at a more reasonable hour, I contacted them again through that live-chat feature and actually spoke to a human being.
The good news is, IngramSpark has really stepped up their game in the customer service department recently. It used to be that you had to email or call them which meant either never hearing back, or wasting time on hold & then repeating yourself 10 times before the person actually listened rather than making assumptions. Now, they've implemented that handy live chat feature, and even their Twitter account followed up on my frustrated tweet. (Someone even responded, for the first time ever, to my email—though that took 5 full days.)
Of course, the people themselves haven't changed. While this customer service rep was generally polite (way more so than the one I spoke to on the phone about a minor issue in August), the assumption was still that I had messed up the files, and there was no apology for that incorrect assumption or for the delay caused by what was in fact their printer's error. And as of writing this, I still have no idea when I will get the replacement proofs or whether those will have the exact same issues.
The thing is, now that this has happened, I feel like I can't trust any books printed by anyone to be done correctly, which is terrible when books purchased by readers through any distributor that isn't me are printed all over the world by a variety of printers. Any one of whom could mess up like this one did, or possibly even worse.
So, please, if you receive a poorly printed book, inform the seller and get a replacement. This way, the printer and distributor will both be informed that there was a problem, and hopefully they'll be able to prevent a repeat for other copies. Because whether you're printing 50 books or 5,000, it's impossible to check every single page of every copy before it gets to the reader, regardless of how a book is published (traditionally or indie).
It's also honestly heartbreaking for an author when a reader gets a book that is messed up by something like the printing process, after all that hard work—and even worse when publishing independently. Because while a giant company like Ingram, even though they've built their reputation on high-quality printing, will not be hurt by a few poorly produced copies, an author's reputation could be.
So if you do ever buy a book with what seem to be printing issues, I hope you won't assume it's a publisher or author error. Return the book. Get yourself a correctly printed copy. Both you and the author deserve for the book you read to showcase the countless hours of work that went into creating it.