Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do Author Services Companies Have A Place?

Outskirts Press and a few other "self-publishing" companies have been getting hammered lately on the blogosphere by bloggers who write about the field and world of self-publishing. The nasty old pejorative adjective of "vanity press" has been bandied about when discussing these companies. A much nicer term might be "author services companies."

The main objection to most of these companies is their method of generating revenue is not through selling the books of their customers, authors, but rather in selling services, editing, interior design and lay-out, marketing, etc, to their customers.  The results often are shoddy and leave the author frustrated and with little hope of ever recouping the money invested in their book.  I know I would object to being mislead and having my book ruined by such a company.

But are all author services bad? Do all of them deserve the title of vanity press? What possible positive reason could their be for the existence of these companies?

An author who truly self-publishes his or her book will own the ISBN, have the book edited, have a professional create a cover and possibly have the interior created by yet another professional. Often the author has hired freelancers to do this work and a wise author does just that.  Even a budget conscious author can wind up spending a tidy sum paying freelancers to do the work and the time required to find and contract these freelancers can be considerable.

Reputable author services companies can provide all of these services under one roof and often the collective cost will be less than if the author purchased these services separately.

Then why don't all self-publishing authors use this approach? There are several drawbacks that must be considered.  The first is the time line involved in getting the book ready for market.  Freelancers will work on a deadline that is imposed, after negotiation, by the author.  The author services company usually works through its books in the order in which they were submitted.

The company itself might be reputable, but in order to offer competitive pricing with other author services companies, some of the editors and other individuals who do the work of transforming the manuscript into a book might not be as capable as freelancers that the author individually selects to complete the work.

Invariably, many of the author services companies add a surcharge to the cost per copy for author copies, driving costs up if the author counts on direct sales as part of the business plan for this particular book.

How can one find a reputable author services company? Word of mouth is one way.  Simply post a question asking for help in finding one such company on one of the many self-publishing groups on the internet.  Mark Levine's book about Self-Publishing companies and their contracts is another good starting point.  I also suggest checking the company's BBB rating as well.

For the author who is about to self-publish his or her first book, this might be the way to go about doing it.  There is so much to learn about publishing that it can be overwhelming initially. 

Regardless of how you choose to go about self-publishing your book, ALWAYS do your homework first.  Buyer be ware!