Monday, December 20, 2010

To Use An Author Services Company Or Not?

The following is an excerpt from 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing.

42. What is an author services company?
An author services company is a business that accepts payment from an author to help the author publish a book. Author services companies are also known as self-publishing companies, a misnomer, or sometimes as a vanity press, a derogatory term for self-publishing.

The services offered by an author services company include editing, proofreading, interior design, cover design, and typesetting. Marketing services are also a common offering now as well. Some author services, for a fee, will also apply for a copyright for the author and obtain a Library of Congress Number as well, all services an author can do without the help of an author services company, thereby avoiding extra fees for services rendered.

43. Are there advantages to using an author services company?
For a first time author, an author services company can offer several advantages, if the author takes the time to find a reputable, quality author services company. These advantages include providing editing, interior design, cover design services for a fee instead of the author having to search for and contract with freelancers to provide these same services.

44. Are there disadvantages to using an author services company?
The two biggest disadvantages are cost and the time involved in getting a book to press. The charge for the services involved may be higher than if an author hired freelancers to do the work and the cost per copy could be inflated as many author services companies sell copies to the author at an inflated price per copy.

Author services companies have many clients and work on a first-come, first-serve basis. Author services companies usually want to produce work in a reasonably timely manner, but due to the number of titles the company is working on at a given time, this is often not possible. Author services companies (and vanity presses) commonly tack on a surcharge per copy sold, decreasing the amount of profit per copy of the author.

45. How can I determine if a self-publishing author services company is reputable or not?
It takes careful research to find a reputable author services company. There are several steps an author can take to determine if a company is reputable. A good starting point is Mark Levine’s book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. This book does not review a wide range of author services companies, but provides a considerable amount of information about contracts and the obligations of all parties involved in the contracts.
The Better Business Bureau has records and ratings for many author services companies. This information is all available via the internet and the information included in the ratings can be telling about a company.
Word-of-mouth recommendations, or reviews, are also an excellent source of information but be sure to obtain more than one review or opinion about a company. Post a request for opinions on a message board site for self-publishers and considerable feedback will be made available by the members of the group using the message board. Don’t rely on the customer references provided by the company. These may be perfectly legitimate but companies with a bad reputation want to control the feedback given about the company and the quality of its service and work and will select the few authors who are happy with the company’s services to act as references.

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