With my day job at an IT Consultant, my side interest as a web developer, and my desire to promote and sale my books online, it should go without saying that I spend a fair amount of time online. Granted, some of the time spent ‘surfing the web’ are for professional purposes that focus on specific websites or searches but I do try to always pay attention to subjects related to my interests regardless of what drew my gaze to any given app or browser. And I’ve noticed a somewhat new trend that seems to be growing of late that gives me cause for concern.
What trend is it?
I see more and more websites popping up by authors that not only promote their books but also offer ‘author services’. This reeks of similar services offered by vanity publishers but also potential cash grabs but under-qualified providers.
But Gary, you’re an author with a website, why would you say this?
Firstly, I don’t offer any type of services to anyone other than my books. You can scour every page of my website and I’m not trying to sell anything to anyone other than my books. I might make recommendations or suggestions regarding services to avoid or use but I am not trying to sell any of those services nor do I receive any type of compensation for those recommendations or suggestions.
Secondly, many of the author websites that I see offering these services are often billed as independently published or self-published. And this is what causes my red flag to start climbing the flagpole.
These authors may be good writers, they may have created compelling stories, BUT their writing didn’t attract agents or mainstream publishers. It makes me question how good the services from such individuals could be if their own work didn’t garner more attention. To a degree this is also a bit of the pot calling the kettle black as my work has not attracted any attention from agents or major publishers to date but then again, I don’t market myself as someone who can provide services to other authors.
Of course, my concerns could vary from what “services” are offered by each website. Some may only offer eBook conversion while others may offer editing services. Some may offer publishing support, i.e. they aid and assist other authors in getting their works published through mainstream solutions like Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) or IngramSpark’s open publishing tool. Author services is something of a generic term. Authors may require a variety of services from basic editing to typesetting to audiobook recording. And depending on what services are on offer require a different set of criteria to determine what value those services may yield.
Either way, it does concern me that so many authors are promoting themselves more for their author services than their author credits. If I’m an author promoting my book then I’ll have a website to promote my books. If I’m offering author services then I’ll create a separate website to offer those services, promote the works I’ve been involved with (author permission willing), and use it as a secondary promotion place for my own work.
I’m not against authors finding ways to bolster their income from their writing experience. Don’t get me wrong. I am just concerned that just because you’ve managed to independently publish your book that doesn’t mean that you are an expert qualified to charge others for your services. That’s like saying that just because I changed the oil in my car that I can charge money to others to do mechanical work on their vehicles or that just because I know an IDM solution by Vendor A that I automatically know how to use an IDM solution by Vendor B.
This article isn’t intended to paint these services offered by authors with a negative brush but rather than just to express my personal concerns with the growing number of websites I see including these offers. As always, get references, see previous work comparable to what you seek, and shop around. The most expensive choice is not always the best choice, nor is it a guarantee of quality while cheap solutions may be appealing financially but you do run the risk of ‘getting what you paid for’ with those services.
Be smart about who you do business with and why you choose to do business with them. A bad business deal may end up costing you more in the end. A little research, a few questions, and an unbiased look at what you need vs what you can afford could not only save you time but also a lot of money and stress.