The author who chooses to self-publish rather than seek a traditional publisher faces a dilemma: who will polish and package the book and get it ready to sell?
That’s the job of author services companies.
Some authors, often to the detriment of their books, take on these tasks themselves. Others cobble together the services they need—editing, proofreading, cover design, page layout, marketing and more—by hiring independent editors, book designers and marketing consultants.
Then there are companies that offer author services.
What Author Services Companies Offer
Author services companies provide under one roof some or all of the services needed to polish and package (and sell) books.
And because providing these services to authors is ALL they do (unlike a freelance graphic designer who may design an ad or brochure before working on your book cover), they often provide some added value.
So, what added value can author services companies offer you?
One-stop shopping! For the greatest convenience, look for an author services company that offers all the services you need under one roof. That way you’ll only have one contract, one proposal, one project manager, one email address and one bill to pay. When you are consumed with finishing your book, you will appreciate the simplicity of having only one person to contact instead of tracking the activities of several freelancers.
In addition, because author service providers know the book trade inside out and are well-connected to other service providers, they can refer you to other experts you might need for coaching, ghostwriting, book marketing, reviews, and more. Our clients often continue to contact us directly to ask for recommendations to book marketing experts, PR specialists and the like, long after the book goes to press (so to speak). They know that we know the book biz, and they like the expediency of being able to call one expert to discover many more.
The other day, our project manager was telling me about her first year working as a magazine proofreader. As a new proofreader, she inevitably made a mistake. The managing editor asked her, “How could you have missed that?”
She replied, exasperated, “I didn’t know that was a thing!”
In the fourteen years that followed, she learned many more things and the same editor eventually admitted, “You’re the best proofreader I’ve ever seen.”
The moral of the story, experience matters.
Books from major publishers look good and read well because a team of people—individually and collectively—take care of many things that beginners are unaware of.
After spending months or years writing your book, it’s only natural to seek advice from those close to you or from Google. You’ll be advised to use a do-it-yourself tool or template. You may read that you should save money by choosing a freelance designer from a contest site. You should do this, they say, because you may not sell many books.
But guess what happens if you follow this advice?
Templates and low-cost service providers don’t take care of things. Web-based systems that allow you to upload your Word file for automatic formatting don’t take care of things either, so the end result won’t be any better than the text you put in.
Then, the bad reviews will pile up and the predictions will come true: you won’t sell books.
You’ll be glad you didn’t spend money to produce a good book. How’s that for circular logic?
It takes dedicated human beings to create a great book. Human beings who learned a lot of things over a lifetime of work experience. Knowing what to do and what not to do make all the difference. Compare bookstore books to “typical” self-published book and you’ll see that quality consists of the thousand little things your book deserves.
Back in the day, traditional publishing was the way all authors got their books to press. Publishing companies were the true gatekeepers for all but political commentary printed on pamphlets and posters.
The editor was the author’s contact at the publishing company. The role of the editor changed dramatically with Max Perkins, editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons. Unlike most editors of the time, he committed himself to signing young, promising authors, and he went on to sign such literary legends as Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe.
A. Scott Berg, who penned a book about Max Perkins, makes this comment about the way Perkins worked with his authors: “Not only did he change the course of the American literary river, but he changed what editors do by becoming their best friends, their money lenders, their marriage counselors, their psychoanalysts.”
The writer’s life is a lonely one. It’s important for authors to find this type of support. Over the weeks and months it takes to prepare a book for publishing, you will develop an on-going relationship with the contact at your author services company, assuming they provide one (human) contact or project manager.
While no one can replace Max Perkins, we recognize the role of friend and advisor to indie authors, and “hand holding” has been part of what our project managers do since we started in this business many years ago. We get to know our authors pretty well. And they come to rely on us for advice, mentoring, direction, and more. Because we spend so much time together—in a virtual sense—our team gets somewhat involved in the author’s life, and yes, sometimes it gets personal. Authors don’t hire us for “hand holding” per se, but in retrospect they realize the value of the added support.
Where can you find the names of contacts for author services companies?
While we hope that you’ll call us first, we know that you should do your research. The Alliance of Independent Authors maintains a listing of author service companies, so that’s a great place to start. They also publish a “watch” list to help you steer clear of the scams.