The transformation of publishing as a result of the proliferation of e-books and self-publishing is an inescapable topic these days. As well as making every writer face the devil’s choice of whether to go traditional or go independent, this transformation has also created a new spinoff industry–you—the writer and author. Providers of author services are a growth sector of the economy.
As the director of advertising on Writer Unboxed, I’ve been thinking about how the development of author services further changes the job of being an author, adding responsibility for being an educated consumer of those services, but also what it means for blog owners.
Writing advice and advisors have always been around, but now, as well as ‘how-to write’ guides, there are DIY manuals for designing your own cover, formatting your own book, editing your own book, managing your own promotion. If you don’t want to go the full DIY route, you can buy a bunch of author-targeted software or you could hire some help–book cover designers, editors, book promoters, book formatters, packaging agencies, book advertisers, booksellers, marketing advisors, story ‘doctors’, indexers. The list could go on.
Many of these services have existed for a long time, but the providers traditionally worked directly with publishers. Some of these services are brand new, a product of the new e-book revolution.
All of them would like to gain your attention. Yes yours, because you, dear Writer Unboxed reader, are their niche market. Their intended clientele. Their bread and butter. And, yes, sadly, in some instances, their mark.
As with any industry, many of these service providers offer a valuable service and expertise, care about their reputation, and operate according to above board business practices. As with any industry, where there is money to be had, some of the service providers are out for the money. By whatever means they can get it.
Gaining your attention, let alone your patronage, is not easy. In a business where the standard legend is that all it takes to get published (and make millions) is to crank out some content, generate a file, and put it up for sale at one of the on-line booksellers, these author service providers not only have to reach their prospective clientele, they have to convince them that hiring a service provider is more valuable than DIY’ing it. Most people know when they need a lawyer. Not everyone knows when to hire a developmental editor, content editor, copy editor, or proof reader. Whether to hire a book packager or software that will generate the proper format for an ebook ‘automatically’ is equally unknown. That means even legitimate service providers have to be aggressively persuasive about the need for their services. That can make their promotional tactics more extreme–promising more for less or using gimmicks to get the prospective client’s attention.
For the author, this makes it absolutely critical to do due diligence before hiring any service provider or buying any service product. Ask for referrals from previous clients. Ask for a sample of work before you buy the whole package. Be clear about what services are and are not being provided. Advertising is a means of getting your attention, it is not a contract, a promise, a certainty.
Writer Unboxed is front and center in this developing industry of author services. On a daily basis it delivers, for ‘free,’ high-calibre content on writing and publishing to an unusually active and involved writerly community. Since keeping a blog the size and complexity of Writer Unboxed up and running is far from ‘free,’ it also, on a daily basis ‘delivers’ that community to the author service providers who choose to advertise on its website. The advertising revenue offsets the cost of keeping the blog running. Win-win, right?
Over the last few years, as the Writer Unboxed readership has grown in numbers and in community, the ad sales have shifted. When we started running ads roughly 4 years ago, advertisers were mostly authors advertising their books. In the last year we have sold the majority of ads to services or product providers targeting authors rather than sold by authors. Given the developing nature of the author service provider industry, this can cause some worry.
So far, Writer Unboxed has been both lucky (we have not gotten many ad inquiries from advertisers who did not seem on the up and up) and selective (we have not encouraged advertisers who were clearly not of interest to our readership). That in itself has gotten rid of a number of dubious ventures. But the times are changing. Costs are going up. Ad inquiries for access to you—authors in need of services—are increasing. This is a good thing.
Unless you work for a blog owner who worries about community as much as content. Then, you might lose sleep wondering if a website has any responsibility for the legitimacy of what is advertised. Or is it simply a financial decision—maximize ad revenue in any way possible and let the buyer/author beware?
I don’t know the answer. I just know that ads turn a relationship based on hard-fought and hard-won community into one based on money, and money changes everything. The more money, the greater the change. Given the frontier nature of the growing author services industry, it is going to be a wild ride the next few years.
So here are my questions to you readers: Do you research author products and services before purchase? Do you in any way associate an ad and its products with where it is advertised? Are there websites where you ‘trust’ the ads more than others?
When the ‘tiny coffee’ option was first introduced, I posted that I would not be using the tiny coffee app, but I have changed my mind, with a slight twist. Any coffee you buy from this post goes directly to Writer Unboxed to support the blog.
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!
Photo Credit: “Delaware State Fair.” Author Lee Cannon. From Wikimedia Commons.