Several years ago I got friendly with the owner of a self-publishing company (the kind of company I used to call a vanity publisher) and I suggested that he offer some of his book preparation services to people who were not buying complete publishing packages.
As long as the company has the staff to handle the work without neglecting the "package" customers, this would generate additional revenue, act as sampling for potential bigger purchases, and provide services to people who need them.
He wasn’t impressed with the idea, but now some of his competitors are.
AuthorHive is is part of giant Author Solutions, Inc. It began offering à la carte marketing assistance in early 2010.
Outskirts Press--a company not known for doing smart things--followed a few months later, selling both marketing and editorial services.
Outskirts boss Brent Sampson wrote: "Out of the gate, the Marketing Solutions “aisle” of our new site featured 7 items:
- 5 hours of Personal Marketing Assistance with one of our professional marketing experts
- 5 Celebrity addresses and pitches with our Celebrity endorsements option
- 500 customized bookmarks
- 500 customized postcards
- 500 customized business cards
- 5 large posters
- 25 small posters
Even still, at $135 it’s the lowest price I was able to find for what we deliver (although I didn’t spend hours and hours looking around). And the best part of the deal, and one few of our competitors can match, is that the author keeps ALL their profits. Amazon pays them directly, so they know Outskirts Press is not taking any of the Kindle revenue. We’re not even involved in the financial loop at all. This alone is enough reason for many authors at competing publishers to eschew their publisher’s Kindle edition (if they offer it all) in preference for ours."
While no writer needs Outskirts for business cards and other promotional paraphernalia, some of the services, particularly the Kindle edition, seem to be useful and fairly priced. Quality, of course, remains to be seen.
I expect more publishers to start selling services as needed. It's the literary equivalent of buying a "take and bake" pizza, where someone can share the food-prep work with experts.
Similar processes exist in other fields.
- A Sears automotive center will gladly provide you with a complete oil change--or sell you oil, a filter, a filter wrench and even a pan to drain the old oil into. They'll make money either way.
- My own company, AbleComm, changed the phone system business by offering to sell and install phone systems, or sell equipment and tools and provide tech support for do-it-yourselfers.
- Some homeowners go to Home Depot and order a complete custom kitchen. Some go there and buy ready-made cabinets and counters, take them home and set them up. Others buy lumber, paint, hardware and tools—and do all of the work. Home Depot will make money either way.
This could even be a way for the Big-Six publishers to hold onto their experienced and expensive employees instead of firing them when business is bad.
A self-publishing author could probably have a better book and maybe get a better reaction with a design by someone from Simon & Schuster and editing by a Random House editor.