Personal service. What does that even look like?
Consider where we are, in 2017: a world where one can order groceries off of the internet for home delivery, where autonomous cars are a real and actual thing and only a couple hundred rounds of safety testing from sitting in your garage, and where robots write blogs, and pretty well, too. (Don’t worry, there’s a person writing this blog. We promise. She just needs her morning coffee.) In fact, bots run quite a lot of what we do these days.
In the world of 2017, you can quite feasibly buy all the things a person needs to live–‘food, shelter, and safety’ echoing down from fifth grade science classes–online and without ever once leaving the house. And this is a potentially wonderful thing, especially for those with anxiety disorders and mobility problems. And while a lot has been made of the whole ‘bot stealing your job!’ meme, the facts do not (yet) bear that out. Most of the jobs being ‘taken’ by bots are more like gaps in the workforce that software designers and engineers are working to fill. (Most. That blog-writing bot still has me worried.)
The thing is, sometimes we really need personal service and help, and in a world so digitized and automated, it’s hard both to find it and even to figure out that you need it in the first place. After all, if no-one’s offering it as an option and recommending it in the various blogs and news articles you read, how are you going to know that personal service–particularly in self-publishing, our industry–is of benefit to you? How are you going to know where to get it?
It’s worth paying for someone to advise you, guide you, and to help you when it comes to something as important as publishing your book. Personal help from an expert that advises authors for a living is a valuable tool, not just some luxury, and should be perceived (and treated, and marketed) as such. Of all the self-published and self-publishing authors who I’ve worked with over the years, a grand total of zero (ZERO!) have commented that they “really didn’t need as much help” as they got through the company I work for (Outskirts Press). And since Outskirts consistently wins awards for its personal service … well, I guess it’s just proof that one can’t have too much of a good and useful thing.
It’s not just Outskirts Press who offers great personal customer support, but they are a great case study. When the company was founded all the way back in 2002, the world of self-publishing was a disorganized mess! There weren’t a lot of companies in the business yet, and there weren’t a lot of options available for the discerning author to allow for the flexibility which we so take for granted today. But it became a part of our founder’s operational framework that his company would focus on customer service and personal contact, starting with an author’s first expression of interest and continuing all the way through the publishing and marketing processes. This has since become our guiding star, and exerted an influence on other self-publishing companies, as well.
When you see the benefits of personal service, there’s no going back to simple templates and click-and-paste solutions.
But what about the cost?
One of the things you’re paying for at a self-publishing company is its personal service, and the more people working on your book–a Personal Marketing Assistant, a Graphic Designer, a Copywriter–the more you can expect to pay. But once you do pay for them, whether up-front or in installments, the benefits you unlock will last for years. You’ll have a cover design of which you can be proud and which will reel new readers in. You’ll have a marketing plan laid out from start to finish, and next steps for when you’re ready to publish your next book. You’ll have promotion on a variety of platforms, perhaps a book trailer on YouTube and a press release sent to various reviewers’ inboxes. This costs money, yes, but it pays its dividends.
And there are costs to doing it the other way, too–to going people-free in self-publishing. Although some publishers offer free digital services, when you need help, no one is there to guide you through the process. And it’s an incontestable fact that books with generic, template-based covers don’t catch customers’ eyes all too often. That their interior formatting is often a mess because there was no one there to make sure it copied over cleanly. That there’s no fanfare, no publicity, no social media optimization–unless you know how to do it yourself and are willing to pay the price in time and energy to make it work.
It’s worth the cost to have someone in your court, ready to help you when you need it.
You are not alone. ♣︎