Originally Posted by exaltedwombat
Sure you are! Particularly to amateur writers - you're not just selling technical eBook production skills, you're selling the "Being a published author" experience.
This happens all over the entertainment business too. What the audience is buying isn't always what you think you're selling. A performer's pride in his technical skills can make this difficult to see sometimes!
I don't disagree on what's being "sold." However, the difficulty arises in that like all businesses, we have to compete. The current market really does not have "room" for hours of consulting time in the book-conversion price. Remember, in fiction, at least, the average book converts for less than the price of dinner for two at a better (but not "top of the heap") restaurant in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Copenhagen, etc. Without
liquor or wine. Our average fiction title gets converted for about $160.00, to both (not each) ePUB and MOBI.
By the time I cover the actual labor costs, the overhead, the software costs (we run fairly expensive project management, accounting/billing and CSR software, dropboxes for everyone, network, Amazon S3 storage for archives, blabbety-blab, etc.), admin costs for the people who are not in production (not line, in other words)...that does not leave a lot of time for the "sizzle" in terms of answering phone calls and questions unrelated to the product. As you deal primarily with publishers, you have the luxury of not having to answer all those same questions, or at least, only answer them once per client. The question volume around here is so high that we generally consider that every first book for a first-time client is a loss for us
Not to mention, the huge number of hours we spend in "tech support," (which we don't provide, either). We really do spend probably a full manhour per day, minimum, explaining to clients how to download a file from a browser for which they don't already have software to launch it. The vast majority of our clients have NEVER downloaded a file from anywhere but their email; and they have almost always only had either pictures or Word files. That's it. I have a client that has called me 14 times since October; 12 times in the last 30 days, and 5 of those calls have been to walk him through downloading his ePUB or MOBI files. Believe me, I've lost my shirt on that one. And, yes, we have instructions for downloading, for the major browsers, but we don't know every email program that every client uses (we have a shockingly high percentage with AOL email addresses, which should say a lot!).
Our average client emails us not less than 24 times during the course of production (~2 weeks). We have clients that have emailed us 90 times, although obviously that wasn't in two weeks. The winner, and still champ, is a guy who gave us a book and emailed me (no: I am not making this up) 801 times. I finally fired him as a client, in desperation. (There were other issues, but, still....). Eight Hundred and One
Anyway, yes, before any of you suggest it, we do offer consulting time, but at the end of the day, there are (watch for the nice seque here to @mrmikel's post!) fundamentally different mindsets. The clients, who are right-brainers, perceive what they've done and are doing as art, not business. To me--pretty much all left-brain, all the time--publishing is business. If we're all lucky enough to create art along the way, great
, but publishing is about money. That sounds crass, but that's what it is.
And even the clients know that in their hearts--they want to be "best-selling authors." There isn't a well-known phrase for "best-giving-away-author." No. There's just "best-selling
-author." Most authors will demur, and tell you that they just want their work to be read--but count the books that are put up as PD on PG, for example, or up on Scribd as free books.
We may be selling the sizzle, but we still gotta keep the lights on. ;-)