A flood of “Professional” ebook formatters

The advent of self-publishing through online retailers such as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and distributors like Smashwords has brought forth an assortment of ‘professional’ people willing to help a new author format an ebook or provide other services for a good size fee.

I manage a forum called the Smashwords Forum. This forum is for authors who need help with formatting, marketing, promotion, and all the other aspects of publishing an ebook. The forum is free to join, and has close to 700 members now.

The forum has a “Read before posting” section which contains a variety of topics with information on the forum, how to use the forum, and posting do’s and don’ts among other topics. The “Read before posting” section clearly states this is a forum for authors. It is not a forum open to everyone and anyone. It certainly isn’t there to help ‘professional’ people solve some problem with formatting or whatever.

To my way of thinking a ‘professional’ should possess an above average degree of knowledge on publishing ebooks. This knowledge, especially relating to formatting or conversion problems which are often the case with new authors, should be something a ‘professional’ knows about and can quickly solve.

The reason I bring this up is a ‘professional’ joined the Smashwords Forum and sought help with a problem which has been known about for a long time and discussed many times even on the Smashwords Forum. (Free registration required for full access.)

This ‘professional’ didn’t bother to read the “Read before posting” articles available on every forum board section, didn’t Search the forum before asking the question (very unprofessional), and at first didn’t bother to post the question in any of the forum boards.  Instead, this ‘professional’ just popped it into the Shoutbox at the very bottom of the board which few, if any, members ever scroll down to see or use.

To my way of thinking this was not professional. The way I see it, a ‘professional’ charging a goodly sum for services should possess a modicum of knowledge on a subject before charging for it. The ‘professional’ could have easily found the answer to his/her problem by simply searching the net for the answer, as his/her problem had been discussed many, many, many times over the years.

But this ‘professional’ was too lazy to even search the Internet for the solution. Not very professional.

So I barked at him/her on my forum. I wrote, “Marti or Jim, you offer your services as professionals (UCS Press) selling authors formatting for ebooks, so you really should have some understanding of epub coding. At the very minimum you should possess a modicum of formatting knowledge before selling your services.

Your UCS Press mission statement exclaims “To be known for exceptional customer service, and to provide a quality product in return for a fair price.”

This site is for helping authors, not self-proclaimed professionals who charge fees for their services and yet seek free help when they have a problem.

You’re a professional. Get professional help.

PS: Thank you for posting here as requested. Posting in the Shoutbox as you did multiple times isn’t the proper way to use a forum. I realize you needed a quick answer, being a professional charging money for your ‘services’, but posting here is proper etiquette.”

He/she didn’t like my reply. “I started doing formatting on SW before epub started.  This is something that I am trying to learn.  I had thought one of the reasons for this forum was to offer assistance.  I will look elsewhere for someone who wants to take the time to be professional about it and offer some assistance.”

My reply was “-members username-, if you had taken the time to review the “Please Read Before Posting” pages included on every forum board you would have seen this forum is for authors. Even if you had taken a moment to perform a Search using the two words paramount to your problem – epub start – you would have found links to posts which had help for that issue.

You were too lazy to even search for previous topics on this subject. Again, if you had bothered to read the “Please Read Before Posting” pages you would have had a good idea on how to Search this forum. But you are lazy and and unprofessional in your conduct and manner. You are a professional offering professional services for a healthy fee, but this forum is for authors seeking help, not professionals such as yourself. Be professional. Seek professional help, -members username.”

Maybe UCS Press does fine formatting and authors who use his/her services are quite satisfied. But it riles me when people who charge for services expect to get help for free when they have a problem. For geezus sake buy a book on the subject, search the Internet, take a course. At the minimum use the Search function on a forum and show a tidbit of professionalism.
I’m not saying the people operating UCS Press should never be used by authors, they may do good work. But there is a flood of ‘professionals’ stalking the ebook world seeking to make some money after failing to earn any as authors. Authors should cautiously approach any ‘professional’ and perform due diligence before consenting to any work agreement.
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