This article was originally written by David Gaughran
. The article is interesting, but as always, the comments that follow are even
more informative. Reblogging after informing the author.
Simon & Schuster has launched a self-publishing operation, Archway Publishing,
contracting one of the most disreputable players in the business to run the show: Author Solutions.
get to that distasteful link-up in a second, but first let’s have a
look at what Simon & Schuster are offering prospective customers
Fiction packages start at $1,999 and go
up to $14,999. If you have written a business book, prices are saucier
again: $2,999 to $24,999.
While the upper end of the
pricing spectrum is obviously shocking, some of you might think that
$1,999 isn’t too bad if you are getting a proper edit and a decent
Not so fast.
That price tag doesn’t include any real editing, just an assessment which – according to their own website
– is “not a replacement” for editorial services but “a preliminary diagnostic tool.”
what if you need proper editing? Fear not! Simon & Schuster is here
to help. For just $0.035 a word, you can have a thorough edit of your
book. Which sounds cheap until you realize that a standard 80,000 word
novel would cost you $2,800. So, in actual fact, the cheapest package,
plus their edit, will set you back $4,799 for a standard length book
As if that wasn’t enough, Simon & Schuster will also take half of your e-book royalties
Amazon and the other retailers take their cut – and pay pennies for print sales.
Not looking so reasonable anymore, is it.
wait!” I hear you cry. “Those Simon & Schuster editors might be
pretty damn good.” Alas, Simon & Schuster won’t be lending any
editorial expertise to this new operation; it will be run and staffed
by… Author Solutions – the world famous repository of editorial talent.
fact, the whole operation has been outsourced by Simon & Schuster
to Author Solutions. In case you aren’t familiar with them, let’s go
over a little history.
Author Solutions is the umbrella for (and owner of) several seriously
shady self-publishing service companies (or vanity presses, if you
prefer) – such as AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford.
of these companies has managed to achieve disreputable status on their
own, but together they have screwed over more than 150,000 writers.
Going through the full history of their rip-off schemes would require a
book, rather than a blog post, so I’ll stick to the highlights.
The formidable Emily Suess
has been covering Author Solutions for some time:
list of recurring issues includes: making formerly out-of-print works
available for sale without the author’s consent, improperly reporting
royalty information, non-payment of royalties, breach of contract,
predatory and harassing sales calls, excessive markups on review and
advertising services, failure to deliver marketing services as promised,
telling customers their add-ons will only cost hundreds of dollars and
then charging their credit cards thousands of dollars, ignoring customer
complaints, shaming and banning customers who go public with their
stories, and calling at least one customer a ‘fucking asshole.’
the above list carefully. Take a moment to consider it. This is the
company that Simon & Schuster has hired to run their self-publishing
operation – a company which was purchased by Penguin in July for $116m.
If you are unfamiliar with the charges above, this post
will give you a little more detail.
the time of the purchase, some commentators expressed hope that Penguin
would clean up this cesspool. Instead, Penguin gave Kevin Weiss – the
head of Author Solutions – a seat on the board.
A seat on the board!
the scammy behavior hasn’t stopped; in fact, some of it is getting
worse. I’ve received reports of Author Solutions staff calling
prospective customers and asking if they want to be “published by
Penguin.” Yes, they went there.
Then, a month after Penguin’s purchase, Author Solutions were heavily criticized for their misleading marketing strategies b
y Victoria Strauss of industry watchdog Writer Beware.
from the usual litany of dodgy affiliate programs and misleading
“independent” websites, Author Solutions had now gone a step further:
using fake people
to tout their services. A social media profile
for “Jared Silverstone” was decked out with a stock photograph, and sent
out to hustle for Author Solutions – under the pretense of recommending
Since Fake Jared’s fifteen minutes of fame,
I’ve seen similar “writers” and “publishing consultants” disingenuously
promoting Author Solutions companies in various writing groups on
Facebook. And they’re just the ones that slip through the net – the
administrator of one popular Facebook group told me that she “turns away
people like this all the time.”
The latest wheeze is even better:
an army of spam bots, posting comments to writing and publishing blogs,
attempting to both lead people back to AuthorHouse and boost SEO. I
snapped a comment from one such bot on the blog of Porter Anderson l
ast week (which hasn’t been deleted at the time of writing).
Thank you, Author Solutions. The world really needed more spam bots.
PREDICATED ON IGNORANCE
you say that any writer who gets suckered only has themselves to blame,
you must consider that Author Solutions is extremely disingenuous about
how they target customers.
They prey on people who don’t understand the industry. Their whole business model
is predicated on customer ignorance – and they are relentless at
exploiting that, hounding people with incessant calls, pushing every
emotional button they can think of, until they crack.
works. The average customer spends $5,000 getting their book published –
which is crazy money – and Emily Suess has received reports of writers
being tricked out of tens of thousands of dollars. After all that, the
writers don’t sell anything anyway, and what little they do make is
often delayed or unpaid altogether.
I can’t say it any plainer: Author Solutions are in the business of ripping people off.
who Penguin purchased. That’s who Simon & Schuster hired to run
their self-publishing operation. That’s who the Author’s Guild partnered
with to help their members get books back in print.
writers have already been duped by Author Solutions. That number is
likely to increase significantly now that Penguin has legitimized the
company by purchasing them and Simon & Schuster has validated their
business practices by hiring them.
Let’s make sure no more writers get ripped off.
UPDATE 29 Nov:
As you can see, this post has received a lot of comments. One in
particular deserves highlighting, from a writer called Khloe on her
experience with Xlibris (an Author Solutions company). She says:
told me that with Penguin buying them they could, basically, guarantee
that penguin would look at my book and because it was so good (she’d
read the first couple of pages) they would definitely pick it up – the
next 50 shades I was told I would be!”
This is the
second such report I’ve received of Author Solutions using Penguin’s
name to try and snare writers. The last person was asked (by
AuthorHouse), “Would you like to be published by Penguin?” and then was
offered the standard AuthorHouse packages, but with all sorts of
promises about how “Penguin” would market their work.
mistake, this is on Penguin. They knew what they were buying. Let’s
recall the words of Penguin CEO John Makinson on the purchase of Author
“We spent time getting to know the people at ASI and their sophisticated operation,”
. “They have skills that can help us at Penguin.”