Vanity and The Media Bewares Publishing

Experienced authors tend to chastise vanity press victims for not doing sufficient research, but the murky web of vanity partnerships — and the uncritical coverage which invariably accompanies same — makes it exceedingly difficult for newer writers to chart a safe path.

Some vanity presses are very good at crafting a veneer of legitimacy, one which can be very convincing to those starting out. Infamous vanity press conglomerate Author Solutions figured this out very early on, creating partnerships with Penguin, Harlequin, Writer’s Digest, Random House, HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson, Hay House, Reader’s Digest, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.

These partnerships served two purposes. First, they delivered an endless stream of victims directly from the companies themselves who would refer business to Author Solutions in return for a cut. Second, they helped Author Solutions whitewash its past, acting as a reputational fig leaf, hiding its seamy nature until it was too late. Read More…

Michael Hyatt Has Something To Sell You Bewares

Michael Hyatt has successfully reinvented himself as an author and speaker – one of those quasi-experts on marketing who slowly morph into a life-coach type guru. It’s a well-trodden path and these guys all tend to present themselves in similar ways. Here’s Michael Hyatt reclining among soft furnishings. Here’s Michael Hyatt enjoying a tender moment with his dog. Here’s Michael Hyatt projecting success with a shiteating grin for the ages. It’s almost easy to forget what he did. Almost. In 2009 when Michael Hyatt was CEO of Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, he was instrumental in the creation of WestBow Press – one of the first white-label vanity presses operated by Author Solutions on behalf of an established publisher. The Naming Read More…

FYI: Penguin Random House Is Still In The Vanity Business Bewares

Penguin Random House announced the sale of Author Solutions on Tuesday, leading to headlines stating it has exited the self-publishing business and various commentators congratulating it for cleaning house. Unfortunately, neither of those things are true. Four Penguin Random House-owned vanity presses will remain in operation – Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa, and MeGustaEscribir – and will be run as Partner Imprints. You can read more about how Partner Imprints work here, but the short version is that Author Solutions will operate these four vanity presses on behalf of Penguin Random House, and PRH’s job will be to provide leads (aka newbie writers), lend its name and brand to the effort, and then sit back and collect its commissions. This Read More…

Publishers Weekly Ignores The Real Scandal At LA Times Festival of Books Bewares

Publishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books, resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal. Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon. I’m not so sure that charge sticks. Either someone at the event buys the book in front of them or they don’t. Read More…

A Victory Against Author Solutions Bewares

It should be clear to everyone now that Penguin Random House has no intention of cleaning up Author Solutions. The only development since Penguin purchased the company for $116m back in July 2012 is that Author Solutions has aggressively expanded operations (see here, here, here, here and here). I’ve been covering the Author Solutions story for a while now – particularly since the Penguin purchase, which was met with disbelief in the author community.  It’s a frustrating beat, especially when faced with a wall of silence from the many companies and organizations in traditional publishing who have links to Author Solutions and its subsidiaries. Documenting the links between Author Solutions and the rest of the publishing world is depressing work. Read More…