Word on the Street Festival Doesn't Care About Author Scam Bewares

WOTSASIPRHI wrote a post last month about Author Solutions’ relationships with The Bookseller magazine in the UK, and The Word on the Street Festival in Canada.

Since then I’ve been in touch with the editor of The Bookseller. I’ll share more about that when I can, but suffice to say that the discussion has been encouraging. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my exchange with The Word on the Street Festival.

To recap, last month I discovered a new Author Solutions scam – using their booth at a Canadian literary festival to get even more money from their customers. From that post:

I received some spam recently from Xlibris (yet another Author Solutions brand), touting a literary event – the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto this coming September.

For £299 (approx $450), I was offered the opportunity to place my book in a “new title showcase” at the event. I’ve seen these shelves at the London Book Fair – a tired assortment of books, usually in an out-of-the-way part of the hall. I walked passed on numerous occasions to see if I could catch anyone browsing the books. I never did.

But that wasn’t the worst deal on offer. For an astonishing £2,999 (approx $4,500), I was offered the chance to host a book signing at the same event. To avoid any confusion, flights, accommodation, and personal butler aren’t included in this price. Not even a free ticket to the event. All you get is an hour slot at the Author Solutions booth and some free copies to sign – if anyone shows up.

You might think that no-one is gullible enough to spring for this. But you would be wrong. At Word on the Street 2012, Author Solutions had over 300 client books in their “new title showcase” and 36 book signings.

By my reckoning, Author Solutions brought in $297,000 from this wheeze. That’s from one year. And one event.

I closed those remarks by expressing a hope that the festival organizers weren’t aware of what Author Solutions were doing, and that they would put it stop to it.

That hope was misplaced.

This is the response I received from Heather Kanabe, Festival Director of The Word On The Street.

Dear David,

I had a chance to clarify the matter over the week.

We do not track nor put controls on the pricing/revenue of our vendors, and they do not report these figures. Also, we have been very candid with self published authors about our rates for participation in the festival as a self published author. I would hope that individuals published through Author Solution would do their own due diligence to make a fair assessment of whether or not to register with Author Solutions.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention so that it can remain under review. Next year we will re-assess the the situation in regard to the amount of space made available to self-published authors/vendors within our marketplace.

Warm regards,

Heather

In other words, if you have been scammed by Author Solutions, The Word on the Street Festival thinks it’s your own fault, despite the sophisticated deception Author Solutions uses to ensnare customers, and despite the legitimization The Word on the Street Festival grants them by allowing them to appear.

I can’t abide this cowardly passing of the buck. The Word on the Street Festival have a range of options open to them, from asking Author Solutions to stop using their name in promotional materials and to stop selling $4,500 packages to sign books at their booth, all the way up to banning Author Solutions from the event altogether.

Instead they are choosing to blame the writers. As an author friend put it, “Would they run ads for known credit card scammers, then tell victims: Do your homework?”

Indeed.

I’m sure the milquetoast response from The Word on the Street Festival is nothing to do with the fact Author Solutions’ owner Penguin is a key sponsor of the event.

Whatever the reason, there’s still time for The Word on the Street Festival to put a stop to this scam. Please consider letting them know how you feel on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and by sharing this post using the buttons below.

Note: I published an interview with Ted Oswald on Friday – author of a superb Haitian murder mystery who is donating all proceeds to charity – but it appears some of my blog subscribers didn’t receive the usual notification. If you were affected, please let me know in the comments or by email, and I’ll try to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, you can read that post here.