Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions  Bewares

I have some huge news: Writer’s Digest has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions.

Abbott Press – the imprint launched by Writer’s Digest, parent company F+W Media, and white-label vanity press provider Author Solutions – is still operational, but all ties to Writer’s Digest have been cut.

It appears that Abbott Press will now be run directly as yet another Author Solutions brand but Writer’s Digest and F+W Media will have no further connection with it. (If you are unfamiliar with Author Solutions and its awful history, this will bring you up to speed.)

Cached version of Abbott Press showing Writer's Digest links.

Cached version showing Writer’s Digest links.

Writer’s Digest and F+W Media refuse to comment, despite being given several opportunities, but I’ve had this news confirmed by multiple sources. As Author Solutions only tends to allow early termination of partnership agreements if the partner signs a series of non-disclosure agreements, a formal announcement or comment is unlikely.

However, it’s clear from the websites of Writer’s Digest and Abbott Press that all links between the companies are in the process of being severed.

Abbott Press has removed “A Writer’s Digest Company” from its masthead and logo, and Writer’s Digest is in the process of scrubbing links between its site and Abbott Press, although you can still find several older articles touting the vanity imprint’s virtues – like this shill piece from Writer’s Digest staffer Chuck Sambuchino.

While this is a welcome development, it’s important to note a few things before this entire episode is airbrushed from history.

Current version, Writers Digest links removed

Current version, Writer’s Digest links removed

Author Solutions aggressively pursues strategic partnerships to lend credibility to its scammy practices. More importantly, these partners help keep the pipeline of email addresses and phone numbers flowing. As I detailed two weeks ago, Author Solutions needs huge numbers of leads because it only converts 5% of queries into customers.

Author Solutions first floated a partnership in 2010, but Jane Friedman – then publisher of Writer’s Digest – was unhappy with the idea and the direction the company was taking in general, and resigned.

Her successor, Phil Sexton, announced the partnership in January 2011.

We can only speculate as to why Writer’s Digest made the decision to terminate this agreement, but it’s clear they were aware of the dangers ahead of time. Away from the constraints of a corporate press release, Phil Sexton was more open with his thoughts in the comments of this post criticizing the deal. He acknowledged the issues when he said:

We’re well aware of the dangers here, particularly given who we are. It’s a scary line to be walking, particularly if we don’t handle it properly… The last thing any of us want to do is screw up a 90 year old brand.

It’s hard to know if Phil Sexton, Writer’s Digest, or F+W Media had a Damascene moment or whether they simply calculated that the vanity press income was not worth the reputational damage. Personally, I wonder if Writer’s Digest was surprised at the blowback from their misguided self-publishing survey, and the depth of ill-feeling towards them that existed among self-publishers (an increasingly important market for companies like Writer’s Digest and F+W Media).

While I’m happy that this step has been taken, I’m not hurling garlands in their direction. You don’t get off the hook for bad behavior just because you stop doing it, particularly if the motives are unclear and which could be just as self-serving as the original decision to partner with Author Solutions.

And, of course, it’s not the only shady behavior that Writer’s Digest engages in. If it truly wants to clean house, it also needs to do the following:

  • Drop advertisements from Author Solutions and its subsidiaries – ads which are aggressively upsold to Author Solutions customers at eye-watering prices, using high pressure sales tactics explicitly mentioned in the class action papers.
  • Refuse advertising from all dodgy providers (like Outskirts Press, which has a full-page ad in a recent issue of Writer’s Digest). You have a really bad reputation in this area.
  • Stop spamming your email subscribers with 90s-era internet marketing crap.
  • Ban scammy providers (such as Author Solutions) from your conferences where they prey on inexperienced writers.
  • Start actively warning writers away from predators (instead of partnering with them, accepting ads from them, and delivering victims into their clutches).

So while I’m not lauding Writer’s Digest, we can certainly celebrate the news.

This is a huge partner for Author Solutions to lose – the biggest so far by some stretch. Kevin Weiss had this to say about the original deal when he was CEO of Author Solutions, “This is a landmark alliance, as Writer’s Digest has been the relied-upon source for support and education for writers for more than 90 years.”

That was 2011. Three years later, Writer’s Digest ditching Abbott Press is a milestone in the fight against Author Solutions. But there are many more partners – huge names in traditional publishing like Simon & Schuster – who won’t address the issue at all.

We must keep up the pressure, especially now that we know it’s having an effect. The news media refuse to cover this story. It’s down to us. And there’s a lot of hard work ahead.

These strategic partnerships are crucial to Author Solutions, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they are working very hard right now to replace Writer’s Digest. We must remain on guard and keep pressing the existing partners to reconsider their position.

I’ll be posting a more extensive piece about Author Solutions’ various partnerships in my follow-up to The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers which will show exactly how Author Solutions’ tentacles have extended into every money-hungry crack in the publishing business.

I know many of you are eager to read that but I have to prioritize stuff that actually pays the bills (i.e. my own writing) and these investigations are very time-consuming. So… it’s coming, but a little patience will be required.

In the meantime: Happy Monday!

63 Replies to “Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions ”

  1. Never a dull moment. Pressure and exposure by people like yourself help sway businesses to make the right decisions, even if a bit late. Still it makes one wonder what they will do next, after all it’s about the money and they surely will be chasing another revenue path. Thanks again for your investigations and update.

  2. This is movement in the right direction. Let’s hope it leads to a general landslide of collapsing predatory publishing. Thanks to your relentless efforts at unmasking these scammers, neophyte writers aren’t going to be easy prey.

  3. Pingback: Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
  4. Thank you for your important work tracking down this nonsense. It’s incredibly frustrating that the media gets so worked up about fighting between Amazon and publishers, while ignoring this huge, multimillion dollar scam targeting authors.

    OT, I hope your new historical is doing well. I enjoyed it quite a bit. For anyone who doesn’t have the book yet, Mercenary is a fast, fun read, and a cheap, easy way to support David Gaughran’s larger work.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mercenary-David-Gaughran-ebook/dp/B00KRE87O0

  5. So great to hear some good news on the vanity press front. Finally things may start moving the other way. Thanks for being such a strong voice against author exploitation, David!

  6. Thank you for posting the news. I now argue with “paid spokesmen” who interrupt writing forums in an attempt to paint scam publishers as “doing a great service to writers”.

  7. Very happy Monday indeed. Thank you David for all your hard work and for sharing the latest happenings in the pub. industry, which can affect us. I may not always comment, but you are my go to guy for staying on top of important publishing news.

  8. I’m glad to see this happening, David. Self-published authors should not be subjected to the infamous greed manifested by a company of con artists like Authors Solutions. Traditional publishing has fallen prey to the same greed – if you can’t guarantee book sales, they won’t take you, making it difficult for even a very fine but unknown writer penetrate that wall. Indie publishing has provided the only solution to getting a start for most of us.
    Authors Solutions, and other companies like them, are nothing but con artists preying on the gullible. It should cost you NOTHING, except the fee for a proofreader and editor. Otherwise, do it yourself.

  9. Crossbooks has also ended it association with Author Solutions. They are now running their Christian self-publishing imprint Lifeways inhouse using their parent publishing group, B&H. I suspect that is what F+W will do for Writer’s Digest. I’ve no doubt they will launch another self-pub imprint.

    What this also demonstrates is what I, David, and so many others watching this over the past 5 years have been saying about these AS imprints launched with tradational publishers. The association and involvement of the trad publisher is in name only with a little tweaking around the edges. Otherwise AS wouldn’t have bother keeping Abbott going. It is what is always was – a crappy deal for authors and another window into the world of AS services.

    I should note at this point that the Abbott domain is still offically owned by WD.

    I’m sure you often ask the same question, David, as I do – how after all this time, all the effort and warnings we put out there, do so many authors fall into the AS machinery. AS will use that as a defence, “Look at all the authors still publishing with us.” The well-oiled AS marketing machine is designed to lure the non-savvy writer into the sticky web. The truth is that so many of those authors are not readers of David’s excellent blog; they are not readers of The Independent Publishing Magazine; they don’t read Victoria Strauss’ Writer Beware blog; and they are not members of organisations like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). They are often first-time writers unfamiliar with the modern world of publishing, brimming with ideas and books, and all too eager to hop on the first train into the station. For crappy author service companies and vanity presses, it’s as easy as picking off the lowest-hanging fruit.

    Ultimately, all we can do is repeat the message, spread the word, and enlighten writers. It’s grossly unfair to ridicule or berate new authors for not doing their homework and falling for crappy and expensive companies when some companies are deliberately deceptive and misleading. If you pay to see a doctor, no one expects you to hold a degree in nursing, no more than a writer should be a publishing professional. However – and this is the big stumbling block – you need to know the difference between being a writer, and being an author-publisher; you need to know the difference between legacy publishing and paid publishing. If you are going to self-diagnose and self-medicate, then be sure you’ve done your homework or seek advice from those you trust.

    You’re in good hands here, well done, David.

  10. Reblogged this on Northern Skies and commented:
    Wow! I am so shocked that this was going on. I had no idea Writer’s Digest was with Author Solutions. If I had known I wouldn’t have subscribed to their magazine, ordered their books, or trusted content from them. They became so well respected but they had this secret!!! They were hitched with a vanity publisher, that authors are so warned against. Not sure I can trust them again. Disappointed.

  11. Well done indeed mate! You’re bringing ’em down single-handidly! There’s no way these kind of developments would be taking place without your relentless pressure and exposure on the subject. Imagine how much $$ you’ve personally saved innocent victims with your research and campaigning!

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