Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story Bewares

ASandfriendsweboptAuthor Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest.

Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing.

Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations:

Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so by selling books back to its Authors, not to a general readership, and by selling its Authors expensive publishing, editing, and marketing services (“Services”) that are effectively worthless.

Indeed.

You may not have heard about this second class action as most of the media felt it wasn’t worth reporting – even the trade press like Publishers Weekly and The Bookseller – but you can peruse the complaint here (PDF).

(Note: the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in both class actions are still looking to hear from anyone who has published with Author Solutions. You can do that here.)

Despite Author Solutions’ mounting legal troubles, and an unending stream of complaints against the company from both its own customers and a whole host of writers’ organizations and campaigners, companies are still queuing up to partner with Author Solutions.

Penguin Random House – its corporate parent – has shown no inclination towards reforming any of the deceptive and misleading practices of Author Solutions, or addressing any of the long-standing issues its customers face, handily summarized by Emily Suess as:

  • 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.

Instead of making any attempt to tackle that list, Penguin Random House has focused on international expansion of Author Solutions, a process which has also seen the re-introduction of practices which had previously been banished from the industry, like reading fees.

Author Solutions “Partner Imprints”

If you haven’t encountered it before, the list of companies which Author Solutions has partnered with is pretty shocking. Some of these relationships are listed on the Author Solutions website, but others are hidden – even from customers using those services.

Below is a partial list of the publishing companies which have partnered with Author Solutions to create their own in-house “self-publishing service,” but it gives you an idea of just how many supposedly respectable publishers are willing to profit from exploiting inexperienced writers.

The name of the respective service – or what Author Solutions refers to as a “Partner Imprint” – is in brackets.

  • Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing)
  • Lulu
  • Harlequin (DelleArte Press) – partnership terminated 2015
  • Hay House (Balboa US, Balboa Australia)
  • Barnes & Noble (Nook Press Author Services)
  • Crossbooks (LifeWay) – partnership terminated 2014
  • Penguin (Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa)
  • HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson/Zondervan (Westbow Press)
  • Random House (MeGustaEscribir)
  • Writer’s Digest (Abbott Press) – partnership terminated 2014

Some of these companies go to great lengths to hide the Author Solutions connection (Lulu, Barnes & Noble, and Crossbooks being pretty famous examples), and customers of these platforms often aren"t aware that services are being fulfilled by Author Solutions – yet another reason, if one is needed, why victims shouldn"t be blamed.

In addition, Author Solutions customers often don"t know that all these imprints are being run by the same company, along with a large collection of its own in-house imprints – which Author Solutions refers to as “Core Imprints” – such as iUniverse, Trafford, Palibrio, AuthorHouse, BookTango, WordClay, and Xlibris (a partial list).

The damage these partnerships have caused goes far beyond customer confusion. Let’s take a closer look at how they work.

How Publishing Partnerships Work

Author Solutions pitches its services to publishers as a way of monetizing the slush pile, offering what it calls “white-label services” to these organizations – which essentially means that Author Solutions will provide the entire infrastructure for their “self-publishing service” and operate it on their behalf too.

ASPublisher

These relationships are crucial to Author Solutions, as it doesn"t get organic referrals – i.e. for obvious reasons, writers aren"t recommending its services and Author Solutions has severe problems with customer retention.

Aside from providing a false veneer of respectability to Author Solutions’ operations, the only role that the partnering publisher plays is to provide “leads” to Author Solutions, and then sit back and collect the royalty checks. In short, these publishers are pimping out their brand as bait for the Author Solutions scam.

MotionToCertify2

In March, a whole cache of documents was released into the public domain as part of the discovery process in the original class action against Author Solutions – primarily depositions of Author Solutions executives. (You can read those here and here – both PDFs.)

Mick Rooney has been patiently going through the documents and transcribing them (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). It"s really eye-opening stuff, especially regarding how these partnerships with publishers work.

The relevant points regarding partners are:

  • Partner Imprints provide identical services, but often with higher prices. For example, the exact same book review package – Kirkus Premium – costs $5,999 from iUniverse and $6,999 from Archway.
  • These higher prices are necessary to cover, in part, the royalty payment to partners.
  • The balance is made up via higher quotas assigned to sales reps responsible for Partner Imprints.

Author Solutions Internal Quotas Revealed

Author Solutions’ sales reps have tough internal quotas that they have to meet every month. Their performance is not measured in things like customer satisfaction, or whether the marketing packages sold to customers actually have any effect in improving book sales. Instead, they are measured purely on the dollar value of products they upsell to customers – regardless of the quality of the book, the suitability of the customer, their ability to pay (Author Solutions offers payment plans), or the expected result.

In fairness to Author Solutions, these marketing services would be ineffective for any self-publisher – something which seems to be clear to everyone except for Author Solutions. If the depositions are anything to go by, it seems that Author Solutions’ defense is going to be that these marketing services aren’t designed to increase book sales, so they never checked whether they actually have that effect.

(I’m not kidding, that was the line pedaled by successive executives in the depositions. Of course, even if you take this claim at face value, this is not how these marketing packages are pitched to authors.)

The quota numbers were redacted from the depositions when they were made public, but I can reveal them for the first time – courtesy of a Penguin Random House source. The figures below are in US dollars, and these are monthly targets.

  • Publishing Consultant, Core Imprint: $20,000
  • Publishing Consultant, Partner Imprint: $40,000
  • Marketing Consultant, Partner Imprint: $60,000
  • Book Consultant: $75,000

You will notice straight away that sales reps working for the Partner Imprints have much higher targets – and this is to cover the royalty the partner receives for each product sold. In practice, this means that sales reps working for Simon & Schuster’s Archway imprint will have to sell much more crap, at higher prices, and writers using Archway will be subjected to even more squeeze. (Thanks, Simon & Schuster!)

The rest requires a little explanation.

Publishing, Marketing & Book “Consultants”

The sales force employed by Author Solutions is considerable. Most (approximately 80%) are based in the Philippines, despite deliberately giving the impression they are based in the US. Also, they aren’t identified as sales reps to Author Solutions customers, instead they are dubbed “Marketing Consultants,” “Book Consultants,” or “Publishing Consultants.”

Publishing Consultants are the first to deal with authors, advising them which publishing package to purchase. The only way that Author Solutions measures the performance of Publishing Consultants is the total dollar value of packages sold, so these sales reps are only incentivized to sell the most expensive package possible. If the customer can"t afford a given package, a payment plan is offered. Publishing Consultants can (and do) also sell marketing packages, but their primary focus is on selling the most expensive publishing package they can. Publishing Consultants for Partner Imprints are expected to sell $40,000 worth of packages every month.

The next batch of sales reps that an author will deal with are the Marketing Consultants, and this usually happens when the book moves to the design stage. Again, the only metric Author Solutions cares about is the total dollar value of marketing packages sold, and the target for Marketing Consultants is $60,000 a month.

Book Consultants are introduced to Author Solutions customers as the people who will help fulfill the “free” order of books that comes with their publishing packages, but their true role is to convince the author to place an additional order for further copies of their books, beyond the small amount that comes free with some of the publishing packages. From Author Solutions own figures released when looking for a buyer in 2012, we know that two thirds of its revenue comes from selling publishing and marketing packages, and one third from selling books. What wasn"t known until the depositions of Author Solutions executives were made public is that the vast majority of those book sales are authors purchasing their own books. Book Consultants have very aggressive targets here – a staggering $75,000 a month.

Despite being called Publishing Consultants, Marketing Consultants, and Book Consultants, these employees are sales reps, usually with no experience in publishing, marketing, or book production. The complaint in the second class action has more on that:

Author Solutions aggressively sells publishing and marketing services (“Services”) to its Authors through a large sales force of telemarketers, largely based in the Philippines, who introduce themselves as the Author’s personal “Publishing Consultant” or “Marketing Consultant.” This has the deceptive effect of leading Authors to believe that the “consultant” has a background in publishing or marketing and has the requisite skills to guide the Author through the publishing process. In fact, these “consultants” are simply commissioned sales people with aggressive quotas who are not required to have any publishing or marketing experience. Author Solutions never discloses this fact to Authors.

AS Sales Rep adTo illustrate the point, on the right is a recent job posting by Author Solutions for sales reps, which you can click to increase the size.

Note that experience in marketing, publishing, or book production isn’t a requirement for applicants, but being “money-driven” is.

According to a source at Penguin Random House, Author Solutions employs 594 sales reps in its Philippines office, and 138 in its US office, making a total of 732 staff members whose primary role is to sell products to its own customers.

This is in stark contrast to the amount of people dedicated to actually providing basic services to its customers – services which Author Solutions has a duty to provide.

The Power of One

A recurring complaint from Author Solutions customers is that the company fails to fulfill purchased services, and also fails to fulfill basic services included in the publishing packages (allegations which are repeated in the class actions).

An example should illustrate why these complaints are so common. A frequent claim is that royalty payments are often delayed, incomplete, or wholly inaccurate – a situation further compounded by abysmal customer service when complaints are made.

You might imagine that calculating the respective royalties for the 180,000 authors and 225,000 titles which Author Solutions has published is a tricky task, especially given that these titles are distributed in several different formats to a large list of retail outlets, many of whom operate in different territories and currencies and pay out a different percentage based on a whole range of factors, including price.

This is how many staff Author Solutions employs to calculate royalties for all those authors and titles: 1.

That’s not a typo, there is one single person to calculate royalties for 180,000 authors and 225,000 titles. One person! And 732 sales reps with aggressive quotas to sell worthless crap like “web optimized” press releases for $1,299, YouTube advertising packages for $4,099, and Hollywood pitching services for $17,999.

I have spoken with a number of former Author Solutions employees over the last few months and they all shared similar observations. As long as sales reps are hitting their quotas, they are treated well by Author Solutions – rewarded with commissions, trips, expensive dinners, and, when the end of the month approaches, they are provided with breakfast, lunch, and dinner so they can meet their quotas.

But if sales reps don"t meet their quotas, it"s a different story.

One former employee told me that the sales reps had “an insanely high turnover rate” and that “watching one of them escorted from the office became a weekly event.” Still, they are treated better than the staff who actually work on the books – after the sales rep has moved onto the next “victim” (the actual word used by one former employee).

Production/design staff are, in general, poorly paid and badly treated. Not only do they have unrealistic targets and don"t feel they can devote the necessary time to produce quality books, they also have to clean up the mess created by the reps – who often promise things the production teams can"t deliver (anything to hit that quota, I guess).

Staff turnover is a problem in general at Author Solutions, but particularly for the position of the poor person who has to calculate royalties for 225,000 books from 180,000 authors. I"m told that it"s lucky if this staff member can get through two payment quarters without quitting in sheer frustration – which means that a new person has to be regularly trained in, and is always playing catch-up.

Howdy, Partner!

Aside from publishing partners, there are all sorts of other partnerships which Author Solutions has created. For example, Penguin-owned Book Country has a Lulu-like deal with Author Solutions which allows it to upsell worthless packages to BookCountry users, and the Authors Guild has a long-standing partnership with iUniverse, an in-house Author Solutions imprint.

In addition to that, all sorts of companies provide products to Author Solutions which are then re-sold at a crazy mark-up – usually advertising space, but often other things like book signings at literary events, or book display services at industry conferences. Again, this is only a partial list, but these companies/events/conferences include:

  • The Guardian Weekly
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Miami Book Fair International
  • New York Times
  • Women of Faith Conferences
  • The Bookseller (relationship terminated in 2014)
  • Kirkus
  • The Combined Book Exhibit
  • Word On The Street Festival Toronto
  • Publishers Weekly
  • International Christian Retail Show
  • Library Journal
  • MindBodySpirit Festivals
  • ForeWord
  • LA Times Festival of Books
  • Bowker (relationship terminated in 2013/4)
  • New York Review of Books
  • Hay House “I Can Do It!” Conferences
  • Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
  • Reader"s Digest
  • Bay Area Book Festival
  • Clarion
  • AARP National Event & Expo
  • London Review of Books
  • Ingram
  • Ellery Queen Mystery Monthly
  • Tucson Festival of Books

Together with the partners listed up top, it"s clear that Author Solutions has developed relationships with a staggering list of publishing companies, conferences/events, and media organizations.

These partnerships don"t provide any real value to Author Solutions customers. Their true role is to deliver fresh meat to Author Solutions, and to expand the range of worthless products they can upsell. And the media links in particular seem to have protected Author Solutions from any criticism in the press.

The Curious Case of the Penguin Omerta

I"ve contacted most of the companies/events on this list at various points over the last few years of campaigning. Only one – The Bookseller – decided to take action and terminate its relationship with Author Solutions. The rest either refused to comment, or defended their partnership.

Among those refusing to comment was Publishers Weekly and I suspect its partnership with Author Solutions runs far deeper than simply allowing it to re-sell blocks of advertising. It would be interesting to know if they have similar partnership arrangements in place to the publishers mentioned up top, and receive royalties from sales of these ad packs.

And you wonder why it’s so hard to get them to cover the Author Solutions story.

Obviously, having a financially lucrative partnership with Author Solutions acts as a strong disincentive to run an exposé of its shady practices, but there are other factors in play. Author Solutions is owned by the largest trade publisher in the world and Penguin Random House"s advertising spend is considerable.

Penguin Random House has also been actively suppressing the Author Solutions story. One investigation I have knowledge of was supposed to be published in April 2014, but the editor in question decided to kill the story at the last moment. And if you don’t believe that Penguin Random House would pressure the media into dropping such stories, then you really need to learn a little history.

The final twist in this particular story will test the reader’s credulity. The CEO of Penguin Random House – Markus Dohle – will receive a PEN Award next week for, among other things, “resisting censorship” and “promoting reverence for the written word.”

The Executive Director of PEN, Suzanne Nossel said the following:

Penguin Random House has been among PEN’s most stalwart supporters, with a history of resisting censorship and promoting reverence for the written word. Markus Dohle’s passionate leadership has helped galvanize an industry amid transformation, bringing energy and vision that are fueling reinvention in a dynamic and fertile new era of literary creativity.

I think they shortchanged him a bit. I would have gone for a statue.

187 Replies to “Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story”

  1. Thank you David for continuing to inform writers and authors about the dangers of Author Solutions. Very important for this article to be seen by anyone considering self publishing.

  2. Thank you for your tireless efforts to expose this scam. You"ve most likely saved many authors a lot of money. Shame on those with vested interests in maintaining the deception. And what are PEN thinking of?

  3. Reblogged this on Anma Natsu, The Lackadaisical Writer and commented:
    It is a sad, sad thing how infectious the misnamed Author Solutions has become. Please all my fellow authors, stay far far away from them! They just want your money, they aren"t going to help you.

    (my first attempt at “reblogging”….)

    1. I am not yet finished with my Memoir and I am clueless where to turn to get my book in print and marketed. I have been contacted by Archway as well as Simon-Schuster and felt pushed to publish "TODAY", or the 50 % savings would be lost. I told them my book has taken me 9 years to write, I wasn"t going to rush to publish it and save money when I want sure of what I may or may not be getting. So this article validates my fear of being taken for my money and not putting my books in the right hands to reach the public that I feel could greatly benefit from my story. Julie Young

      1. It can be confusing and overwhelming where to start. I (and many others, I"m sure) recommend David"s book Let"s Get Digital as a great guide for getting started.

      2. Beyond editing, publishing should cost you little to nothing. You can publish it all yourself on Amazon, Kobo, etc for free in eBook, and on Amazon in print for free (or low cost if you get your own ISBNs).

        For print beyond Amazon, IngramSpark can cost a bit from the outset, $49 set up free, and honestly at this point I"d say hold off until you are getting orders and want to reach more people and/or do a hardback.

        There are some really great free resources that can help you with it, and if you do decide you"d rather pay someone for some aspects, like layout and file formatting, David"s site, IndiesUnlimited, and checking places like Preditors/Editors and Writer Beware can help you sort the legit services from the scammers. 🙂

      3. Thank goodness you saw David"s blog, Julie! The decision of how to publish is critical and should not be rushed. Just as the writing process cannot be rushed. I am currently working with an author to publish her memoir which she has been working on for 10 years with our writing coach. Best of luck to you!

  4. A friend of mine almost got caught up in a bad contract at a writer"s conference – Killer Nashville. Thanks to you, her eyes were open and she saved herself. It"s amazing how boldly these people go after a writer with a dream, and remain in business. I hope the courts work. Some of the companies that do business with AS that you"ve listed in this post surprised me. You"re right – they are meat markets. Thanks for reminding us to keep vigilant to business associations as well as partners.

  5. This just gets worse and worse all the time. Thank you, David, for relentlessly exposing this truly shocking scam. It would be funny – in fact I burst out laughing twice while reading this – if it wasn"t so truly awful and frankly criminal. Let"s hope the class action lawyers are successful.

    1. I think a certain amount of gallows humor is necessary when wading through the swamp…

      And, yes, I really hope that the various lawsuits are successful. I"m wary about putting all my hopes in that – class actions are curious beasts and can fail for all sorts of technical reasons – but I wish them the best of luck.

  6. Can"t believe that no journalist has picked up this story yet. I"ll be pitching it to a couple of journos I know/have been in touch with before, just to see what they make of it.
    Thanks to you and Mick for all the hard word you put in investigating this.

    1. Good luck. I think you"ll need it! Maybe you will have a better shot than me, but I tried for two years to get a journalist to cover this story. Plenty were interested… until they saw (a) who owned Author Solutions, or (b) the list of companies partnered with Author Solutions. The whole sorry story sheds interesting insights onto the concentration of media ownership, how media companies have had to change to cope with the digital revolution, and how those commercial relationships are influencing the news side. We were always told the walls between editorial and commercial were solid (and sacred), but I"ve become much more cynical on that front over the last couple of years.

      I don"t know if you saw this post over Christmas, but it"s pretty similar to what happened in the 1970s with the big writing scam of the day, which had links to some of the main members of the literary establishment, including the founder of Random House: https://davidgaughran.com/2014/12/16/how-jessica-mitford-exposed-a-48m-scam-from-americas-literary-establishment/

      Consider the struggle that a reporter/writer of Jessica Mitford"s stature had getting her story published, and then compare how powerful Random House was then versus the gargantuan entity that is Penguin Random House today.

      1. David,

        “News is sacred, comment is free” was fatally wounded in the UK in the 70s. One reason I left journalism. The modern ownership of our press in the west generally has become a symbol of descent back to 18th century corruption. The internet has offered a way to counter this; keep going.

      2. Well, as you saw, I tried; and I"m sure Simon is going to look further into it. He"s a great investigative journalist. Looking forward to seeing whether he can “place” the story in a major publication or not.

        1. I just sent an email to Donna Leinwand of the USA today.  I know her, she hosted my author presentation at the National Press Club and I hope this will interest her. It is worth getting some attention, David, if it really is an attempt to profit and destroy the indie market by the bigger traditional houses. Best, Lara

          WordPress.com Ricardo Fayet commented: “Well, as you saw, I tried; and I"m sure Simon is going to look further into it. He"s a great investigative journalist. Looking forward to seeing whether he can “place” the story in a major publication or not.” | | Respond to this comment by replying above this line |

          | | | |

          | New comment on David Gaughran | |

          | | | Ricardo Fayet commented on Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story. in response to David Gaughran: Good luck. I think you’ll need it! Maybe you will have a better shot than me, but I tried for two years to get a journalist to cover this story. Plenty were interested… until they saw (a) who owned Author Solutions, or (b) the list of companies partnered with Author Solutions. The whole sorry story […] Well, as you saw, I tried; and I’m sure Simon is going to look further into it. He’s a great investigative journalist. Looking forward to seeing whether he can “place” the story in a major publication or not. | Reply |    Comments |

          |

          |

          | Want less email? Unsubscribe from all follow-up comments or modify your Subscription Options. |

          |

          | |

          |

          | Thanks for flying with WordPress.com |

          |

    2. A journalist HAS picked it up. His name is David Gaughran. That"s exactly what he"s doing–top notch journalism.

      1. I appreciate the sentiment, but I guess my point is that a journalist employed by a media organization will have the time, contacts, and resources to properly pursue this story, as well as a much larger megaphone, and the clout to force a response from all those companies partnered with Author Solutions who refuse to engage on the issue.

    3. Let me put it another way.

      Jessica Mitford exposed how the Governor of California was conducting MIND CONTROL EXPERIMENTS on prisoners and *that* article was easier to get published than one critical of the head of Random House.

      1. David, have you considered pitching the story to Sarah Koenig or Ira Glass, for coverage on Serial and/or This American Life? Seems like the kind of story that would pique their interest.

    4. Please put them in touch with me… I"m angry; I"m getting phone calls here in the uk after 8pm when this guy says he finishes work at 7 London time. .. :0(

  7. Jeez, you know what we need? A team that goes around all the various festivals and conferences that allow AS to be present. They could blockade the AS booth, draw a bit of attention, maybe get up on the mic… guerilla warfare! Flyer bomb the places with anti AS leaflets! Bloody something, anyway. Maybe you should turn this blog post into a very short, perma-free ebook, called "A Warning To All Self Publishers!" and see how much distribution it would get for itself… 🙂

  8. It"s a sad sign that traditional publishing and journalism companies have sold their souls when they partner with and fail to call out scoundrels like Authors Solutions. The entire industry is sullied.
    The bloggers and influencers in the independent publishing world need to fill the gap and get this story out. Thank you David and others for doing the hard work.

  9. Author Solutions poses as a traditional publisher but is not, it"s a glorified vanity press out to prey on would-be authors. They have the highest prices and the worst service.

  10. David, kudos to you for covering this wolf of a scam dressed in sheeps clothing. It"s difficult to get people to realize that such big companies are out to get them and it"s even worse when they are told that they have been a victim of a scam. Your continuous honestly and informative writing in this field surely will deter new authors from using AS"s services.
    I agree with Michael, ” A journalist by the name of David Gaughran has picked up this news.”

  11. I think it was the phrase “…monetize unpublished manuscripts…” that disgusted me most of all (and it takes a lot to disgust me after reading all your coverage of Author Solutions and their publisher buddies). I thought about all the authors trying to win through the system to be chosen by a house like PRH and being in turn “monetized.” Because the real product isn"t the manuscripts but the hopeful authors paying out more and more to pursue a dream that"s always just a few thousand more dollars away. Then that author wakes up at some point and realizes they"ve been used. It"s just so cruel. And yet I still hear “savvy” writers blaming the victims.

    Please keep doing what you"re doing, David, and we"ll keep boosting the signal as best we can.

  12. This all started because independent authors decided that Amazon and Smashwords and other resources offered a better deal than the traditional publishing houses.
    I don"t know why, but I"m still surprised at the gullibility of people who think they have to pay for something that they can do themselves.
    Why not pay an English teacher or an English major student at your local community college to review and proofread a manuscript for you? Why not hire some art student from a school that offers graphics classes to do your book cover? If you give them deadlines to meet, they"ll tell you whether or not they can handle the job. Two things will happen: they"ll learn about real-world demands and expectations in regard to deadlines, and they"ll earn some money that every student needs. It"s also something they can add to a resume or a portfolio.
    Advertising? What is social media for, but to tell your friends and they"ll tell two friends, and so on and so on….
    Authors Solutions is nothing but a scam and has never been anything else. You know what they say about scams: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
    David, you are doing a bang-up job of exposing this trash for what it is. Please keep up the good work!

  13. David, thank you again for another insightful update. I was just at the LA Festival of Books for a book launch with my newest author, Sahar Paz at our coop booth with SPAWN and we happen to be placed two booths away from the 6 or 7 Author Solutions booths. I cringed when I saw these mostly empty booths and then the 1 or two authors who were giving away their book at a “Free Book Signing” . I know that is was definitely not free for the Authors! I hate to think of what they paid to Author Solutions for this “marketing opportunity” — over $1,000 plus cost of books would be my guess. Please keep spreading the word…. (We are a small independent hybrid publishing imprint, btw. The publishing and promotion costs are always shared )

    1. I can tell you what they paid – $3,999.

      In fact, I can go one better and also tell you what Author Solutions makes from appearing at the LA Times Festival of Books:

      This week I discovered another prestigious literary festival which has been welcoming Author Solutions for several years. From figures in their own press release regarding the 2013 LA Times Festival of Books, Author Solutions hosted 80 book signings and showcased 1,100 titles.

      By their own price list – where they charge $3,999 for the former and $599 for the latter – this netted Author Solutions $658,900 for “showcasing” those books and a further $319,920 for the book signings. That’s a total of almost one million dollars. From one event!

      The quote above is from this post, last February: https://davidgaughran.com/2014/02/14/a-victory-against-author-solutions/

      The LA Times Festival of Books has refused to engage on the issue, let alone take action. This is the follow up from last March (and nothing has changed since):

      https://davidgaughran.com/2014/03/08/publishers-weekly-ignores-the-real-scandal-at-la-times-festival-of-books/

  14. “This is how many staff Author Solutions employs to calculate royalties for all those authors and titles: 1.

    That’s not a typo, there is one single person to calculate royalties for 180,000 authors and 225,000 titles. One person! And 732 sales reps with aggressive quotas to sell worthless crap like “web optimized” press releases for $1,299, YouTube advertising packages for $4,099, and Hollywood pitching services for $17,999.”

    As I said on Twitter, Author Solutions is a mess and a trainwreck. Seems like it gets worse and worse the deeper you dig.

    Anyway, thanks for covering this story, David. You"re doing a great service for authors everywhere, indie, traditional, hybrid, or whatever.

  15. And authors are only protesting that PEN Award for Charlie Hebdo? Unbelievable.
    A friend of mine gets calls every few days at 8am from Balboa Press. I told her that self-publishing is much cheaper than what they offer… she hasn"t signed with them simply because she lacks the funds. She was so relieved to learn she doesn"t need them.
    I do hope that evil network will be destroyed soon.

  16. Good work as always. Turns my stomach seeing the names associated with them. Those companies should be ashamed. Thanks for staying on top of this. I pray the class action suits are successful.

  17. Reblogged this on snaomiscott.net and commented:
    David Gaughran has some scary points to make over on his blog with regards to Author Solutions and their many facets. If, like me, you"re considering making a move into self-publishing then I would strongly recommend reading the full article.

    1. Bah… reblogging didn"t work – David, would you have any objection to manually creating a reblog-like post on my site for this?

      1. Done – I simply copied the style and layout from other reblogs and included all relevant attribution and link-backs.

  18. Thanks for such an insightful report on this situation. A few years ago I (briefly) self-pubbed my first short novel through Lulu, and back then (2006) they didn"t seem too bad, but just recently they really do seem to have taken a turn for the worst. I"m guessing they partnered up with AS sometime between then and now? Thankfully I didn"t spend that much with them, and the experience I had taught me enough to know that I needed to go back to the drawing board for a while…

  19. Pingback: Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
  20. Are there no journalistic enterprises (aside from blogs such as yours and Emily"s) that are not beholden to Random Penguin? Mother Jones, perhaps, or is this not up their alley?

    1. I spent two years trying to get a whole range of media organizations/freelance journalists, and it was a complete waste of time. I"m not going to waste any more time pitching this story to people. Although if someone wants to pitch it themselves, please be my guest. I don"t care about getting credited, I"m more than happy to hand over everything to someone else and let them run with it. I"m just skeptical that they will (for more on that see my longer reply to Ricardo above).

  21. David,

    I am curious what AS association you have found with Ingram and with Baker &Taylor (you haven"t discussed it as far as I know, but you did put them on your list above). Are they merely acting in their usual capacity as wholesalers for anyone who needs a wholesaler to get their paper books into bookstores (either brick and mortar or online), or do their respective book printing press imprints do up-selling business with AS? Or some other aspect of their respective businesses does business with AS?

    If it is merely that they wholesale books for *anyone*, then it seems unfair to list them as associating with AS. However if their printing presses are up-selling seemingly worthless “services” then that is deeply disturbing for indie authors everywhere….

    1. Sorry it took longer than expected to get back to you.

      Yes, you"re right, I"m not talking about book distribution here. Let"s look at Baker & Taylor"s links to Author Solutions.

      Author Solutions have a number of Baker & Taylor packages. Here"s one example, The “Retail Market Gateway Optimum” package, costing $6,999: http://www.iuniverse.com/Servicestore/ServiceDetail.aspx?ServiceId=PKG-2471

      The package includes an ad in Baker & Taylor"s Forecast Catalog, a spot on Baker & Taylor"s Emergent Voices website, and an email blast to Baker & Taylor"s “retail, library and education subscribers” – among other things, like further ads on B&T sites and further email blasts to B&T lists.

      It could simply be the case that Author Solutions is purchasing this spots/blasts as a regular customer at regular prices, then applying an insane mark-up and keeping all the extra profits for itself. However, I strongly suspect that companies like Baker & Taylor either get a royalty from the sale of each of this packages, or some other extra form of renumeration.

      The language on the site seems to indicate that the partnership goes at a deeper level. This is from another package, “Library Gateway Plus”:

      iUniverse and Baker & Taylor have teamed up to offer our authors a collection of elite marketing services that puts your book in front of thousands of library book industry decision makers. Through the Library Fundamental Plus package, you can take advantage of iUniverse’s relationship with Baker and Taylor, the world’s largest distributor of physical and digital books and entertainment products.

      It"s a similar scenario with Ingram and many of the other partners listed above. Here are some of those Ingram packages:

      1: http://www.iuniverse.com/Servicestore/ServiceDetail.aspx?ServiceId=PKG-1951
      2: http://www.iuniverse.com/Servicestore/ServiceDetail.aspx?ServiceId=PKG-1952
      3: http://www.iuniverse.com/Servicestore/ServiceDetail.aspx?ServiceId=PKG-1948

      I wish I could be more definitive for you, but there are an infinite number of rabbit holes here and I only have limited time.

  22. Hi David,

    I"d like to suggest that you join the *Editors" Association of Earth *closed group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/442424952497363/) and post your blog posts there. There are over 3,000 members, and it"s so very important to get the word out about ASI to editors so they can educate their clients. A while back, I tried posting one of your blog posts there, but I was chastised (privately and gently) because “some of our group of editors work at ASI and its many tentacle companies, and this might hurt their feelings.” So I removed it.

    I felt frustrated that I was prevented from spreading the word about ASI because of perceived hurt feelings. I thought perhaps if you joined the group and posted, the post would be more legitimate and receive more respect. It"s a huge group that reaches an even bigger group of authors, many of them indie. I"m not sure if you"ll be chastised too, but it"s worth a try, isn"t it?

    Cheers, Arlene Prunkl

    *PenUltimate Editorial Services* http://www.penultimateword.com info@penultimateword.com Phone: 778-478-0877 Member 2003-2015: Editors" Association of Canada Finalist 2011: Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence

    1. Hi Arlene, I don"t have the time or the energy to go around and convince people individually that they should pay attention to this story. I put a lot of time into these articles, and they are available for anyone to read. I appreciate where you are coming from, and very much appreciate that you are trying to spread the word, but if they won"t listen to you – a fellow editor and a member of the group – then they certainly won"t listen to me.

  23. Reblogged this on Tracing The Stars and commented:
    New authors, beware. If you"re about to self-publish, have no idea how to go about it and are considering paying for a service like Author Solutions to do it for you, please join one of the many free author groups online first. Or heck, just email me. I"d be glad to help you figure out how to get started.

  24. David, I"m so happy you wrote this post. Author Solutions tried hard to get me to sign up and I resisted, and was actually insulted by their rep, an American woman. They use horrible tactics, but, having been in sales myself for many years I was able to fend her off and run safely out of the net she was attempting to close on me. It"s frustrating that hardly a dent is made in their armor, and I pray someone will finally completely destroy this entire outfit and give Indie writers a fair shot.

  25. It occurred to me that one reason so-called respectable publishing houses partner with Author Solutions is precisely because AS is a service -cough- for Indies.
    Indies are the enemy are they not? [Along with Amazon of course].
    Given that some publishing executives may feel threatened, and/or resentful of the role Indies have played in the fortunes of their companies, why not "punish" said Indies and get back some of those missing profits? They probably think it serves Indies right for not begging to be published by them in the first place.
    Emotions and attitudes are rarely logical.

  26. Excellent article. I have three books with Authorhouse though they are about to be re-issued by an respected small publishing company, Penkhull Press. I too have earned very little, or had very little sent to me, although I have sold books. I am also constantly bombarded with yet another personal consultant who wants to sell me another expensive promotional package. I"ve never bought any from them and never intended to. My advice, so with a publisher you, or your writing friends, know and can recommend, or use Createspace and be truly independent.

  27. Thank you for all of your hard work; getting this information out must take you loads of time, but it"s so useful in helping new writers. Whenever I get asked about AS or someone like them, I point them to your blog, because everything they need to know is here.

  28. Before I published Chesca and the Spirit of Grace I attended a Book Expo in NY. I was late, one of the last to join the conference and after I gave my information at registration it went into a bucket. Two days later and back on the Vineyard I was informed I had won an “author package” a $2,000 publishing deal with Archway publishing, the self-publishing services department of Simon and Schuster. Well, needless to say, it sounded fantastic and I thought all my stars were aligned.
    For a year I held a book I had been working on even when I received some really attentive customer service calls from really lovely young women who just couldn"t wait to start working with me. I kept writing. Before I felt it was ready to submit I did a little GOOGLE on Archway and the complaints against them would have raised the hairs on your neck.
    I made one more call to a friend and editor, who told be to stay as far away as possible. Now, when I see this information, that amounts to the next best thing as a scam, I am so happy to be aware of these companies, Author Solutions and Archway, and that this practice is within the publishing industry. Debut authors/self publishing newbies…. BEWARE. Thank you for bringing attention to this, David.

  29. Before I published Chesca and the Spirit of Grace I attended a Book Expo in NY. I was late, one of the last to join the conference and after I gave my information at registration it went into a bucket. Two days later and back on the Vineyard I was informed I had won an “author package” a $2,000 publishing deal with Archway publishing, the self-publishing services department of Simon and Schuster. Well, needless to say, it sounded fantastic and I thought all my stars were aligned.
    For a year I held a book I had been working on even when I received some really attentive customer service calls from really lovely young women who just couldn’t wait to start working with me. I kept writing. Before I felt it was ready to submit I did a little GOOGLE on Archway and the complaints against them would have raised the hairs on your neck.
    I made one more call to a friend and editor, who told be to stay as far away as possible. Now, when I see this information, that amounts to the next best thing as a scam, I am so happy to be aware of these companies, Author Solutions and Archway, and that this practice is within the publishing industry. Debut authors/self publishing newbies…. BEWARE. Thank you for bringing attention to this, David.

  30. That Big Publishing continues to do business with Author Solutions makes perfect sense: Big Publishing wants to damage indie publishing, and this is a good way to go about it.
    David Gaughran deserves the respect and gratitude of every writer, indie or otherwise.

    1. Here.Here.! As a public relations professional who has worked with journalists for over 25 years, I am feeling a sense of duty to share this discussion and solid evidence of what is happening with some mainstream journalists. Someone had mentioned NPR and I think that is a great idea. As soon as I get my current book launch wrapped up, I plan on moving forward. I"ll be in touch with you, David.

    1. Thanks Mick. There"s another one I left off too – a vanity press they set up to target first responders for Responder Media. The website seems to be down at the moment, but it was definitely active when I first spotted it in July 2013. And if they are moving into “non-writer” markets like that, who knows how many more there are…

  31. F#@k a statue for Dohle. Dave needs a statue of himself somewhere for his tireless, one man crusade to educate indies about this cancer. Thanks again for sifting through the sewer that is legacy-pub franchised vanity-pub to bring us this information.

  32. Reblogged this on Tiffany Writing Marketing Selling and commented:
    If you have ever thought about paying for publishing services, please read this article that I am reblogging. Not everyone is a crook, but there are some very slimy operators out there whose only interest is separating you from your money. Be careful….

  33. David thanks for your increadible work and dedication to this story!

    It is staggering to me that 180,000 authors actually bought into their schemes, as well as that their behavior is not more openly reported on. And those who partner with AS, it is obvious that they hold self-published authors in no regard and only look at us as a source of money-making. If only we all (together) decided to not patronize any of these organizations (not only AS, but their partners), they would certainly change their behavior and AS wouldn"t survive.

    On an aside, I am curious if you found out if BAM Publishing, which recently launched a DIY self-publishing site, isn"t somehow connected to AS based on their rediculously high-priced author packages? It feels like their leaves are falling from the same tree.

    1. BAM Publishing is being run by FastPencil – which puts it in the category of a rip-off rather than a scam. They are way overcharging, and I"d avoid. But it"s not in the scammy category of Author Solutions.

  34. Thank you David , informative as always. Wherever there is money to be made, especially in times of change … carpetbaggers show up to rape and pillage. I really appreciate your hard work in keeping us up to date on the latest ways greed feeds on creativity. It never ceases to amaze me how much energy a person or entity can willingly use to hurt others because of greed…it"s crazy because they are dying in a hell of their own creation… they truly are the walking dead… and articles like this alert us that they need fresh meat constantly. Thank you for all your good work, David.

  35. As a video game designer, we"re launching a Kickstarter soon and will be including a hardcover book related to the game. It"s not for profit, it"s for a tier. Where can I print this (limited to 50 copies b/c of the tier stuff) where I won"t be getting ripped off? It seems challenging to find anywhere that"s not shady. :/

    1. No, to be frank. I explain why here: https://davidgaughran.com/basics/

      There are excellent, free self-publishing platforms from Amazon, Apple, Kobo etc. There are excellent, reputable distributors like Smashwords and Draft2Digital who don"t charge anything upfront and take a small cut of your royalties instead. All of those companies are recommended.

      Then there are the companies who promise to do it all for you, make it easier for you, for a pricetag. It"s never worth the price, the work is often substandard, and it ends up being way more trouble than you think. All is explained in the above link.

  36. Thanks for posting this. Found it on LinkedIn. Reblogging. I am an indie author and was contacted by one of the companies you mentioned who partners. I was almost talked into spending a ton of money on services. Now I am glad I didn"t!

  37. As an editor with a small press, I have to say this affair shows just how corrupt and morally bankrupt traditional publishing has become. It"s true that as a small press we struggle to put our authors" books in front of the public, and our books don"t always make a lot of money, but at least we deliver the editing and cover art and so on that we promise, and don"t take money FROM the authors, we pay THEM royalties, and on time. But it is hard to convince writers to work with small presses because the dream is not just seeing the book in print, it"s seeing it on the shelves of every bookstore in the country and sales that will allow them to quit their day job. As long as the myth of the big break continues to thrive, Author Solutions will continue to prosper. I have known authors whose manuscripts have sat at a major press for 8 years before being rejected but instead of accepting an offer from a small press, or publishing it themselves, they send it off to the next big press to see how long that publisher will sit on the slush pile before rejecting them. Head:Desk. It"s true that a (vanishingly) few authors do manage to get a big publishing contract and have their books widely distributed–but a few people win lotteries, too, but most of us would not fall for "lottery consultant" upselling us to a larger packet of lottery tickets, optimized for web. The problem is publishing used to work, used to provide a living to authors, back in the days before TV and internet, and video games, replaced pulps and books as the main form of entertainment. Poets pretty much realize they"re not going to make a living from poetry, but novelists and cookbook authors have yet to get that message. The message that needs to get out there is that the vast majority of books never sell more than 200 copies, and whatever the sales guy from Author Solutions tells you, if you are investing money into getting your book out there, you"d be better off doing it yourself. Nobody at a corporation is going to love your book more than you, so if you"re going to pay to get published, spend (a fraction of) the money to publish yourself. You can"t do worse than Author Solutions in terms of putting the book out and getting it attention; and you can manage for a few $100. If you want good cover art and good editing without having to pay, then take it to a small press who will tell you if it is ready for publication, will provide all the services you need, and then pay you. But spending big $ on a book package…strictly a sucker play.

  38. Folks, if Author Solutions holds your work, join the class action lawsuits. It"s time to fight the pirates.

    1. Athourhouse which is one of the company has my work… I"m in the u.k.
      I am still in communication with them as they think I"m going to continue business with them. I"m just concerned if I confront them now..they will use my work as their own….

      1. bjackiemohr, Authorhouse thugs will probably steal or hold your work anyway. I recommend finding a way out. The thieves need to be stopped. Too many innocent writers are ripped off every month.

      2. Hey,

        1. The first thing you need to do is terminate your contract with AuthorHouse (which is an Author Solutions company). Your contract should have a provision whereby you can give them notice, and then within 30 days they must remove your book from sale. Most Author Solutions contracts have something like this, and you can start the process right away. Don"t worry about confronting them. They can"t and won"t steal your work. They will try and pressure you emotionally, but just ignore that crap.

        2. You can also get in touch with Writer Beware if you are having any problem terminating your contract with AuthorHouse. You can contact them here: accrispin.blogspot.com/p/contact-us.html

        3. While you are sorting everything our with AuthorHouse, start learning about how to self-publish your work without using one of these scammy companies. All the basics you need to know are here: https://davidgaughran.com/basics/

        4. The class actions that have been filed are taking place in the US, but your experiences might help the lawyers if you are willing to share. You can do that here: http://www.gslawny.com/author-solutions-deceptive-practices.html

  39. Pingback: Pros and Cons of Being an Indie Author | BookGarage – Blog
  40. Hi David,
    I just signed with Westbow Press and you mentioned them as partners with AS. Do you know if they follow the same unethical r practices? I am considering canceling but now fearful they will steal my manuscript or worse sell it! I worked really hard this manuscript. Thank you for your insight and hard work yourself bring awareness to authors that want to share information.

  41. Pingback: Beware of 'Author Solutions' - Keith Ward Fiction
  42. Pingback: FYI: Penguin Random House Is Still In The Vanity Business | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
  43. Will any other lawsuits be filed against AuthorHouse? I just learned about the lawsuit-too late. I"d like to find some recourse with them.

  44. Author Solutions practicesw fall under the category of racketeering, yet the feds don"t seem interested in filing charges.

  45. Thank you for highlighting this, I was alerted to such when I approached Partridge Africa, assuming that it would be reputable since it is affiliated with Penguin. I wish I could say I was savvy and figured them out, or that I was in any way smart about this, but the truth is that I didn"t have the money at the time, and was waiting to save up to be able to afford their gold package (or whatever it"s called). Luckily I decided to just do some research on them in the meantime, and found this. There are SO many people who have and will fall for this scam.

  46. BERTELSMAN share price ,, look at who they have performed over the last seven years ,, then you understand what this SCAM is all about. Sociopaths ,,,, BERELSMAN IS THE ACUTAL OWNER and look at the share price. UPP and Upp and Upp

  47. Pingback: Pros and Cons of Being an Indie Author – BookGarage – Blog
  48. Pingback: HOW TO SURVIVE HARD KNOCKS U.: A Writer's Guide - Anne R. Allen's Blog... with Ruth Harris
  49. Pingback: May & June Writer’s Links: SEO Guide, 15 Free Applications, Chuck Tingle, & Why Writers Are Always Cold – Nicole Crucial
  50. This article and responses are so informative and I thank you for exposing these scam artists to the public. I joined the class action suit against Author Solutions a year ago prior to the second complaint filed. Patiently, I waited for the court hearing for the case only to find out that the Judge only honored two clients in this case. The two clients received an undisclosed monetary payment from Author Solutions and then the class action suit was dismissed. It was then, I read on the internet that the New York attorneys filed a second complaint. Just yesterday, I sent an e-mail to the attorneys in New York requesting a follow-up on the case. Last year, I sent copies of my copyrights, correspondence and proof that my book continues to sell globally on amazon at different prices. I have never received a royalty for book sales. There is a website: BookFinder 4 u.com that will give the name of a book publication and comparative prices. It has been since 2007 that I paid for a best-seller contract to Trafford publishers. Each time I notify them and Amazon I am told that there is no sales reporting for my book: Tones In Twilight…..since then I have pulled my book from the hands of Trafford publishers as Amazon forced them to remove their inventory of my book from their warehouse. I have self-published four new publications on Amazon"s Kindle KDP and I have been accepted through Amazon"s movie studios for my movie scripts. I still purchase copies of my book from Trafford publishers from their book store at a discount price. I do not know how much longer it will take for the authors in this class action suit to receive compensation.

  51. I have been scammed by Partridge Singapore and Author Solution. I signed up for their Gold package which was originally worth $7k plus. Thanks to their ‘year end offer’, the package was then worth $5k. I had a very unpleasant experience with Partridge Singapore. Recently, Author Solution deducted the renewal fee of $200+ from my bank account despite me emailing them that I would like my subscription to be cancelled. In the end, Author Solution didn’t reply and I thought the case was closed. To my rude awakening, they deducted the fees without informing me. I am very disappointed and disgusted with their service. Beware of these scammers. I was stupid and don’t be as stupid as me!

  52. It was so hard for me to understand how Author Solutions could still be in business, until I met them in person. At the Tucson Festival of Books, where I rented a booth (for both days) with another author for $710, there was the mega-tent offerings near us from Author Solutions. I found out that they had sold at least 20 authors a $4000 package ($80,000 is serious money) to appear for only 1 hour to do a “Book Signing” where they’d give 75 copies of their books away (otherwise no one would stand in their line). $4000 for the pleasure of giving your book away to 75 people who wouldn’t be waiting for your autograph except because they want a free book? I walked over (with a print-out from their website) and asked the most senior looking employee if the price was a typo and if it wasn’t why authors would sign up for this, when they could simply rent their own booth for 1/5th the price, sell as many of their books as they want (as part of the package, Author Solutions gave the author shelf space for only 5 copies of their book), and appear in front of every potential reader for two whole days (remember, they receive only one hour for their $4000)?

    I was told (in so many words), “Most authors aren’t as smart as you.”

    Not saying I agree with his statement. But there it was. The answer of why they exist, is to literally prey on stupid authors. What was the old saying, “A fool and his money….”

  53. Just came upon this info — and glad to have it. Thanks for all the hard work that surely went into the material. I"m wondering if you know anything about Authors Publish magazine? Found them when I was googling how to beware of unsavory presses, but their website is just one page to sign up for their ezine for tips, etc. Are they legit?

  54. You just saved me $4,800! I talked to iUniverse today and had every intention of going through with them releasing my third book because my publisher in not able to produce it the way I want it. You are a life saver!

    1. I"m very glad to hear it. No one should pay anything like that to publish a book. That price is ridiculous (and these guys are truly awful – run in the opposite direction as fast as you can).

  55. Hi i am filming a documentary about this company, and i have all the information about how they scam people, if you are a victim of this scammers, please contact me and join us, with your name and testimony, we are going to sue this company in the philippines, and we will do our best to shut it down, because they deserve that. i hope this message reach all of the victims.

    Contact : luis_a_o_a@hotmail.com

  56. Any complaints about Trafford Publishing and Author Solutions should be directed to the Indiana Attorney Generals Office Gov web site and file a consumer complaint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to Blog

Join 44,333 other subscribers