Author Solutions Complaints Continue Under Penguin

Authors Solutions complaints are mounting since the Penguin purchase in July 2011. While it was already a company infamous for overcharging writers, doing a terrible job of publishing their books, and forcing ineffective and expensive marketing services upon those authors when their books (inevitably) fail to sell… some had expressed hope things would change.

This post is from 19 February 2013. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links, but it’s important to preserve these older posts on author exploitation and the comment section remains open, as always.

My posts here have been leaning on the tireless work of Emily Suess – a writer and blogger who has been documenting this racket for some years now, so I invited her along to talk about the Author Solutions complaints she is seeing.

At the time of the purchase, many in the publishing community expressed hope that Penguin would clean up Author Solutions, or at least tone down some of the scammier tactics.

I was more than a little skeptical about that prospect, and as Emily Suess will show in a moment, Authors Solutions complaints have continued pouring in under Penguin – indeed they are increasing, something I can vouch for as well. Here’s Emily:

One Racket to Rule Them All

Did you notice that skeevy self-pub racket, Author Solutions, is accumulating brands as quickly as it accumulates customer complaints these days?

It all started last July when Pearson bought Author Solutions, the parent company of dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango.

Then Pearson (who owns Penguin) merged with Random House after purchasing Author Solutions. Author Solutions, in addition to running its aforementioned arsenal of brands, was then charged with running a new self-publishing imprint: Archway.

Archway raised a few eyebrows across the industry because its services are operated by Author Solutions, but Pearson’s competitor, Simon & Schuster, owns Archway.

Then just days ago Penguin opened a new self-publishing brand in India and named it Partridge. Partridge is run by Author Solutions too.

Confused? I’m sure they’re counting on it.

You see, Author Solutions’ modus operandi is pretty despicable, and they’ve been badgering, swindling and confusing writers out of money—and lots of it—for years.

The deceit starts with the web of brands they’ve established. With so many imprints, Author Solutions has tricked authors into thinking they have dozens of choices. In reality, however, the parent company is just slapping up half a dozen different logos, renaming packages, and selling the same grossly overpriced services to all of their customers no matter which brand ends up on the cover.

On top of that, Author Solutions has been accused of launching supposedly unbiased, purely informational comparison websites to help customers pick the self-publishing company that’s right for them, except all clicks lead back to Author Solutions brands.

With Author Solutions, overbearing sales reps are the norm. They’ve talked writers into purchasing publishing packages over the phone without so much as a written explanation of charges, let alone a formal publishing contract. And they’re all too eager to offer installment payments and accept credit card information over the phone.

They’ve pulled the ol’ price switcheroo on writers too. Jean Rikhoff, published Earth, Air, Fire and Water with iUniverse and was told by a sales rep that copyediting charges for her manuscript would run around $400. When she received her credit card bill, however, her charges totaled nearly $4,000.

Once you’ve signed on with one of their brands, it’s time for the upselling. They’ll sell review services marked up by nearly 160%, worthless book-to-screen marketing packages that cost over $15,000, and shoddy editing services that create more errors than they correct. They’ll even let customers buy their own recognition awards like Editor’s Choice (but they’ll tell them the money is to pay for the company’s superior editors to evaluate the work and ensure it’s worthy).

Oh, and good luck getting those sales reps to go away after publication. Phillip J. Reed said of iUniverse’s sales team:

It’s been many years since I’ve so much as logged into their site or worked with them, but I can count on a phone call from an unfamiliar number or an email from somebody I’ve never heard of before, telling me they want to update my information, or confirm what they have on file.

And the hard-sell complaints barely scratch the surface. Author Solutions is incapable of handling day-to-day operations for their current customers. Erroneous royalty reports and non-payment of royalties are frequent complaints given by authors. They’ve been cited for contract breaches and failure to deliver services. Customer service representatives give writers the runaround.

Knowing all of this, you have to wonder what attracts writers to Author Solutions brands in the first place. That’s where Leah comes in. She’s the author of an upcoming book titled Single Infertile Female who, up until a few days ago, was planning to publish with one of Author Solution’s brands, AuthorHouse.

Like many authors fearing the stigma of self-publishing, Leah originally wanted to publish her book traditionally. She believed self-publishing was just something people did when their books weren’t good enough for a traditional deal.

After pursuing the traditional route, however, she realized two things: querying agents for her niche audience could delay her efforts indefinitely, and more authors were self-publishing successfully these days.

So Leah began her self-pub research where most do: online. Although AuthorHouse wasn’t the first company she researched, it was soon at the top of her list. “Their services seemed the most all-inclusive to me,” she noted.

Leah also mentioned that she “felt like a writer and not much else,” meaning she assumed she lacked the business and technical savvy she needed to go it alone as a self-publisher.  She thought she needed the long list of services and marketing add-ons companies like AuthorHouse were offering.

Here’s what she had to say about the AuthorHouse website and how it won her over:

I pretty much devoured their website… I thought it was very well put together, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to follow. I have now decided to go through CreateSpace, but Author House really has the leg up on them there—the initial customer experience is a great deal smoother. The packages they had to offer seemed the most thoughtfully put together to me as well. I thought the Hollywood Book-To-Screen packages were a bit silly… but the more traditional paperback and hardcover packages seemed to offer a lot of what I was looking for—the hand holding that part of me still really does crave.

Even though Leah sent AuthorHouse an email with some questions, she never heard back from them. By the time she would have followed up again with someone at the company, AuthorHouse’s reputation had preceded them. Leah gave up on AuthorHouse as soon as she heard the horror stories.

Smart girl.

Time will tell how many more brands Author Solutions will manage, but one thing is for certain: it’s imperative that writers research so-called self-publishing companies before they fork over the cash. Because not everyone will be as lucky as Leah.

Final Note From Dave

A big thank you to Emily for writing this guest post.

I’d like to underline one of Emily’s points. It has become fashionable in publishing to talk about re-imagining the industry, placing the author at the center, and treating writers as “true partners.”

But talk is cheap.

Over 150,000 writers have suffered at the hands of Author Solutions, and that number grows every day – especially now that Penguin has legitimized these assholes.

And it’s not just them. Presumably Random House has no issue with Author Solutions, given that they are merging with Penguin, and operations are expanding.

Simon & Schuster must feel the same way, given that they hired Author Solutions to run their own self-publishing operation, as did Harlequin, Hay House, and Harper Collins-owned Thomas Nelson.

That’s four of the “Big Six” involved with Author Solutions in some form or another – along with the biggest Romance publisher in the world.

Their defenders might try and claim that Penguin and the other large publishers aren’t aware of what Author Solutions get up to. Well, here’s Penguin CEO John Makinson:

“We spent time getting to know the people at Author Solutions and their sophisticated operation. They have skills that can help us at Penguin.”

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

101 Replies to “Author Solutions Complaints Continue Under Penguin”

  1. All these posts have provided much needed information for writers who have little or no knowledge of how they can be scammed. I came close to being one of them. Thank you for making this info available.

  2. There are sharks out there, guys, and they’re unscrupulous. They want to feed and they don’t care how or who they eat. This article on David Gaughran’s blog is a must read. It will help you make an informed choice when the time comes and you’re in a situation where you want to use someone Continue reading Penguin s Solution for Authors: One Racket To Rule Them All

  3. Ever hear of the RICO LAW? AuthorHouse is perpetrating fraud; when large amounts of money are involved or any ownership of personal property is violated, this is called Racketeering. As such, it falls under the RICO Law, even as a civil matter. Once a Grand Jury is convened by an attorney, whether or not the Grand Jury indicts or fails to indict, a civil lawsuit (in this case, class action lawsuit) can be initiated. SO? AUTHORS? ARE YOU READY TO FIGHT BACK?

  4. Aaha…So I guessed it right!!! AS has begun a new chapter of its doings in India with a brand new name of “Partridge Publishing” with an annotation within brackets “A Penguin Random House Company”. And suddenly I started getting calls (from Indiana, NJ and some other parts of US) asking me to join their ‘Elite’ club of authors… Now I knew what this is all about… Thanks for the headsup Dave…

  5. Although this blog post has been written for almost a year, I would like to thank you now because it’s been sometimes since Partridge Publishing started to call me day and night (I ignored most of their calls). They called again today and urge me to think about their package and whatnot. The good thing is I don’t have any money even for paying the offered installments, the bad thing is that they are still forcing me to think and re-think about it. So, yeah… I decide to look around the web about their reputation and so on, and what I got is a horror over another horror… God gracious. I will keep my hands save from any of these companies. Anyway, the call has been going for three years now. How persistent.

  6. I love reading about how I narrowly missed the monstrosity that is AS. I found their website, then did some research, and despite AS’ delivery method being very pretty, I backed away fast; it’s so very lovely to find my choices validated over and over by people who are more experienced than I in this business.

    FYI, Just checked Emily Suess’ blog, and the updated URL is:
    She moved all of her publishing articles there. : D

  7. Reblogged this on Literary Craft Works and commented:
    The Muse Team at Literary Craft Works is appalled by these practices. For awhile, we considered Author Solutions our “competition”…but because Literary Craft Works is a company that offers inexpensive, at-cost, carefully crafted books for self-published authors, we realize now that we don’t WANT to be in competition with them.

  8. It’s not just Author Solutions (or it’s other umbrella organisations) – I entered a poetry comp a couple of years ago – I didn’t win (or even get placed). However, oddly enough, a few weeks later, I was offered a unique and one-off opportunity by the competition holder to have my poem included in an exclusive anthology, all I had to do was hand over a very large amount of cash – I would be sent not-a-very-large number of books, if I would be listed on their website as a published author (I checked on their site, it was literally a list of names), they would ensure a copy of the anthology would end up in the British Library (well, yes, this is a legal requirement, I, and I guess everybody else in the anthology would get stung for the astronomical cost they claimed this was to do), they would send me a pdf of my poem as it would be formatted in the anthology, but it would be up to me to Copy Edit their repro!!

    It was all just so clearly a rip-off, con, scam – that in fact the whole comp was just a harvest for potential new people to feed off. I absolutely did not get suckered in and wrote them an email pointing out all the deficiencies in their scheme compared to Create Space, I got a very irate follow up phone call from them which ended in me telling them exactly what I thought of them – and fortunately that was enough for them to sever all contact, but I still wonder, how many of the thousands of entries they claim to have received for the comp, who got suckered into that scheme and how much cash they handed over for absolutely nothing…

  9. Penguin has got to be pretty desperate to get involved with a company that has had a horrible reputation for the better part of a decade.

    Years ago, I published a book that examined all the self-publishing companies at the time. Author House was one of the worst, and CreateSpace was by far the most appealing. Today I see that it’s now the most popular self-publishing company, and for good reason–it’s free and of high quality. Who knows, maybe Penguin will turn things around at Author Solutions to save its own reputation.

    I read interview where Penguin stated that most Author House users spend $3-4000 on their marketing services! That alone is outrageous. As a career self-published writer, I have NEVER spent remotely that kind of money on marketing.

    First of all, there are websites with cover design options for less than a hundred dollars; and the most effective ways to market your book are free or nearly so. If you’re willing to put in the work — and it’s a ton of work — you can be successful self-publishing.

    Stacie Vander Pol

  10. Hi. My major worry with Partridge or Penguin is that – A writer needs to run from pillar to post just to get their work published with a brand name in publishing. Here Penguin is lending its name to any and everyone who is ready to pay a price!!! So even if one has sub-standard writing, one can be a Penguin Author???!!!

  11. Let me see if I can sum all this up: You all agreed to pay for things that you later decided you didn’t want, need, and/or like. Now you’re blaming the vendor. If you’d spent half as much effort on your books as you have on your sorry blogs and comments, you’d all be Hemingways. What a bunch of luh-hoo-suhs.

    1. Better summary:

      Nobody here is uninformed enough to fall for such a blatant scam operation. The only people who would fall for it are absolute novices to the field or the truly naive. We’re appalled that as well known and prestigious a company as Simon & Shuster would stoop to the practice of scamming newbie writers to make a quick buck.

      Not shocked, but appalled.

  12. While the “hard sell” of overpriced options is a common abuse by ASI, some authors should not reject optional editing.

    One of the best examples (i.e., one of the worst books) that shows the failure of ASI’s Xlibris is the awkwardly named, physically ugly, poorly written and unedited “The Truth and the Corruption of the American System.” The 95-page hardcover sells for (OMG!) $24.99. There are also paperback ($15.99) and e-book ($9.99) editions. I may have bought the only paperback ever sold.

    The author has some important things to say but her message is diluted and distorted by bad presentation, and lack of help from Xlibris. The company wanted to collect money for the publishing package they sold her but apparently made no effort to improve the book and did not care if its label appears on crap..

    This blog post describes how Xlibris did not provide the help the author badly needed.:

  13. I nearly got caught by Authorhouse–their aggressive attitude and disparaging remarks about competitors really got to me. They never let up on calls and kept replacing previous sales reps. I finally sell published with CreateSpace and have done amazingly well. The quality of my printed book is superb. I’m only in print and need help converting from inDesign for a digital book. I paid someone to format, and because I don’t use inDesign myself cannot do the conversion.
    I was with a critique group for a few years. The experience and knowledge gained was invaluable, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s more than important to polish every aspect of a book before self publishing. I also happen to be a public speaker, so am lucky to have had a head start.
    This is a wonderful post–thanks so much. I’ll continue to follow you.

  14. I understand why scams like AS and PublishAmerica can be attractive options to a new self-publisher. The process can seem very daunting. The editing, formatting, cover design … the call of “But I don’t know how to do that!” is everywhere.

    If I’m in a position to give any advice whatsoever, it’s this: LEARN. Join critique groups. Find out if friends/family/acquaintances are skilled in areas of your need (even if it’s just someone who has a gift for spotting typos). Download and learn the basics of the GIMP image editor, or something like it. Cruise photo sites for an appropriate cover image.

    I’ve used myself as an example before. I self-published ORPHEUS for a grand total of $15 and a lot of sweat equity. Writing – me. Editing – me (and a handful of readers). Formatting – me. Cover – me (bought an image from for the aforementioned $15). And my book averages a 4.6 on amazon, so I’m not putting out total slop.

    Others may have to pay for services, and that’s okay. It’s possible that their sole gift is writing, and they need to pay others to handle the other aspects. For example, I imagine it’s hard to just learn how to edit, so paying for someone who’s competent is something that needs to be done.

    But to pay one of these “houses” an exorbitant fee for a package, AND give up a percentage of your sales, is to become part of the problem.

  15. Thank you for all the comments – especially those that have shared their own experiences with Author Solutions and their multiple subsidiaries. Apologies for being slow to respond – I’ve had a crazy couple of days – but I’ll dive in now!

  16. As I say to any aspiring author: be very, very wary of any publishing house offering a “self-publishing” option. They wouldn’t be throwing a bone to their competition without there being something in it for them, and usually that’s at a detriment to the author.

    I self-published my last book at next to no cost whatsoever. Only $10 for the printed proof, and the bulk of my sales was still Kindle. There’s absolutely no reason to speak of for someone to shell out that sort of money for self-publication.

  17. Thanks to David for this chilling overview (and thanks to Flora B. who sent the link). I published my first book August 2012 with “Authorhouse UK”, to discover that it was more a U.S. company than UK. List of complaints, mostly for over-prized services, shoddy management, failure to reply to mails, etc. Editing was acceptable (my book is very technical) but the step to publishing was a disaster as they built in over hundred mistakes, I corrected most for the e-book. Latest complaints: they still pay by check (in the 21th century), but the sales lady had guaranteed by e-mail bank transfer, so now all payments are on hold. Still waiting for the report 4Q 2012 on book sales/royalties. For sure will not use them again as I intend to write more. Will report this articles soon on my and read with care the comments here.

  18. Thanks David and Emily. No matter how frustrated I may get with the marketing side of self-publishing, this article highlights why ANYTHING is better than the traditional path. I doubt I will ever enjoy marketing but at least I won’t be sent bankrupt while I follow my passion to write.

  19. As a freelance writer and literary editor/pseudo-agent, I have done several self-publishes with a company called Aventine Press for the past 10 years, and have been very happy with them. I am glad to see this “new age” of self-publishing become more prevalent. The big houses need to be put in their places. As always, David, great info here, and great to pass along to my writer/authour friends 🙂

    1. *cries*

      Aventine Press at least says they are only taking 20% of the writer’s money through their “services”. Which would be better – if it were true. Except that the calculation they use to reach that has a 55% retailer discount. And if they’re using LSI to print their books, as I believe they do, they are actually placing those books on Amazon, B&, and other online retailers at a 20% discount – the lowest those retailers will accept for POD books.

      From their website:
      “Example: A reader purchases a copy of your 160 page book at – The cover price of your book is $12.95; subtract Amazon’s 55% trade discount ($7.12) then subtract the printing cost ($3.30), the remainder ($2.53) is the profit margin, 80% of which ($2.02) is the royalty paid to you.”

      The actual numbers:
      Cover price $12.95, minus printing cost of $3.30 (sounds about right so far), minus the 20% retailer discount of $2.59, minus the $2.02 they pay to the author = $5.04 leftover profit for Aventine to keep.

      Oh, and they charge 13% above printing cost for author copies. Why sign up to pay 13% more for copies, when you can get them at printing cost direct from the POD printer (Createspace or Lightning Source), who will ALSO distribute them everywhere Aventine will?

      Guys…there might, somewhere, be some services company that charges up front fees, uploads the books to their accounts so that you don’t need to “worry your pretty little artist head” about such things, and DOESN’T scam the writer.

      I’ve never seen one; but such a thing might exist.

      I’d like to believe in unicorns and dragons, too. 😉

      1. Thanks for the reply, Kevin. Things have changed in the past 10 years (heck, even in the past 5!), with more choices now available for POD/SP. Maybe I need to do some homework before I proceed with any new projects, eh? o.0 I will definitely check into the POD printers you mentioned. 🙂 Cheers!

      2. Hey, Kevin…

        I decided to publish independently, without the unnecessary aide from an “author’s services” kind of company. I have never regretted that decision. But, my background is an entrepreneur and businessperson, so I might have had a leg up in that area.

        Nonetheless, I can see where some writers would be interested in having someone take care of the business details for them. So, here’s my question: (and I mean it sincerely) what do you think is a fair price or markup on services for a company to charge? I keep wondering why this segment of the market is filled with rip-off artists with no legitimate alternatives to be found…

      3. Createspace offers services (for flat fees), but I don’t usually recommend them. Lightning Source (Ingram’s POD arm) doesn’t offer services – they expect you to upload printing-ready PDF files for the cover and interior.

        Some folks know how to do book interiors themselves. I do, but I cheated: I grew up in a publishing family, so I was setting type by the time I was eight. 😉

        If you don’t know how, and don’t want to take a class on it, check out the service providers out there who charge one time fees and then give the finished PDFs back to you, to upload to YOUR account at Lightning Source or Createspace. Places like Telemachus Press or Lucky Bat have decent reputations (I’ve especially heard good things about Lucky Bat). You can also find freelancers to do the job – ask around in the Writer’s Cafe forum on for advice on good freelancers.

        Once you have the PDF files for cover and interior in hand, upload to your account with the printer. It’s the only way to be sure you’re not being scammed.

        Best of luck!

      4. Check out Lucky Bat Books, The Killion Group, Ebook Formatting Fairies, plus SCADS of independent cover artists ($50-300 for a cover), formatters (around $30 a title), copyeditors ($150-350 a book). If you want to pay for content editing, you’re looking at more money – but find a good critique group/partner and beta readers instead.

        Uploading to the various retailer platforms for ebook is FREE. Createspace is free or $25.

        Here’s a great HUGE list of indie resources from Christiana Miller:

  20. @Kevin. General parameters don’t constitute a rip-off. Booklocker offer publishing services which many people can’t or don’t want to deal with. They don’t harass by phone, they charge well under $500 for a full service, and they run their business with integrity. I too offer services. I compile ebooks and do line editing etc. My charges for what I do are about 10% of what other companies offer but just because I am involved in these aspects of self publishing does not mean that I rip customers off. General parameters? Hell, you might say that if we charge at all for what we do then we’re ripping people off. I think Angela Hoy and Booklocker along with writersweekly (owned by Angela) are a far cry from what this article is about. I’m very happy with them. I don’t pay $5000 for something that costs $500. Please do some due diligence before tarring all companies with the same brush. I say this with respect and I am sure that if anyone has genuine issues with Booklocker they might say so on this blog and cite some instances of how they have been treated and why they feel they should complain. Otherwise it’s not fair on Booklocker or the many other businesses charging fair fees for fair work.

    1. Yes, but they still charge up front for services AND keep a majority of income on sales.

      So they are still a BAD DEAL compared to the buckets of service companies offering the same services for one time fees. It’s not like they’re charging much less than some Author Solutions companies are…$500 for Booklocker and $750 for AuthorHouse? After you’ve sold a bare thousand copies of your book or ebook, and they’ve kept a few thousand dollars of your income, saving the $250 by using one instead of the other isn’t really going to feel much better.

      Bottom line: THE ONLY TIME when a publisher or services company should be retaining a percentage of your income is when they invest in the book. If you are paying up front for production fees, then the service company should be providing YOU the files to upload to YOUR account.

      More fun stuff about Booklocker? They charge $99 (or more) for ebook conversion, which is free at Amazon, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Pubit, and Kobo. Or darn cheap to do yourself with Scrivener, Jutoh, Legendmaker, or Calibre.

      They charge an annual hosting fee of $18 for the POD book. If you go direct to the printer, there is no annual fee.

      They charge $199 for changes after the print proof. Createspace changes are free; Lightning Source changes are about thirty bucks. Not sure which of those two they use for printing, but either way – they’re keeping a lot of money.

      Oh, and $90 for cover changes – again, free on Createspace, about thirty dollars on LSI.

      Fun example: they say they pay “about 15%” of list price. They set list price at $14.95 for a 201 page print book, which costs $3.26 to print. With a normal retailer POD discount of 40%, the retailer keeps $5.98. Booklocker pays the writer 15%, or $2.24. So, 14.95 – 5.98 – 2.24 -3.26 = $3.47. Which makes me wonder where, precisely, that $3.47 is going? 😉

      For ebooks? They pay you 55% of the net they receive. Example? Your ebook is on Amazon for $4.99. A copy is sold, and Amazon pays Booklocker $3.50. Booklocker pays you $1.93 and keeps the other $1.57. It’s not QUITE as bad as the 50% most Author Solutions companies keep, but it’s darned close.

      As I said before – it’s the same game, under a different name.

      1. Kevin. To go through your statements piece by piece would take a lot of time. You are not always comparing apples with apples here. I charge $150 for creating ebooks from a document. This included smashwords (both word and epub) .mobi, Lulu, .pdf, nook and all the varieties of required epub files for each site. (Which makes me dearer than Booklocker). In my case I do a lot more than just convert the files though. so I suppose that’s OK. Cover change charges are based on what LSI charge back. Go into what it actually “costs” with Createspace and you might find they can be quite high. I’m not here to defend or to condemn Booklocker. I use them for my novels, and as a returning author my entire work is completed for a 130k word novel with cover and upload to all sites for under $400 all up. You can list all sorts of charges but unless you use a particular service provider it’s probably unwise to take a bunch of figures and interpret them in a particular way. I have no vested interest in Booklocker, but I find Angela and Richard Hoy to be people who work with integrity and they’re honest. Just today a fellow writer submitted an article to writersweekly (Angela Hoys magazine) for which she was paid $60 for her 600 word piece.
        One can make lots of comparisons but they must be apples with apples and oranges with oranges. We all have to make a living. Authorsolutions is not remotely like Booklocker. (Read Angela Hoy’s articles.) I was conned by AS (nearly) misrepresenting themselves as Pearson Penguin. They call at all hours of the day and night, they harass and lie. The bottom line I suppose is that if we use any particular service and we are happy with what we get, and if what we get is perceived to be value for our money, then we are not getting ripped off.

        If I charge $150 for an ebook conversion of a novel it will include design and presentation all ready for the client to upload to all the sites in the finished formats those sites require. It can take up to four or five hours to complete a project. It’s still compiling ebooks, but it’s not just a matter of clicking on a link and converting files.

      2. The fundamental difference between charging a flat service fee for a service (cover art, ebook conversion, print layout, editing, etc.), and charging both that flat fee AND 45%+ of the income on sales from that work *ought* to be self evident.

        Createspace, by the way, has no charge – none – for basic uploading of the book and print availability on Amazon. They do charge $10 for an ISBN if you want to market the book under your own publishing house name, and they do charge a one time fee of $25 if you want the book available through the Ingrams catalog (the same distribution Booklocker offers). So $35, once. They have formatting services you can buy as well, but as I already said here, I don’t recommend them. Even so, they are again *flat fees*, as opposed to “flat fee plus more than half of your print profits forever”, which is what Booklocker seems to be offering.

        It’s no contest.

      3. Kevin, For over forty years I have been a journalist investigating frauds, scams and rip-offs. Your figures are as misleading as those you claim to condemn. I spend the money and get inside people like ASolutions. I use the services they offer and then (and only then) write about them. So far, and to the best of my knowledge Booklocker has acted with integrity and honesty and their charges are fair and reasonable. If I find later that there is any kind of impropriety then I will of course go back on my conclusions.
        The right to make a fair and reasonable living is not a crime and the insistence that everything has to be ‘free’ or close to it is a universally silly assumption. There are many who can’t or won’t do all the tedious work to get their books on line and selling. You give figures that are either incorrect, or (more insidiously) misleading and which folk must accept as given because to try to rebut them in a single post would be a very long post indeed.
        I know, (as many do) that simply loading your work into createspace “for free’ will rarely provide a well presented product. In fact in many cases it is a mess. IF one can do all the work oneself and produce a quality product, then that’s fine. I know, as you most likely do too how long it takes to have your product properly edited, formatted, created and loaded onto all the sites. It is NOT the simplistic doddle you suggest.
        My educated guess is that to get a well presented novel on sites, well edited, formatted and ready for instant download or print purchase costs approximately $1000. Spend time to do it yourself and you will have spent many many hours. I personally would not work for $5 an hour (about what it takes me to take a book from Ms to upload.) Nor should anyone else. A fair days work for a fair days pay is the entitlement of all.
        All publishing service providers have a right to put bread on the table and to suggest as you did that there are NO good ones is a quite outrageous statement.
        With any of the publishing service providers (like booklocker) you the author have the right to purchase only what service you require. IF you want full service, (upload to Amazon etc) then it’s no different to a property company managing your property for you for a fee. If you accept a ‘free’ ISBN from any company you accept that THAT company is the registered owner of the ISBN and sales MUST go through them. Buy as little or as much as you need (or your budget will allow) and purchase your own ISBN’s, then upload to whatever sites you like using that ISBN.
        If you purchase a ‘full package’ from a company like booklocker and you accept the allocated ISBN then booklocker will take a ‘commission’ for that management. It’s a fee for management if you like. NOT a ‘royalty’. You talk about taking ‘royalties’. There is a big difference between a
        royalty and a commission .
        Don’t mislead people into thinking that they can’t purchase as much or as little of a company’s services as they wish.

      4. I’m not going to get into the financial nitty gritty on this one, other than to say that anyone considering using a self-publishing service company should check the terms and conditions very carefully to see what the upfront fees are, and whether any other fees are charged – especially ongoing fees in the form of a percentage.

        What is a fair or unfair price depends on your perspective, but I can say that self-publishers are generally wary of any service that takes a percentage (with notable exceptions like distributors who get you into stores you can’t access otherwise).

        Aside from the financial stuff, there are many more advantages to going direct where possible. I listed them above, but I’ll copy them here in case you don’t see it:

        1. Speed. One of the great advantages of digital publishing is speed. You can get a book to market extremely quickly. Going through a third party slows this process down.

        2. Money. You get paid quicker if you go direct. Much quicker. And much more regularly. (Plus you get paid more – there’s no-one taking a cut.)

        3. Control. You don’t have to depend on a third party to fix mistakes, get their reporting/payment processes right, get blurbs right, get into the right categories etc.

        4. Data. If you go through a third party, you won’t have (near) live sales reports – which are crucial for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

      5. Graham: My numbers are correct.

        I have said, in multiple replies here, that hiring a professional or a company to do the work of formatting your print book, converting your text to ebook, producing cover art, editing, or any other task is acceptable, normal business practice.

        Generally speaking, a narrative text book will run you $250-500 for print formatting, and $25-100 for ebook formatting (however, as noted previously – if you have correctly formatted your Word DOC, you can upload that directly and the retailers will convert it pretty reliably into a good ebook, as will distributors like Smashwords and Draft2Digital). Covers and editing vary wildly in price and quality.

        Should you pay for those services? If you cannot do those tasks at a professional level, then YES, absolutely.

        Should you use a company which charges you about the same fees, AND in addition retains a huge chunk of the profits on sales? When there are other alternatives which cost the same, have the same quality, and let you retain all your earnings?

        Only if you are really, really bad at math.

      6. We don’t disagree then on the cost. About $1000 all up. (Don’t forget all those little ancillaries like your ISBN, and that is the minefield I may speak about later. ) Having said what you have, and I am reasonably OK with math, Booklocker don’t actually charge that much for their management. You will of course, when you have opened all your accounts, purchased ISBN’s for all your
        formats and your hardcover and softcover have to manage all your accounts. You’ll have to go through the Smashwords .doc upload guide and make sure you get that exactly right if you want the premium catalog. (Or you could just upload an epub to the standard catalog).
        Make sure you get all the LULU uploading in your head, because getting your head around that is going to take a bit. Amazon? Oh well that’s dead easy. Unless you’ve got the time and the patience when you are learning all this you’re going to be a bit frazzled.
        Oh then you get your “Free” ISBN, (and find later that the only place you can check your sales is through the site that issued your ISBN because they own it.)
        I’m not arguing with you Kevin that you CAN do the whole lot yourself and manage the whole thing yourself. I do with many of my books. With my novels I use the full service (management) route. One company to deal with, I know what I’m paying them to take all the drudgery out, and I can stick my pot boilers up on all the other sites with their short shelf life and free isbn’s to deal with my income stream.
        My point to you is that you are claiming that these companies are ripping off customers. Some are. The one I use is not. They have a transparent business and they charge a fee I’m prepared to pay. You cannot (should not) claim that they are ALL crooks, as you have claimed. There is much more to it than your simplistic opinion.
        I know of many more people who have gone the way of doing it all themselves only to find that they have truly stuffed up and they don’t sell books because of it. If I rent my properties I pay a property manager to look after them. I don’t want the aggravation. As a result I can spend my time making money from my chosen profession and the costs of my property management are a cost of creating my income.
        In the short term there are going to be many many more on line booksellers and the difficulties are going to escalate. My view is to find a company you are happy with, pay their reasonable fees (knowing exactly what those fees are) and they will do their jobs in finding the new sites to market your books, and create sales. It’s only traditional business. You pay a little to make a little more. ASolutions is a wrong ‘un, but you can’t say that other companies work according to some “General Parameters” that you didn’t qualify. Lots of businesses look the same on the outside. Modifications to practices is what makes them better or worse to deal with. The “General” idea of ASolutions is not a bad one. The ethical behavior of the company, their shyster activities are what make them a rubbish company. That they have been successful proves that the original idea is not a bad one. The way they do it is bad. So because one company sucks in the publishers and the public you are extrapolating that all companies offering similar services are the same. That is what is not logical about your argument.

      7. NEVER pay a flat fee *and* a portion of your sales. It’s either one model (true indie) or the other (tradpub). Paying both is a sure sign you’re being scammed*. Sigh…

        *Royalty share options for audiobook narration and also foreign translation are a different matter. I’m talking about ebook and print publishing in English.

      8. I said $250-500 for print layout, $25-100 for ebook conversion, $50-250 for a cover, $10 for an ISBN, $25 for print on demand distribution, and free uploads for ebooks to the various retailers, of course. That’s $360-885, the mode of which is about the same price as Booklocker sells their packages for($617 for ebook, print, and cover). Neither price includes editing, which is an additional expense.

        So the cost is about the same. Except that Booklocker continues charging you – $18 per title per year, plus 45%+ of your profits. Sell a meager thousand $5 ebooks, and Booklocker has cost you $2187. Sell a solid 10,000 copies, and Booklocker has cost you $16,317.

        Yes, not everyone sells a thousand copies of their book. But assuming we are not planning to fail, does it make sense to use a service which eats away that much of our income if we do succeed?

      9. Thanks for this comprehensive breakdown. I will post something longer in a moment,but felt I had to acknowledge your post. I’ve published with CreateSpace and am very satisfied. More later.

  21. This a an excellent blog. I want to just follow up on what Jaye said. I have just started to build just such a website which will be live in a few months. Not online yet, but we will have the domain and we’ll be encouraging you all to contribute.
    It will have everything we authors need to know, and services offered that will be VETTED before we put them up. As an author I got yanked in by this bunch and the person who originally called me even misrepresented themselves as speaking on behalf of Pearson Penguin. Yes I ended up getting caught. But I got out of it early enough. Glad to see authors standing up and being counted.. My latest novel is now with Booklocker. At least I can trust them!

    1. Er… You do know that Booklocker is another company which operates under the same general parameters as the Author Solution companies, right? Same scam, different company.

  22. Great post. Author Solutions in now a heavy anchor lashed around the necks of all traditional publishers. Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition of ASI, followed by S&S’ ASI-powered Archway, is tainting them all. Random House is also complicit now that they’re merging with Penguin. The other publishers should reject ASI publicly, otherwise that anchor is lashed around their necks too. I’m saddened that these once-proud publishing brands stand by as ASI sales reps pick the pockets of newbie authors. These publishing packages are criminal IMHO, and should be viewed as such. They’re selling cr*p to authors at exorbitant prices. How many current or past ASI clients borrowed money on their homes to pay for these packages, or paid with credit cards that haven’t been repaid? How many writers have lost their homes? How many writers are too ashamed to step forward and share their stories? Yes, writers bear some responsibility for making poor business decisions (ASI didn’t turn sour just yesterday). However, these big publishers also share responsibility for this mess. Just as Bank of America acquired a morally and ethically bankrupt Countrywide and owned the liabilities to come, so too will the publishers who willingly feed authors to the ASI wolves. It’s not like the publishers don’t know what’s going on. They’ve all read Emily’s great posts by now, and if they haven’t gotten the memo yet I’m not sure what more to say.

    Predatory lending practices have led to government attempts to regulate bad players from exploiting those who lack financial literacy ( The entire indie author community should join together to help our fellow writers develop publishing literacy.

  23. Brilliant post. It is incredible how sneaky and underhanded the big guns can be. I almost fell for it myself, thinking I needed a publisher’s imprint to somehow give my book credibility. What a joke! I’m happy I saw the light before it was too late, and with posts like this, hopefully others will see it, too.

    1. Aside from being terrible news for those focused on the trad path (less houses to submit to, and consolidation like this historically leads to higher book prices, lower advances, and a general worsening in contract terms for authors), it just makes a bigger net for the Author Solutions trap.

  24. But just think… Now that Penguin bought ASI, the services *could* have some value. Now, you can pay them for publishing – IMMEDIATELY remove your book from their “care” – and then republish yourself, marketing the book as “Previously published by a Penguin imprint, edited by Penguin editors.”


  25. It’s always been evident that the bottom line is important, but in these changing times in the world of publishing, it is sad to see how cheaply the big publishing companies are willing to sell their reputations. I’d like to believe that they are unaware of the business practices of AS, but I just can’t work up that much suspension of disbelief.

    1. Hi Lyle and everyone! I got suckered in to Xlibris last year but after the initial response the answers that I wasn’t getting made me suspicious and finally downright angry. At the moment I have reverted to Amazon/KDP – it’s not brilliant but there’s less hassle. As it stands at the moment, none of the self publish or traditional publishers can be trusted and the whole industry needs gutting and starting again.

  26. Reblogged this on shadesofgay and commented:
    Something for any new/emerging authors … getting the word out so you don’t get scammed….

  27. Really useful post for indie-authors; I too nearly went with them a couple of years ago but decided to go the KDP route instead. I have not regretted that decision. Great post, thanks to you and Emily.

  28. I emailed this blog post to my writer’s group. Most of them are savvy enough to be wary of this scam, but It never hurts to reinforce it.
    I like the idea of a one-stop resource for potential writers but it should contain ratings and prices. Prices for editors can vary by a considerable amount, anywhere from $300 to $4000 for a three hundred page book. Some of the more accomplished editors are worth the high price but there are good editors that won’t break the bank and they charge less. The potential self-publisher has no way to judge. Perhaps such a site might contain bios and user ratings for the service providers as a way to decide.
    The only way to fight these crooks is to educate would-be authors. They fear to take chances and are uninformed about nearly every step of the process. Some are convinced that self-publishing will result in a black mark on their name and prevent them from landing a publishing deal from a trad-publisher. Most of us know it isn’t the case, but trying to convince these people otherwise takes time and positive feedback.

  29. Good article, David. Thank you, Emily, for the good information.

    The thing is, I’m getting queries on an increasingly frequent basis from folks who have no idea at all how to self-publish. (all I do is format ebooks–I am NOT a publisher) From their perspective the whole thing looks immense and daunting and far too difficult to learn. They want some hand-holding and some direction. They are scared of screwing up. Scared of making a fatal mistake. Many are ripe for scams like Author Solutions.

    What I find is that IF I break it down into steps for them, and IF i walk them through a process or two (many people are flabbergasted by how easy it is to upload a book to an online distributor), and IF I point them to successful bloggers and promoters, and IF I offer just a few moments of hand-holding, they gain enough confidence to NOT fall prey to scammers.

    The real solution to Author Solutions is for us indies to come up with a “one-stop” shop for indies. A place where self-publishers can find editors, formatters, book designers, cover artists, promo and marketing folks, and maybe even mentors. All of them vetted and certified as legit. NONE of them working on a royalty basis–it’s all one service/one fee. i keep rolling this over in my mind, but haven’t figured it out yet. If somebody else figures it out, contact me right away.

    1. I think Jaye’s absolutely right! And if I didn’t already own one business (a newspaper, at that — yep, not the brightest person in the world), I’d be all over this. You could eventually (though you’d be screamed at for this) even charge vendors to be listed on the site once you achieved critical mass (and once you vetted them, of course)…

      And you could have some rule where if you got a complaint or two on a vendor, then you reserved the right to yank them down and rate them poorly, as well, if you wanted. Integrity would be key, but there’d be potential there if it’s not already out there. (I’ve certainly helped more than my share of writers already, as well. Who knows how many new writers are out there…)

    2. While I completely agree that there is a hole in the market for something like you describe, I don’t think the challenges of executing it effectively are trivial. Two things jump to mind straight away.

      1. Who vets the suppliers? If you make it open and crowdsource it (i.e. allow any user to review any potential supplier), there could be potential legal issues over negative comments made (and just dealing with the complaints from both users and suppliers could be an admin nightmare). If you have a small circle of people doing the vetting, who’s going to compensate them for the huge amount of time needed to research a large group of suppliers (which you will need so that your recommended list doesn’t get booked solid straight away)? You would also need to factor in the time dealing with complaints about whoever you recommend. Which leads to…

      2. Who pays for all this? Presumably the site will require some investment, and all the content will have to be researched, written, maintained and regularly updated. Do you charge a membership fee for users to peruse the listings? Do you charge suppliers to be included? Both paths have problems.

      Personally, I think the root cause of the problem is the strange mystique that has attached itself to the publishing process. Out of the three main tasks a (self-publishing) writer has – writing, publishing, and marketing – publishing is *by far* the easiest. Companies like AS will give you no help with writing, and no effective help with marketing. And you really don’t need a company like AS to assist with the publishing part – which really is a set of rote steps that anyone can follow (anyone who is smart enough to write a good book can certainly figure out how to publish one).

      I accept that there is a sizable segment of writers out there who require a little more handholding than others. Perhaps a site like you outline could do the job. I think we need a multi-pronged approach. There are lots of great blogs and books out there which will teach people how to self-publish, but I think we are only really reaching people who have already made the decision to self-publish (and not via AS or anyone like them).

      How do we reach the writers at that earlier stage? Will the incorporation of things like panels on self-publishing into trad-focused writing cons help? A little, but I still think we’re missing a lot of people.

  30. Great article! I almost went with one of those. Xilbris got me early on. Their high pressure sales and high dollar costs for things I could do myself put me off. I thought they would never quit calling me.

  31. Hello David, Emily. I didn’t know Xlibris was a part of AS… Around two years ago they hounded me to sign with them and have them let me publish. I knew it was a croc as the book I was busy with, in it;s current form, was crap and definitely not something they could sell right away. I knew there was a catch. Luckily I kept them on a leash until they eventually stopped calling. I felt sorry for the lady calling though, she sounded nice over the phone.

  32. About 4 years ago Trafford almost got me with their entire package of how they could assist me in propelling my books into the stratosphere. Offering services that I could perform on my own and wouldn’t cost me any more than one or two mouse clicks. Fortunately I performed additional due diligence and research, pulling out and away from them before making a serious financial mistake. I am so glad I walked away from them and their too good to be true offers before I made a commitment I would regret until the end of time.

  33. Thanks again, David. We love our work, and we’re excited about the world loving it, too. We deal with disappointment regularly, so when news comes down the pike that someone might want our book… well, we might as well have “MARK” painted on our foreheads. The exponential growth of the literary scammer just proves how many marks are out there, just waiting to be fleeced. We need to learn to be wary. Learn to be tough. Learn to be smart. Your posts are crucial to the process!

  34. Hey David,

    Great to hear from you. Hope things are going well.

    And maybe this is too simplistic, but I think I read somewhere that the basic rule for writers is this:

    [ ] If you’re being “published,” then money comes to you. Period. (Never the other way, with it going away from you to them.)

    [ ] If you’re going to go the indie route, then it’s okay (and almost always necessary) for money to go out for services on the front end — like editing, formatting, and creating the cover — before it comes back on the back end (through sales).

    I think writers get caught when they’re sold some sort of gray area or between either traditional publishing or self-publishing. And then they’re sold a bag of jargon and fancy lingo and in no time feel completely inadequate and out of their comfort zone.

    But that goal to be published is so deep that they then fail to see the trap they’re falling into and they get stuck in a bad situation. (Note, my comment has NOTHING to do with this company, which I have never used nor heard anything about, either good or ill. My comment is intended as a general guideline for writers wanting to land their first book. I’ve been that desperate and I know the feeling. In my opinion, your path forward should go down either as the first option described above, or the second. No in between. No gray area.)

    1. Hi Stan. You’re referring to Yog’s Law – “Money should flow towards the writer” which was coined by SF writer James D. Macdonald. It’s a fine rule for the trad world, but it gets a little murkier for self-publishers, who often have to pay editors, formatters, cover designers etc. I don’t know if anyone has revised the rule to take account of the new world of publishing – but even if they have, it probably won’t be as pithy.

      I think if we are going to suggest some sort of rule for self-publishers, it should probably take the form of something like “avoid middlemen wherever possible.” If you are self-publishing, there’s no advantage to going through a service company like this (or, indeed, an agent/publisher), and plenty of disadvantages.

      Even if all the self-publishing service companies charged a fair price, delivered on their promises, and actually did a good job of publishing your books, there are still several important reasons why you should avoid them:

      1. Speed. One of the great advantages of digital publishing is speed. You can get a book to market extremely quickly. Going through a third party slows this process down.

      2. Money. You get paid quicker if you go direct. Much quicker. And much more regularly. (Plus you get paid more – there’s no-one taking a cut.)

      3. Control. You don’t have to depend on a third party to fix mistakes, get their reporting/payment processes right, get blurbs right, get into the right categories etc.

      4. Data. If you go through a third party, you won’t have (near) live sales reports – which are crucial for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

      In short, going direct wherever possible is always better. The only middleman that I’m willing to give a percentage to (or deal with at all) is someone like Smashwords who take a reasonable cut in exchange for putting my books in stores I can’t reach myself. If I can get into the stores they distribute to directly (such as Kobo), I switch that option off and go direct, for all the above reasons.

      1. Wow. Great comment, David. And I think you’re dead on with your revised idea for self-publishers of “avoiding middlemen wherever possible.”

        And I think the rest of your comment deserves its own blog post at some point in the future, since many won’t see the comment. BTW, have I said lately how much I think you’re the man?!

      2. re: Revision of Yog’s Law

        Perhaps, “In traditional publishing, money flows towards the writer. In self-publishing, a writer contracts out work they cannot do themselves and then lets as few middlemen as possible interrupt the flow of money thereafter.”

        Yeah, not as pithy. Hm.

  35. Thank you for this article! I think it is essential for every writer considering self-publishing to visit Emily Suess’s blog. The horror stories about Author Solutions and its many brands just go on and on.

    Thankfully, I got out in time. I wrote a post on my blo “Why I Left iUniverse”:

    Luckily I didn’t suffer much more than bothersome phone calls, because I worked with them in the old days (2003) before they were corrupted.

    Now I can proudly say that I have self-published on my own. I control my own destiny!

    1. First of all, congratulations on self-publishing your book – best of luck with it. It’s also great that you have blogged about your personal experience. I can understand why many writers might be reticent to do so, but with each writer that step forwards, the greater the chance is that potential victims will be warned away from this path.

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