The Authors Guild Dumps Author Solutions

The Authors Guild – which bills itself as America’s leading writers” organization – has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions.

This post is from 29 May 2015. 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 comments remain open.

The Authors Guild joins companies like Bowker, Writer’s Digest, Crossbooks, and the Bookseller in cutting links to Author Solutions – a company which has faced a sustained campaign from writers targeting its deceptive and exploitative practices, as well as multiple class actions which are still working their way through the courts.

Burying the Author Solutions Lede

The announcement was made yesterday at Book Expo America, but the Authors Guild decided to bury its own lede. No mention is made of Author Solutions, just a brief mention of the subsidiary which the Authors Guild was partnered with: iUniverse. If I hadn’t been waiting for this announcement, I would have missed it.

It’s almost as if the Authors Guild is trying to airbrush its partnership with Author Solutions from the history books. As if it was all just a bad dream.

Not so fast.

A Long Time Coming

While this move is welcome, it is way past overdue. And it’s important to note what happened here before we all move on.

The Authors Guild has had a partnership with iUniverse since 1999. To be fair, iUniverse wasn’t the scammy, disreputable provider back then that it is today.

Like many of the companies under the Author Solutions umbrella, service levels didn’t truly degrade to their current, awful standards until iUniverse was purchased by Author Solutions in 2007 – a trend clearly visible when Author Solutions purchased other competitors like Trafford and Xlibris. Watchdogs like Writer Beware saw a huge uptick in complaints as each company was purchased by Author Solutions and the respective service levels plummeted.

None of this stopped the Authors Guild renewing its partnership with Author Solutions in 2008, and again in 2011. As an organization purporting to represent its members best interests, surely it would have been aware of the terrible reputation of Author Solutions companies, and how much service levels at iUniverse had deteriorated. Was there another reason why the Authors Guild was so reluctant to terminate this partnership?

Everybody Loves Royalties

Typically, Authors Solutions’ publishing partners receive a royalty for each publishing package or marketing package that is sold to customers – understood to be 25%. Author Solutions also has an affiliate program which rewards entities for delivering it customers – which Author Solutions refers to as “a bounty.”

It’s unknown whether these arrangements were in place with the Authors Guild. However, it is clear that the Authors Guild had arranged some form of ongoing payment from iUniverse when they formed the program.

A Good Tithing

In the standard contract between Authors Guild members and a specific clause notes: “Ten percent of gross receipts of sales made through the website will be paid to the Guild.”

If you want to verify any of this information, it has all now been wiped from the Authors Guild’s website… but the internet never forgets. Using the Wayback Machine, you can see what the looked like last week. The respective terms and conditions are visible, as well as links to the boilerplate agreement between Guild members and iUniverse.

Let Me Google That For You

Things get more bizarre the more you look around. had a humorous eligibility requirement. It would only publish work by Authors Guild members (understandable), and

Only books that have been previously published by an established U.S. publishing house (no vanity presses or self-published) are eligible.

Wut? That makes no sense at all! It”s like an Irish pub with a “No Irish” sign in the window.

When The Rain Starts To Fall

Looking at the old website also gives you an idea just how tech-savvy this operation was. Members had to submit their books in physical form, by snail mail only, and, if they wanted a specific image used on their crappy generic cover template (choose one of three colors!), then they had to submit it by CD.

The level of knowledge on display is hilarious. Members are urged to submit their “Key Words” by writing them, by hand, into a box on the form, and posting them off to the Authors Guild. Presumably the Guild then sent them by pigeon to Author Solutions.

The only thing that could make the whole operation more 90s is if it came with an instructional VHS tape starring Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston. And I’m really not being unfair here. This was the website as of last week. I guess we”re just lucky that nothing has changed in publishing in the last decade-and-a-half.

I could go on and on about how terrible a publishing option this was – how metadata was routinely screwed up, how the books were overpriced and in the wrong categories, how crappy the covers were because members could only choose between three colors, how Author Solutions” sales reps attempted to upsell worthless marketing packages, how iUniverse published digital editions of members” books without permission – but the key point is that publishing with iUniverse was the only self-publishing method recommended by the Authors Guild.

One Way Or The Other

The Authors Guild didn’t provide any information on using far superior options like Createspace, Smashwords, KDP, Draft2Digital, Kobo, Nook Press, or Apple – all of which are free.

Instead the Authors Guild picked one of the worst possible providers, with a litany of ongoing complaints against them (as well as lawsuits), a provider which was paying royalty rates less than half what its members would have received with the alternatives above.

The saddest part of all this is that many writers out there are scared to publicly express criticism of Author Solutions due to it now being owned by the largest trade publisher in the world: Penguin Random House. This is exactly the kind of situation where writers’ organizations are supposed to step in and be their voice – not deliver its members into the clutches of such a company.

The Real Victims

It gets worse before it gets better. Under the leadership of Scott Turow, the Authors Guild didn’t just oppose the price-fixing settlement, but called on the DoJ to drop its investigation before it was even concluded. The Authors Guild literally didn’t want to know if price-fixing was occurring.

In its submission to the Department of Justice, the Authors Guild really jumped the shark – wheeling out PublishAmerica and iUniverse as parties which had been “injured” by Amazon’s dominance. Yes, that PublishAmerica. And despite all the lawyers at the helm of the Authors Guild, not one of them seemed to think it prudent to disclose the Guild’s financial relationship with iUniverse.


It Was A Good Day

Having said all that, today is a good day: the Authors Guild dumped Author Solutions. The the terms with the new provider – Open Road – have yet to be disclosed, but will be “available soon” according the Authors Guild.

It must be said that Open Road has a very good reputation, but those terms are important and ingesting all these titles is a non-trivial operation. However, I can say that Open Road knows a million times more about selling books to readers than Author Solutions.

And another partner bites the dust. Who’s next?

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.

46 Replies to “The Authors Guild Dumps Author Solutions”

  1. Thank you for this post. I also terminated my contract with Authorhouse, part of Author Solutions. They made the publication of my first book a living hell.

  2. I thought i"d let you know I cancelled my contract with Authorhouse, part of Author Solutions.
    Here is their confirmation and my reply:
    Irish Jardin
    Today at 2:21 PM

    "Dear Jacqueline Mohr,
    Thank you for your correspondence. I have been forwarded your recent communication concerning making your book inactive with Authorhouse. This email is to confirm the cancellation of your book with Authorhouse. Your book entitled “Saxophone Loses Her Tune” with ISBN (9781456770150) has been disabled in the Authorhouse database and will no longer be available through the Authorhouse online store and the Authorhouse hotline within 3-5 days. A cancellation request has also been forwarded to our online distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor and Bowker Books-in-Print and it does take 2-3 weeks for them to change their status online to “PUBLICATION CANCELLED”. When a title is listed as cancelled, production knows not to produce any more copies of the book for distribution.

    Due to our relationship with various printers and book distributors physical copies of your book may currently exist within the book vending channels. It is possible that your book will still be listed as active with other online retailers until these copies have sold out. Also, please note that as part of Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s sales programs, titles that are considered “out of print” are kept in the system as such to allow customers the ability to track hard-to-find books. Hard-to-find and out-of-print books present a great source of revenue for these businesses, which is why they continue listing books that are no longer available through their distributor.
    If there is anything else that you require, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Irish Jardin"
    Registration and DISTRIBUTION services
    post publication department
    Author Solutions, LLC
    A Penguin Random House Company
    My reply?…

    Dear Irish Jardin,

    "Thank you for the email confirming the cancellation of my contract.
    I am relieved to hear this. I"m quite surprised to know I had an ISBN number.! I think it is time to explain my decision to leave you.
    I have never felt looked after…. I feel like a fool for being in a professional relationship with such a company that would send me substandard visual preview of my work and constantly change the person I needed to contact- I have all the emails to prove it! I"m a hard working teacher in the U.K- you are in the U.S.A with my work!!
    I never felt confident knowing Authorhouse was such a big company…. the little people are overlooked. The last few weeks of being a part of your company was the most I heard from you; building up my hopes in one hand then insulting me by constantly asking for money-£13,000!!- I recorded the conversations!
    Shouldn"t you have been trying to get money for me??? Ironically you did get money out of me.. £800.. of which i received no satisfaction; no work, no hope.
    I"d love to get my money back; then maybe I"d have some respect for your company… I doubt that, that money has lined someones pocket because it hasn"t lined mine!
    I feel cheated but i will get over that as it"s not you who hold my future, it"s someone greater, and that is who you will have to answer to some day.

    Jacqueline Mohr"

  3. ” . . .how iUniverse published digital editions of members’ books without permission – ”
    I"m pretty naive at this stuff, so have a question. I published a paperback book in 2003 with iUniverse, and noticed a couple months ago that there was a digital copy of it listed on Goodreads although the links don"t go anywhere. Can I publish it myself as an ebook? I don"t have a copy of the contract anymore. I tried emailing them but no response.
    I"d welcome any suggestions.

  4. As a long time subscriber to this most wonderful of Author Blogs, I always look forward with anticipation to David"s posts which are much more fun than T.V, the Movies or interminable Facebook perusing!
    Passion is not something to sneer at. If we had more writers like David the world would be a much happier place in my opinion. Standing up to Corporate evil is something that is pretty important for the future of life on this planet and the more passion we can direct in this direction the better it will be for all of us.
    Thank you David for an in-depth view into the abyss !

    1. I have, and the move is welcome, but I"d have a lot more confidence if the Authors Guild could answer the questions posed above about the contracts foisted on their own members, and disclose the terms of the new contract arranged with Open Road. Those remain an unknown – the terms haven"t even been hinted at yet – and I"m not sure why exactly they can"t be made public. What do the AG need to wait for?

      And maybe I"d be more confident if the AG ever did anything other than merely ask publishers nicely to perhaps amend terms, if it"s not too much trouble. Do you see this initiative doing anything? I don"t see this as having any teeth. I think they need to be much more combative. Also, perhaps I"m overly cynical, but it"s hard to trust an org which willingly delivered its members into the hands of scammers for years. My prediction: the Authors Guild will continue to simply ask nicely and publishers won"t do anything, then they"ll both blame Amazon and go for drinks.

      There are some good people at the AG now, but CJ Lyons can"t change the whole org on her own.

  5. “The saddest part of all this is that many writers out there are scared to publicly express criticism of Author Solutions due to it now being owned by the largest trade publisher in the world: Penguin Random House. ” Well, not in my case! on my I refer to the scam along with David"s postings on the matter. I am right now trying to get my whatever "royalties I should get from AuthorHouse. I will most probably get a check in BP sent from USA by snail mail, which I then have to send to Belgium as in China you can"t cash those checks (they had promised electronic payment!). In best case I get 50% of the amount It is pretty clear they under-report the sales and are now even reluctant to give me an overview. Whatever overview they give, it is always incomplete. Like only referring to sales through their own website. I brought up the issues with the China Penguin Chief Rep, of course with zero results.

  6. I had my back listed converted from print to digital in the “dark ages” before most of the services existed. I outsourced to India and they did an outstanding job–but I did have to proof the scans carefully and make changes, which also gave me the opportunity to fix niggling issues in old books.
    I believe this company has gone on to dot he same for many large publishers. It is far easier than you would expect. 1) Send hard copy of book, 2) Get file back and edit, 3) get 3 versions back: PDF, Kindle version, Nook and all other versions. Then you just go to Amazon or Kobo or Nook etc. and upload your book. Yes, you need a new jacket, but again, not difficult. Lots of services. I have an in-family graphics person. I have very, very long novels and they ran about $200-$250 each total. Why share one cent of royalties with a middleman? And one important factor is that you control your literary legacy. You don"t have to get rights back from anyone and can pass them on the your heirs. I wish the Authors Guild–again I am almost a “lifetime” member, would work on that issue. Once you give e-rights to anyone, you need an exit option that makes sense.
    PS…David has the very best author-centric info. For the publisher-centric I read Mike Shatzkin (The Shatzkin Files).

  7. David. While we can all agree Author Solutions are scumbags, I do worry you"ve become more than a little obsessed. Are you an author or a journalist? When does reporting on an issue of passion become a worrying obsession? Your blog is now blighted by your constant, endless commentary on them. We get it. They suck. Everyone with a brain knows that already. Personally as a fan of your writing, I think it"s time to move on to something else.

    1. If obsession can be defined as “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person"s mind” then, no, I"m not obsessed by this issue in any way (whereas I would be obsessed with the idea of story). If you mean obsession in the sense of “an activity that someone is very interested in or spends a lot of time doing” (very tame definition from Merriam-Webster there), then yes, I have spent a fair bit of time on this.

      I"ve been campaigning on this issue for four years. To keep the motivation up, especially when it has seemed hopeless at various points, you do need a certain level of passion (which would be my word choice here) to keep your spirits from flagging. I"d imagine that"s the same for any campaigner.

      I"d be more than happy to hand over this to someone else. I"ve tried to do it several times, in fact. It"s not like there are hordes of journalist covering this story – or bloggers, for that matter. If I stopped covering this issue than the amount of coverage would drop dramatically.

      “We get it. They suck. Everyone with a brain knows that already.”

      Well, no. That"s not the case at all. I could give innumerable examples, but here"s one: I"m the one who broke the story that Nook Press Author Services was partnered with Author Solutions. Up until that point, nobody knew that they were using Author Solutions when using Nook Press Author Services – so I reject your argument completely.

      But, as I said, I would be *delighted* if the newspapers did their job and started covering this, or if the trade press pretended they were journalists for ten minutes and stopped ignoring the biggest writing scam for 40 years. I would happily move on to another topic.

      And if you don"t want to read about it, then don"t read about it. The internet is hardly short of alternatives.

      1. Bravo David for your appropriate response to this comment. Thank you for your excellent post and pointers. I was hounded and insulted by Author Solutions sales people after I refused to sign up with them. I subsequently successfully published with CreateSpace. Very happy with the overall result.

      2. I for one get your new posts notice in my email and I want to keep hearing about the industry. I prefer to know it all and make my own judgment on where to take the information. Thanks for doing a job that needs to be done. There"s always newbies out there too that may never have seen an older post and may then see this one or a later one and it will inform and educate them.

      3. It"s your blog. Write what you want to. I don"t understand folks who tell bloggers WHAT to write about on THEIR blog. If someone does not like the topic of the latest entry–skip it. That"s what I do when you or any other blogger/writer puts up a blog/article that doesn"t whet my reading appetite. I skip it. Move on to something else.

        There"s a kind of arrogance in readers who presume to tell bloggers what content should be or not be on their blogs. Advice to them: Just…don"t…read…it. Done. Easy, right? 😀

    2. Rob,

      I have pro tip for you. It is very easy skip all these articles about ASI because David is really good with his article headlines. I use this technique all the time with the dozens of blogs I read, because even my favorite bloggers sometimes write about topics of no interest to me. It"s a great time saver and the reason behind the very concept of a headline, which, interestingly enough, has been around longer than blogs have.

      Also, as a small point of fact, not everyone who needs to know about ASI knows about them. I"m very sure of this because, IRL, no one I meet has ever heard of them. When people find out about my past involvement in ebook publishing, many of them are interested in publishing an book for one reason or another and ask me about how to do it. I give them a brief intro and then I point them to a few useful resources on the web, knowing the ones with a strong interest will follow-up. This blog is one of those resources because the people I meet (mostly doctors, lawyers, software developers, retirees, and business executives, i.e. people who clearly “have a brain”) are susceptible to the deceptive advertising practices that ASI uses. The problem my acquaintances have is ignorance, not stupidity.

  8. Author"s Guild equals an oxymoron. Really should be called Publisher"s Guild for exploiting authors. At all levels, except for the very top authors who seem to think every author gets treated like they do.

  9. Good news and a step in the right direction. I do think the guild should be doing more for helping authors get their backlist out including self-publishing it. I hope the terms are good for the authors.

    As a reader/reviewer I get a number of communications from Open Road. They keep track of what I"ve requested from NetGalley in the past and send me “this is coming out do you want to review it” on other books by author as well as similar titles. They also have reasonable sales and what"s new emails which I believe I request by category.

    They could do better on cover art in my opinion. I can frequently tell a book has been republished by Open Road based on the cover & not in a good way IMHO.

  10. I concur on Open Road"s reputation. They were pretty early in as an ebooks-only imprint, as well as an early player when it comes bringing back out-of-print backlist from contemporary authors. I also know that the former director of digital production is one of the best in ebook production business. This deal is squarely in OR"s wheelhouse and very much a step in the right direction for AG.

    1. I have a few Open Road ebooks on my Kindle. My complaint with Open Road is that they do not proofread. My copy of Fehrenbach, "This Kind of War" has numerous (50+) typos, text misplaced, and missing text. They may be improving. Lord, "Day of Infamy" had an acceptable number of typos (less than 5) and no misplaced or missing text.

      Their prices are reasonable, but they have problems with product quality.

  11. I just wanted to add something:

    We"ll see how the Open Road deal goes – the terms are still an unknown. But even if that all checks out, the AG should be doing a lot more here. It should be providing independent, objective information on all the publishing options available to writers and advocate for improving all of them.

  12. Reblogged this on Anma Natsu, The Lackadaisical Writer and commented:
    Long overdue, even if they are trying to pretend they never supported them in the first place. Here"s hoping more do the same.

  13. Hey David, great post, thank you. I"m also grateful for links you supply but how about checking box that says "open in new window" when you create them and then we don"t have to leave your wonderful site to follow them!

    1. Sorry! Should be fixed now.

      It"s annoying. I"m not crazy about the WP interface for typing directly into (not least because I"ve hit the Publish button before by accident!), so I often write posts in Word. I drop the links in there as I go – otherwise I would have 20 tabs open, and my face will start twitching. Unfortunately, when I cut and paste from Word to WP, it defaults to non-new window, and then I have to switch it back manually. I guess I missed a couple.

      Thanks again – it"s a bugbear of mine when on other sites, so thank you for pointing it out.

      1. I don"t know why I read this comment + reply out of all, but just FYI, from an accessibility standpoint it"s actually better not to open a new tab/window for links (or if you do open a new tab it"s better to state that the link opens in a new tab/window).

        But thanks for this great post (and other content) 🙂

  14. Fun post David. It"s good to see the dominoes fall . . . We all have to watch out for the new players to see what new tactics might be brewing. Hopefully Open Road will move ahead and prove to be legit. Thanks once again for the news breakdown.

    1. Well Open Road is legit – let me be absolutely clear about that. They have proved themselves to be very savvy marketers, have had a large number of hits (and have published a hell of a lot of titles in the last few years). They also seem to be current with a lot of the best practices of self-publishers: cheap pricing, 99c sales, BookBub etc.

      Questions will more surround stuff like what kind of royalty rates will authors get? Will these books get any marketing or is all that down to the author (and does the royalty rate reflect that, or are Authors Guild members getting the same backlist split as Open Road"s traditional clients, but no marketing)?

      Aside from details like that, there will be other contractual issues to watch out for, and then the logistics of uploading all these titles – attaching appropriate metadata (so they have the right keyword and are in the right categories etc.) will be important for discoverability.

      Open Road doesn"t sell any author services or products aimed at authors, so there should be no worries about any Author Solutions style up-selling, and one would imagine that general things like their book presentation and specific things like their royalty processing systems will be far superior.

      1. Are there other solid companies out there to assist authors with older books who want to maintain control of the conversion? Seems like options should be available for midlisters who want to go Indie with old titles and need conversion service. I haven"t researched this – just wondered if any names come to surface.

      2. Not all “full service providers” are dodgy. Many are expensive, but there are some reputable ones out there who don"t charge too much. (The last time I checked at least) Bookbaby seemed to be a decent bet for those who require a little bit of help, and then there are others for those who think they need more full-on help – more on that below.

        I don"t maintain a list of them because I try and steer everyone towards publishing with Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo etc. directly, and using a reputable distributor like Smashwords or Draft2Digital either for stores they can"t reach directly, or if they want to cut down on the admin and just use a distributor for everything outside Amazon.

        Even when you use a totally legit full-service provider, and they don"t charge a fortune, it"s still a sub-optimal way to publish. You can"t make quick metadata changes (so no chance of running an effective 99c sale or an ad with BookBub etc.), you often can"t make books free, you probably can"t sign up for something like KDP Select, you don"t get live sales figures (usually monthly) so you can"t measure any of the marketing you are doing. I also suspect it vastly reduces your chances of getting merchandizing ops at the retailers – it definitely does for Kobo at least. Plus you get paid less (they usually take a percentage of royalties too) and you get paid slower. And so on.

        But if you want a straight answer on what is a good self-publishing service provider that provides the full suite of services, i.e. packages including editing and the like, then the best thing to do is check out Mick Rooney"s blog – he has been covering that area in huge depth for years, and regularly re-assesses all providers:

        Mick also wrote a book (with Jim Giamatteo) for the Alliance of Independent Authors which answered that question in exhaustive detail, called “Choosing A Self-Publishing Service” which should be useful for anyone determined to go that route:

        Disclosure: I contributed a chapter to that book, but I wasn"t remunerated for same, and don"t benefit from its sale in any way.

  15. I have been with the Authors Guild for…gosh…over 40 years and have joined their various ways to sell backlist books including a catalog that preceded even print-on-demand. To be fair, iUniverse was one of the earliest in that category and the AG tried to winnow out vanity books from their program–as clunky as it has been. Of course, the minute ebooks were available, I tried to interest the AG into helping authors get their backlist to go digital. It wasn"t easy if you did not have an edited digital file of your books, but I found a good and reasonable service and have been enjoying the steady royalty stream for several years. While I would like to move my print books sales to Open Road–depending on the terms– I will reserve the ebooks. Right now just moving the print files will be costly and there was no fee for setting up with iUniverse. If indeed the AG has been getting 10% of my royalties (which have been decent) for all these years (since inception of the agreement) there should be no fees for moving the account. Also, in recent years, the Author Solutions sales reps have been relentless in pursuing me for marketing ventures–most annoying.

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