Bay Area Book Festival Defends Vanity Partnership

I discovered yesterday that Author Solutions was sponsoring the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival – something at odds with the breathless verbiage on the event’s site:

A new kind of book fair… the largest, most innovative, and most inclusive… [we will] create the nation’s leading book festival.

This post is from 20 March 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 event doesn’t take place until June, so I thought it was a good time to try and stage an intervention.

After I sent that tweet I felt a little bad.

Maybe the organizers didn’t know the full history of Author Solutions. Maybe they weren’t aware of the specific scam that Author Solutions runs at events like this. Deciding to give them the benefit of the doubt, I emailed the Executive Director of the festival, Cherilyn Parsons.

According to her bio, Cherilyn Parsons has “visited book festivals around the world to bring best practices to the Bay Area Book Festival.” Great, I thought. Surely those “best practices” don’t involve accepting sponsorship from a known scammer. Right?

I sent Parsons an email giving her the full background. I explained how Author Solutions was universally reviled in the writing community, why every major writers’ organization and watchdog group warned authors against using the company, and that Author Solutions was facing a class action for deceptive practices.

I also detailed the way Author Solutions uses its presence at events like this to ensnare new customers and milk existing ones – a common ploy being to sell off one-hour book signing slots for prices up to $4,000 (or up to $10,000 via Archway).

And it was a complete waste of my time.

In their response, The Bay Area Book Festival explained the “logic” behind accepting Author Solutions as a sponsor. The reasons presented were threefold:

1. Everyone else has their nose in the trough

Cherilyn Parsons admitted that whether to accept Author Solutions’ money was a “thorny question” but she decided to take the lead of several other festivals:

…such as the Miami Book Fair International, the LA Times Festival of Books and the Tucson Festival of Books. All have been very generous in sharing their expertise. All of them accept Author Solutions as an exhibitor.

How curious that Parsons would only seek guidance from these three festivals – which are very much in the minority when it comes to accepting dirty money from Author Solutions. You would think that someone who was a top director at the Center for Investigative Reporting for five years would be a little more thorough when researching the matter.

A little Googling would have turned up articles I wrote about the Miami Book Fair, the LA Times Festival of Books and the Tucson Festival of Books.

The scam Author Solutions runs at these events is breathtaking. To take one example from the above, I calculated that Author Solutions pulls in almost a million dollars from selling (worthless) LA Times Festival of Books marketing packages to its authors, every year. From that one event. The organizers of the LA Times Festival of Books are aware of this practice, and they don’t care.

Probably not the best people to be taking advice from.

Oh, and I should probably point out that Author Solutions exhibits at these events, but isn’t actually a sponsor. The Bay Area Book Festival has gone one step further. I guess that’s the kind of ambition you need to show when you want to “create the nation’s leading book festival.”

2. We didn’t want to make Penguin Random House mad

This was a real doozy.

Cherilyn Parsons’ exact words:

Author Solutions is part of Penguin Random House, which has been very supportive of the Bay Area Book Festival in sending authors, [and this] led to my decision to accept Author Solutions at the Bay Area Book Festival.

I’m sure those Penguin Random House authors will be delighted to hear that.

If I was Judy Blume, Matthieu Ricard, Karen Joy Fowler, Anthony Marra, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kim Stanley Robinson, Mac Barnett, Jennifer Holm, Geoff Dyer, or Jane Hirshfield, I would be asking the festival organizers, and my publisher, some very hard questions right now.

I certainly wouldn’t be okay with the festival organizers using my presence as a justification for partnering with known scammers.

But, hey, maybe it’s okay, because:

3. Bay Area consumers are too sophisticated to fall for a scam

Yeah, they actually said that.

In case you think I’m misquoting, here’s Cherilyn Parsons, verbatim:

There will be other self-publishing and hybrid publishing services represented at the festival too. Bay Area consumers are sophisticated, so this is a case of “buyer beware.”

I love the logic here. Because these Bay Area consumers are “sophisticated” it’s okay to invite known scammers who are facing a class action suit for swindling tens of thousands of writers (presumably un-sophisticated ones).

If you do happen to attend this event, which I very much don’t recommend, you should remember that the Bay Area Book Festival has absolutely no standards when it comes to accepting exhibitors and sponsors, and zero vetting has taken place of either.

It makes me wonder if the same logic applies to the food vendors at the festival. “Yes, this guy is known for selling hot dogs which are well past their sell-by date and contain rancid horsemeat, but it’s okay because Bay Area consumers are sophisticated.”

Eh, no it’s not okay.

This tweet said it best:

Let’s be very clear about something.

The decision of the Bay Area Book Festival to accept Author Solutions sponsorship will lead to more newbie authors being scammed.

This sponsorship is something that Author Solutions is already touting on their website (pictured right) – another false veneer of legitimacy for the worst operator in the business.

The Bay Area Book Festival knows this, and still decided to take the money. Which means we can look forward to lots more crappy Author Solutions marketing packages being pushed on unsuspecting rookies… like this.

I wonder what cut the Bay Area Book Festival gets?

And I wonder how the organizers justify the selling of these packages to all the unsophisticated, non-Bay Area rubes which Author Solutions will be targeting.

How you can help

We need to get the word out about this shady partnership. We need to let the organizers know that writers won’t stand for this crap. If you want to help, here’s what you can do:

  • Make your voice heard on social media. The festival’s Facebook Page is here, and you can retweet the above tweets, or compose your own.
  • Email the organizers to let them know what you think. Cherilyn Parsons, the Executive Director, can be reached here: Cherilyn [at]
  • Share this post with every writer you can.

And if you know any of the authors on the festival’s Literary Council, maybe get in touch with them to see if they can talk some sense into the organizers.

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.

67 Replies to “Bay Area Book Festival Defends Vanity Partnership”

  1. guess who showed up in Toronto at the Word on the Street book festival a few weeks back? yuppers, and with a HUGE tent and quite a few of their clients who signed and gave away books. wanna bet the writers had to buy their own books for the giveaway? and who paid for them to fly there and stay in hotels, probably not the company.

    1. Yes, the scams never end. If there ever was an organization that would prompt me to commit minor vandalism of their tents in the middle of the night, it’s them. Of course, I would never do that. Really, NSA, I wouldn’t. Just sayin’, Author Solutions is scum.

  2. I noticed that the Chronicle is one of the major backers. They’re known as the “Washington Post of the West” and do some pretty good investigative stuff from time to time. Have you contacted them? Maybe a coordinated campaign to write/email them to do some digging?

  3. Given that the Bay Area Book Festival is not going to back down, maybe they could compromise by requiring a tobacco style health warning label at the AS booth.
    Alternatively, have you thought of pointing local Bay Area newspapers and TV stations to your blog and other material about AS? TV stations in particular love to do spots about scams. it frees their inner longing to be real journalists.

  4. It doesn’t help when mega names like publishing industry giant Michael Hyatt continue to promote Author Solutions and steer business their way, something he’s been doing since 2009 – – He really doesn’t know what AS has been up to for years? Maybe he’s like the celebrities hooked in with Scientology. Clueless as to reality faced by others.

    And via his West Bow Publishing, they’re cheerfully sticking it to unsuspecting Christian writers –

    there’s a section on their site which says: “We want to work with people who are willing to say, “I am a Christian.” We do not try to judge their profession or assess the validity of their faith. Only God knows their hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Nevertheless, we want to work with communicators who claim to be Christians and are not ashamed of it.” – that’s what’s known as ‘affinity scamming”.

    Besides Thomas Nelson, they’re also hooked in with HarperCollins.

  5. I don’t know how these thingummies are organized, but has anyone stopped to think that AS have just set up these book festivals themselves (or got their own employees running them) with the sole purpose of doing this, and the separation of corporate names is just a big tax avoidance (like the separation of AS and PenguinRandomHouse)? Maybe the organiser is impervious to your concerns because she actually works for AS.

  6. “Hi, this is Markus Dohle, calling from Penguin Random House…”

    “Goodness gracious!”

    “… and we’re interested in publishing your book, Erections by Firelight.”

    “Oh my. But actually it’s called Reflections by Firelight…”

    “Whatever. To-may-to, to-mah-to. Listen, Betsy, are you ready to FEEL THE PRIDE of being a PUBLISHED AUTHOR?”

    “Wow, this is so exciting! I have to tell my daughter…”

    “No! Wait! Uh, I mean, wouldn’t you rather surprise her? You can take her to the Berkley Book Festival, where for a very reasonable fee you can be the guest of honor.”

    “Oh. There’s a fee? Oh no. You see, my social security checks barely cover—“

    “Don’t worry about money. You have TALENT. The rest will work itself out. I can see here on that your house is worth $250,000. I know a guy who can set you up with a reverse mortgage on it, to free up the cash. Don’t you want to FEEL THE PRIDE OF BEING A PUBLISHED AUTHOR?”

    “Well, my grandchildren… I was going to leave the house to them—“

    “Imagine how proud they’ll be. Their grandma, a world famous published author… you owe that to them, Bessie. You OWE it to them. What’s your house, compared with that?”

    “Oh, I don’t know… ”

    “Listen, I’ve got other calls to make. Don’t let your last chance pass you by. I’ve emailed you a contract — just sign right here.”

    1. LOL, Markus. I wouldn’t be surprised if AS stooped to this level of greed. Pirates do everything to steal money from innocent people.

  7. David, I really appreciate your work on this subject. I’ve also had to deal with numerous authors who’ve started to wake up to what they got themselves into after signing up with one of AS’s many entities, and it’s a long and painful process to extricate them and get going in the right direction. Articles like this one are the best antidote, so thanks.

  8. Hey David, it appears even our former Mayor (San Francisco) and current Lt. Governor (who is running for California Governor in 2018) appears to be giving the festival a “shout out” via a tweet they posted on their website. I posted screenshots on the Kboards thread about your post:,211271.msg2945666.html#msg2945666

    Very disappointing. Hopefully he isn’t aware about Author Solutions reputation. The tweet is back from December perhaps before the Author Solutions sponsorship?

  9. Mentioned this in a post on Martyn’s Blog at on the same theme of the Indies Unimited features on predatory publishing.
    Keep up the great work David!

  10. This should not come as a surprise. I live in California. The state and many residents are participants in one large scamfest. Festival (no matter the type) organizers look the other way as long as they get money from sponsors, no matter how criminal or trustworthy.

  11. Shared the link on two of my LinkedIn groups and will Tweet it as well. Thank you for taking the time to research for the benefit of many. Unfortunately, many people are willing to be scammed because they are so desperate to get their books in print. I think I would rather keep my manuscript on my computer than deliberately throw away my money on this kind of scam. I really want to be published, but at what cost? It’s CreateSpace for me if I can’t find a trad publisher.

  12. Reblogged this on Writer in the Pines and commented:
    I follow David Gaughran’s excellent blog. I think all writers should do so, especially if you are an independently publishing author – or have such aspirations.

    David gave us an enlightening message today:

  13. Reblogged this on Strike A Spark and commented:
    The Bay Area Book Festival + Author Solutions is a bad combo as Author Solutions is well-known as a scam in the writing community. But the festival representatives say it’s okay to associate themselves with this group because it’s a “buyer beware” situation. News flash: If you have to say “Buyer beware,” you probably shouldn’t encourage the service in the first place!

  14. Shared on all my social media channels. Great work, David. Interestingly, their “contact us” button on their Facebook page goes to their web page, which has no way to contact them at all. Makes you wonder if AS wasn’t in on this from the start, or if you’ve created enough of a firestorm that they are hiding in their holes.

  15. I was at Tucson Festival of Books this last weekend, March 14-15th–which by the way is now HUGE, weather is great, and they do a wonderful job for authors. That said, Author Solutions had a 5-6 tents side by side on the main fairway. They were giving out author books free, and people were lining up to get them. I felt badly for the authors, but not badly enough to interfere. They’ll find out soon enough.

  16. Wow! So essentially the organizers are saying “We know what you’re saying about AS and its past practices, scamming, etc, but it’s buyer a beware world. Not our problem.” Shared Facebook and twitter. Also will favorite and retweet your tweets.

  17. I had a table at The Twin Cities Book Festival next to a guy who had his book published by Author Solutions. He was an older guy and he told me he’d basically spent his life savings trying to get his book sold. He had a lot of traffic at his table but only sold one or two books. I felt so bad for him. I just don’t understand how people continue to be sucked into their schemes. Very sad.

    1. Stories like this break my heart. How can Penguin Random House executives look at themselves in the mirror when they’re literally picking the pockets of uneducated writers? “Buyer beware” (the excuse, not the great blog) is a cop out. Many writers that are touched first by an ASI sock puppet will have bank accounts emptied and their future potential as an indie author destroyed. ASI trades off of PRH’s name and in the process damages PRH’s reputation in the minds of educated authors who know better.

      1. It does seem as though PRH has looked at their future and decided to chart a very dark course for themselves. Maybe there’s a disconnect in their upper echelons, but it still comes off as ‘PRH – On Strange Tides’

  18. David, I was at the Tucson Festival of Books this past weekend and saw the Author Solutions booth there – including the poor lonely authors who had paid through the nose for the privilege of sitting there with a stack of books around them. It took everything I had not to stand by the booth and warn every potential victim of the reality of the situation. I know money trumps almost everything, but it is staggering to me that this festival has not just gotten in bed with AS, but has nearly said their vows. I will spread the word about this everywhere I can.

    Thanks, as always, for what you do with this issue. Eventually, enough light, shined into enough corners, has to make the cockroaches scatter, right?

  19. Reblogged this on Shirley McLain and commented:
    I thought this was a blog which should be shared. Author House is well known for its deceptive practices. If you are thinking about the BayBookFest, read and make up your own mind whether you want to participate.

  20. I’m unsure of how the US legal system works (other than that everyone sues for everything)… but I wonder if the book festival open themselves up for a class action here too?
    If hundreds of Indies go and sign up with Author Solutions during the festival, can they not all band together afterwards and say that the did so because the festival vouched for them?

    Or is there something like a ‘safe harbour’ law – similar to online hosting – that protects them?

  21. This is a very brave post. Being in England I don’t know anything about this book festival or many others in the US, but I have heard of Author Solutions in a vague and unflattering manner. What I don’t understand is, if they are so bad, and I don’t have any evidence either way, why they have not been shut down by some authority as a fraudulent and scamming organisation. There is no chance they can sue you, I hope. I recognise you to be a man of considerable integrity so its more your back I am worried about than anything else

    1. Two things re. why Author Solutions hasn’t been shut down:

      1. No mainstream media outlet (or trade news site) is willing to run a story on Author Solutions – for reasons I’ve gone into in previous posts – which really doesn’t help.

      2. There has been a class action proceeding since 2013. That’s heading for certification shortly so… watch this space.

  22. I’m a native of the Bay Area and will definitely be sending this to a whole lot of people, encouraging them not to attend while Author Solutions remains a sponsor.

    Great work.

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