Fake Controversy Alert: Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller Bewares Publishing

A juicy story broke last week, the kind that makes savvy sub-editors salivate over potential Twitter-bait headlines. It had been discovered that Hitler’s pre-war memoir Mein Kampf was a digital bestseller, leading to a global bout of media hand-wringing and pontificating. One excitable commentator even suggested it was a sign the second Holocaust was imminent. The only problem with this story is that it’s not true. At all. Hitler’s “bestselling” performance was first reported by Chris Faraone at Vocativ under the headline Kindle Fuhrer: Mein Kampf Tops Amazon Charts. Then spread like wildfire. Huge blogs and websites like Gizmodo, Huffington Post, Gawker, Slate, and Salon reported on this phenomenon. Major newspapers also covered the story: the Guardian, New York Daily News, the Daily Read More…

Kobo Cull Self-Published Titles In Knee-jerk Response To Tabloid Clickbait Bewares Publishing

A media firestorm erupted in the UK on Sunday after a tabloid story about WH Smith selling “filth” alongside books aimed at children, which has resulted in Kobo culling huge numbers of self-published titles – most of which have no erotic content whatsoever. It’s hard to know exactly how many titles Kobo has pulled. What we do know is that Kobo has removed all 7,883 self-published titles distributed to their store via Draft2Digital, as confirmed in an email from D2D’s CEO to affected authors. However, I think that’s only a tiny fraction of affected titles. Many self-published authors who distribute via the (much larger) Smashwords service have reported their books are no longer on sale on Kobo’s UK store, as Read More…

Bloomsbury Seeks Deal With Author Solutions Bewares

The publishing world has been turned upside down by ebooks and self-publishing. All the old middlemen – agents, publishers, distributors, retailers – are scrambling to reinvent themselves, trying to remain relevant in a digital world.  Self-publishing is big business. By my estimates, self-publishers have captured 30% of the US e-book market. And everyone wants a slice. Unfortunately, many organizations are prepared to do pretty much anything to make sure they get theirs. Author Solutions is the market leader in the author exploitation game. That, however, was no impediment to Penguin splashing out $116m to purchase the company in July 2012. And it has been absolutely no barrier to a huge range of companies doing deals with them of one kind Read More…

Author Solutions Takes Signing Scam To Miami Book Fair Bewares

Another day, another Author Solutions scam in my inbox. Remember the Author Solutions book signing scam planned for The Word on the Street Festival in Toronto next month (to which the organizers are turning a blind eye)? I suspected that the Word on the Street Festival wasn’t the only literary event that Author Solutions would be targeting, given that Author Solutions made $297,000 from the 2012 Word on the Street Festival. I was right. The Miami Book Fair is a long-established, reputable literary festival (celebrating its 30th year) which has wheeled in some big names for this year’s event, such as Junot Díaz. Unfortunately, the Miami Book Fair is also allowing a terrible scam to take place at one of its booths. Author Read More…

Word on the Street Festival Doesn't Care About Author Scam Bewares

I wrote a post last month about Author Solutions’ relationships with The Bookseller magazine in the UK, and The Word on the Street Festival in Canada. Since then I’ve been in touch with the editor of The Bookseller. I’ll share more about that when I can, but suffice to say that the discussion has been encouraging. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my exchange with The Word on the Street Festival. To recap, last month I discovered a new Author Solutions scam – using their booth at a Canadian literary festival to get even more money from their customers. From that post: I received some spam recently from Xlibris (yet another Author Solutions brand), touting a literary event – the Word Read More…

Penguin Random House Merger Helps Author Solutions Exploit Writers Bewares

Penguin and Random House officially merged on July 1 creating the largest trade publisher in the world. This merger has given fresh impetus to one of their subsidiaries to scam unsuspecting writers – Author Solutions, the largest vanity press in the world. One of my blog readers, who will remain nameless, has forwarded me emails from an AuthorHouse sales rep touting that company as the “self-publishing wing” of Penguin Random House (AuthorHouse is one of the many brands of Author Solutions, a tangled web which is deconstructed here). When Penguin purchased Author Solutions in July 2012 for $116m, I warned that the Penguin brand would lend legitimacy to Author Solutions – who were already the market leader in author exploitation. Read More…

How To Avoid Publishing-Assisted Suicide Bewares Publishing

I regularly take aim at “assisted self-publishing” because it often results in a shoddy product, a serious price-tag and/or a big chunk of the author’s royalties going to a middleman that is doing little more than uploading (which is the easiest part of the process). However, I’m not against assisted self-publishing per se, and today’s guest post sketches out a potential model for such companies, an author-centric approach that can benefit all parties, particularly the author. And it’s not just theory. Phoenix Sullivan is an author, self-publisher, and IMO one of the smartest people in the publishing business. Regular readers will know that she was one of the brains behind figuring out the Popularity list and the subsequent algorithm changes to Read More…

The Bookseller Hires Author Solutions Exec To Spout Propaganda Bewares

Author Solutions is like a Bizarro version of King Midas. Everything they touch turns to shit. One frustrating aspect of this is their history of co-opting supposedly independent organizations, which then silence critical voices. This week, The Bookseller went one step further, and has hired a former Author Solutions executive called Tim Davies to write for their digital offshoot FutureBook. Davies used his debut FutureBook post to vomit up some Author Solutions PR, interspersed with gushing praise for his former boss, who he breathlessly describes as “the effortlessly charming and driven Kevin Weiss.” Of course, you only find out that Tim Davies is a former Author Solutions executive in the final paragraph of that post – something which should be disclosed up top (with Read More…

The Author Exploitation Business Bewares

Writing is a glamorous occupation – at least from the outside. Popular depictions of our profession tend to leave out all the other stuff that comes with the territory: carpal tunnel syndrome, liver failure, penury, and madness. Okay, okay, I jest. I love being a writer. Sharing stories with the world and getting paid for it is bloody brilliant. It’s a dream job, and like any profession with a horde of neophytes seeking to break in, there are plenty of sharks waiting to chew them to bits. Publishing is a screwed up business. The often labyrinthine path to success makes it much easier for those with nefarious intentions to scam the unsuspecting. But it doesn’t help that so many organizations Read More…

Lazy Literary Agents In Self-Publishing Money Grab via Argo Navis Bewares Publishing

I was at the London Book Fair last week – and I’ll be blogging about that soon – when the news broke that David Mamet is to self-publish his next book. His reasons? “Publishing is like Hollywood—nobody ever does the marketing they promise.” While I think it’s great that someone as high-profile as David Mamet is self-publishing, I was very disappointed to find out the way he’s doing it. Self-publishing is big business. By my estimates, self-publishers have captured 25% of the US ebook market. It can be lucrative on the individual author level too, with writers getting up to 70% royalties if they publish themselves. The reason why those percentages are so high is that self-publishing allows you to bypass the traditional Read More…

A List of Things Scott Turow Doesn't Care About Bewares Publishing

Scott Turow woke up from his slumber recently to bark nonsense about Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads on the Authors Guild blog, before being thoroughly eviscerated in the comments. Undeterred, Turow sought out the considerably larger platform of the New York Times’ Op-Ed pages on Monday to decry The Slow Death of the American Writer. On reading the latter, my first thought was: if Scott Turow didn’t spend so much time hating Amazon and pretending self-publishing didn’t exist, maybe he wouldn’t be so depressed. It’s easy to poke fun at Scott Turow’s views. A child could de-construct his arguments, while laughing at how a practicing lawyer is unable to grasp the definition of the word “monopoly.” If you want a proper Read More…

Publishers Behaving Badly, Part… I’ve Lost Count Bewares Publishing

There seems to be a view in certain self-congratulatory circles that publishers have finally got to grips with the digital revolution, that they have weathered the fiercest part of the storm, and that they are well-placed now not just to survive, but to thrive. There are innumerable problems with that view, of course, but today I’d like to focus on one core truth of this brave new world that publishers have failed to grasp. Namely, there are only two essential components to publishing in the digital era: the writer and the reader. All of the old middlemen – agents, publishers, distributors, retailers – have to justify their cut, as the writer can now bypass them and go direct to readers. Read More…

Publishers Behaving Badly, Part… I've Lost Count Bewares Publishing

There seems to be a view in certain self-congratulatory circles that publishers have finally got to grips with the digital revolution, that they have weathered the fiercest part of the storm, and that they are well-placed now not just to survive, but to thrive. There are innumerable problems with that view, of course, but today I’d like to focus on one core truth of this brave new world that publishers have failed to grasp. Namely, there are only two essential components to publishing in the digital era: the writer and the reader. All of the old middlemen – agents, publishers, distributors, retailers – have to justify their cut, as the writer can now bypass them and go direct to readers. Read More…

Penguin's Solution for Authors: One Racket To Rule Them All Bewares

Regular readers of this blog will know all about Penguin’s purchase last July of the universally reviled Author Solutions – 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. My posts on the topic have been leaning heavily on the tireless work of Emily Suess – a writer and blogger who has been documenting this racket for some years now. At the time of the purchase, many in the publishing community expressed a hope that Penguin would clean up Author Solutions, or at least tone down some of their scammier tactics. I was more than a little skeptical, Read More…

Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers Bewares

Simon & Schuster has launched a self-publishing operation, Archway Publishing, contracting one of the most disreputable players in the business to run the show: Author Solutions. We’ll get to that distasteful link-up in a second, but first let’s have a look at what Simon & Schuster are offering prospective customers (i.e. writers). Fiction packages start at $1,999 and go up to $14,999. If you have written a business book, prices are saucier again: $2,999 to $24,999. While the upper end of the pricing spectrum is obviously shocking, some of you might think that $1,999 isn’t too bad if you are getting a proper edit and a decent cover. Not so fast. That price tag doesn’t include any real editing, just Read More…