How The Author Solutions Scam Works

The more you study an operation like Author Solutions, the more it resembles a two-bit internet scam, except on a colossal scale. Scammers work on percentages. They know that only a tiny fraction of people will get hoodwinked so they flood the world’s inboxes with spammy junk.

This post is from 29 April 2015. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links, but it’s important to preserve these older posts on author exploitation. Comments remain open.

While reputable self-publishing services can rely on author referrals and word-of-mouth, Author Solutions is forced to take a different approach.

How Author Solutions Gets Customers

According to figures released by Author Solutions itself when it was looking for a buyer in 2012, it spent a whopping $11.9m on customer acquisition in 2011 alone. This money is spent on:

I could fill ten posts on the various deceptive ways that Author Solutions gets customers, but the idea should be clear enough. The sum of all these efforts is an impressive number of leads: in 2011, Author Solutions managed to capture the phone numbers and email addresses of 475,000 writers.

Blaming The Vanity Victims

Some complain that prospective customers of Author Solutions should do more research – caveat emptor and all that. This is a little unfair for three reasons.

author solutions CEO andrew phillips
From an article by Alison Flood which will appear in the summer issue of The Author – the UK Society of Authors quarterly journal. Quote from Andrew Phillips, Author Solutions CEO: “All our marketing is permission based… and our website is very clear that we offer a range of imprints so we are not trying to deliberately confuse anyone.” Read the full article here.
  1. The deceptive practices outlined above which are embedded in the corporate DNA of Author Solutions and its subsidiaries.
  2. Author Solutions keeps launching new brands (20 at last count) with similar prices and practices, but without the internet baggage. This makes a mockery of Author Solutions CEO Andrew Phillips’ recent claim that “we are not trying to deliberately confuse anybody” (pictured above, and thoroughly debunked here).
  3. Finally, it appears that most prospective customers do actually research the company thoroughly and step away. Out of the 475,000 leads, Author Solutions only converted approximately 5% into customers.

Now you can see why Author Solutions needs to adopt the spamming business model. It knows that if a prospective customer starts googling thoroughly, it is going to lose them – so it must work on a giant scale. And this is probably why they spend so much on Google ads and SEO – it certainly doesn’t want people scrolling through those search results and reading the horrific experiences that customers have had (and the class action the company is facing).

The Numbers Game

Author Solutions also needs to aggressively pursue new business because its existing customers don’t come back for more. According to figures released by CEO Andrew Phillips, Author Solutions and its subsidiaries have published 225,000 titles by 180,000 authors – an average of 1.25 titles per author. The lack of repeat business is in stark contrast to someone like Smashwords which has 310,168 titles from approximately 80,000 authors – an average of around 3.88 per author.

While it’s heartening to know that the writing community is reaching many prospective Author Solutions customers with its warnings, that 5% is still a significant (and lucrative) return.

Author Solutions sold 27,500 publishing packages in 2011 and, in the information sent out to attract a buyer in 2012, Author Solutions forecasted that the number of publishing packages sold to authors would increase to 30,700 in 2012, and to a staggering 49,015 in 2015.

These packages are widely considered to be massively overpriced compared to competing services but where Author Solutions really makes its money is in aggressively upselling a range of additional services to authors – not included in those expensive packages they first purchase. Most packages don’t even include editing, and this is the first area where sales consultants try and hit their internal targets (claimed in the class action to be $5,000 per customer).

When these sales consultants contact authors, they invariably claim they are calling from Bloomington, Indiana. I should note however that approximately 78% of its staff is actually based in Cebu, Philippines – including the sales and marketing departments. The actual location of Author Solutions staff is important for a number of reasons, not least ascertaining the English ability and editing qualifications of staff working on these books.

The class action goes into voluminous detail about numerous and repeated errors that were made at every stage with the plaintiffs’ manuscripts – and this tallies exactly with complaints I have received. I should also note that Author Solutions is currently looking for a copy editor for its office in the Philippines to edit customer manuscripts. It doesn’t require applicants to have an editing qualification of any sort, or even that English is their first language, merely a “strong background in English grammar” and “above-average reading comprehension skills.”

Upselling Overprice Junk To Newbie Authors

When customers come nearer to publication, sales consultants pivot to pushing various marketing packages. This is a small, but representative, sample:

  • A “web optimised” press release for $1,299.
  • Podcast interviews for $10,669.
  • Ads in Readers’ Digest for $143,990 (that’s not a typo).
  • A book signing appearance for $3,999.
  • YouTube ads for $5,499.
  • Hollywood Pitching for up to $14,999.
  • Infomercials on small, local stations for $10,699.

If there is one thing that Author Solutions is actually competent at, it’s flogging these “services” to its customers. Again by its own figures, Author Solutions convinces its customers to spend an average of $5,000 each on publishing and marketing their book – several multiples of what it should cost.

Book Fair Scams

I previously reported that Author Solutions made around $300,000 from selling book signing packages for the Toronto Word On The Street Festival in 2012, made over $500,000 from selling similar packages for the 2012 Miami Book Fair, and made an estimated $900,000 from selling packages to sign copies at the 2012 LA Times Festival of Books.

I should note that these packages don’t include travel or accommodation costs. Authors receive some copies of their book to sign, and an hour signing slot. That’s it. To show how overpriced these packages are, an author could have purchased their own booth, for the entire duration of the Miami Book Fair, for just $1,000.

Author Solutions is constantly adding new marketing services, and is equally good at selling those. From its own figures released in 2012, Author Solutions generated $1.7m in 2011 by selling television advertising to its customers – a service only launched that year. Another new service that year was the launch of pitching services to “Hollywood executives.”

That brought in a whopping $3.5m from just 300 authors. According to Author Solutions, only 2 of those authors were actually successful in selling an option. In other words, Author Solutions convinced these writers to pay an average of $11,666 to pitch these “Hollywood executives” with a success rate of just 0.66%. How much those 2 authors made isn’t mentioned (nor are the “production companies” they sold rights to), but I should note that they could easily have earned less than they spent.

Author Solutions uses high-pressure tactics and emotional button-pushing to sell these wholly unsuitable, completely ineffective, and hugely overpriced marketing services to these inexperienced writers. The papers filed in the class action suit mirror the hundreds of complaints that I’ve received and read in this regard also.

Pushing Emotional Buttons

The way it works is this. Just before Author Solutions publishes a customer’s book, it contacts them to tell them that they have been awarded a special designation by their editors, such as a “Rising Star” Award or “Editor’s Choice” Award.

As Author Solutions customers are generally inexperienced (it explicitly targets new writers), they don’t understand the meaninglessness of such an award, and it plays on their own doubts and fears about their work, and their desire for recognition. Which makes it easy for Author Solutions when it makes the receipt of such an award contingent on purchasing additional services.

The plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint in the class action goes into specific detail on this:

98. On June 2, 2011, Foster was informed that she had also received the Rising Star designation.

99. In a June 21, 2011 email, the Rising Star Board indicated that “[i]f you purchased marketing services or your marketing plan was based on services offered by iUniverse and you decide to cancel or do not purchase mentioned services indicated in your Rising Star Marketing Survey or to your Marketing Consultant, the Rising Star distinction will be removed from your title.” This email was the first time Foster was made aware of additional requirements to participate in the Rising Star program.

100. Foster’s Marketing Consultant confirmed that she was required to purchase a Marketing Package, and Foster purchased a marketing package for $3,999.00, since she did not wish to lose her Rising Star designation and she wanted to market her book aggressively.

I can also confirm that similar tactics were used by Author Solutions to push a whole range of overpriced and unsuitable marketing services on inexperienced authors in the complaints I have received.

Fleecing authors is an extremely lucrative business. Author Solutions generated revenue of $99.8m in 2011, and projected that would increase to $179.6m by 2015. A full 63% of this revenue – $62.87m – came from selling services to writers, pretty much an even split between publishing services and marketing services. By contrast, e-book sales only generated $1.3m. Let’s be very clear about what Author Solutions is: a very slick operation at squeezing money out of writers, and a terrible way to publish your book.

The numbers in the above paragraph come from a memorandum circulated in early 2012 by its then owner Bertram Capital. That memorandum also contained all the reported information about the television advertising and Hollywood pitching packages.

Meet The New Boss: Penguin

And this was the information that must have convinced Penguin to purchase the company for $116m in July 2012. At the time, the writing community expressed shock at that move, given Author Solutions’ well-known history, and the long-standing warnings from watchdog bodies like Writer Beware.

Some expressed hope that Penguin would clean house, but all it has done is aggressively expand Author Solutions’ operations, with new imprints targeting Spain, Malaysia, India, and South Africa, as well as new white-label self-publishing services for huge companies like Simon & Schuster.

It was clear that Penguin knew exactly what it was purchasing. Companies don’t splash out $116m without doing a thorough check. When announcing the purchase, John Makinson said:

We’re looking to upsize not downsize. There are no plans for layoffs, this is an opportunity for growth.

John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of Penguin at the time of the Author Solutions purchase.

Penguin’s name also lends credibility to Author Solutions, and its sales consultants have dangled the prospect of Penguin picking up customers’ books. One writer who published with Xlibris (an Author Solutions company) relayed the following:

They told me that with Penguin buying them they could, basically, guarantee that Penguin would look at my book and because it was so good (she’d read the first couple of pages) they would definitely pick it up.

Needless to say, Penguin did no such thing.

The Penguin Random House connection has more recently been used to flog those terrible services described above. In this email from an AuthorHouse consultant (another Author Solutions company) to a customer, AuthorHouse is described as the “self-publishing wing” of Penguin Random House, and that this corporate relationship has enabled them to now offer YouTube advertising (at a price to this customer of $3,400).

Author Solutions & Friends: The Lucrative Partnerships

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

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

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

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

Indeed.

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

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

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

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

  • improperly reporting royalty information
  • non-payment of royalties
  • breach of contract
  • predatory and harassing sales calls
  • excessive markups on review and advertising services
  • failure to deliver marketing services as promised
  • telling customers their add-ons will only cost hundreds of dollars and then charging their credit cards thousands of dollars
  • ignoring customer complaints
  • shaming and banning customers who go public with their stories.

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

Author Solutions Partner Imprints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Publishing Partnerships Work

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

These relationships are crucial to Author Solutions, as it doesn’t get organic referrals – i.e. for obvious reasons, writers aren’t recommending its services and Author Solutions has severe problems with customer retention.

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

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

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

The relevant points regarding partners are:

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

Author Solutions Internal Quotas Revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest requires a little explanation.

Publishing, Marketing & Book Consultants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of One

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

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

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

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

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

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

But if sales reps don’t meet their quotas, it’s a different story.

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

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

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

Howdy, Partner!

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

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

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

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

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

The Curious Case of the Penguin Omerta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


493 Replies to “How The Author Solutions Scam Works”

  1. I feel so SCAMMED by Author Solutions companies (such as iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse, and Trafford)? I wish I had known.
    Well, I used Xlibris and apparently, the service with Xlibris isn’t that good as I thought, but I do not know where to complain about my dissatisfaction with Xlibris.
    So far, I’ve in good faith spent over 142.000 British Pounds with Xlibris in the hope and in good faith that I would get the service they gladly and proudly told they provided. Well, apparently their service isn’t that good as I thought and too late, I found out after they’ve sucked the last penny out of me within a very short time, while I was emotionally vulnerable at that time and told them I was in a process of writing a book about mentally abuse I had experienced few years before. They really got at me and used my vulnerability knowing about my real-life story and so they used it to suck over 142.000 GBP out of me. They promised me the moon, but they nearly ruined everything for me after the had edited my first book. I tell you, it was horrible, so the forced me to pay for reediting and re-publishing my book. Another penny out of my pocket.

    Ever since Xlibris no longer could press more money out of me, the team, and apparently those people working in the Philippines simply has put me on a dusty shelf for me to rotten and I no longer get any answers or the promised help I am supposed to get from Xlibris. Several of my campaigns are not finished, several are late and where not complied at the time they should have been, and I don’t know if they ever will.
    I’m very disappointed that suddenly none of their departments do not comply nor answer my e-mails I’ve with questions. I thought Xlibris provided me with a trustworthy publisher consultant to take care of me. Well, they never answer anymore, nor do their marketing manager, even he promised. In the beginning the publisher consultant and the marketing people were very slick as an eel, but now it seems to none of them and all the other departments as marketing disappeared into the marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean.
    I still have several issues not solved in several of their departments and I still have 2 more book packages, including Copyright package and Google search engine and more. Example: nothing happens with the Copyright packages of which I’ve bought for my 4 books, which 2 of the books Xlibris already have published. And so, I can continue with several issues at Xlibris.
    I truly wonder whether this is a normal procedure for Xlibris to put their authors into cold storage, freezing while Xlibris staff pretends I never existed when the author no longer buys anymore campaigns with Xlibris? That despite I already have purchased almost everything Xlibris can provide and so far, as written above: I have spent over 142.000 Pounds in their leech sucking company. The remaining packages for my next 2 books, they will not refund. I must say I am very frustrated having spent so much money and they have only sold max 15 books out of both of my books. I don’t understand it as the books get so much fantastic feedback and has several great professional reviews.
    Thank you for listening.
    M. L. Stark

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

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

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

    Contact : luis_a_o_a@hotmail.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. This article and responses are so informative and I thank you for exposing these scam artists to the public. I joined the class action suit against Author Solutions a year ago prior to the second complaint filed. Patiently, I waited for the court hearing for the case only to find out that the Judge only honored two clients in this case. The two clients received an undisclosed monetary payment from Author Solutions and then the class action suit was dismissed. It was then, I read on the internet that the New York attorneys filed a second complaint. Just yesterday, I sent an e-mail to the attorneys in New York requesting a follow-up on the case. Last year, I sent copies of my copyrights, correspondence and proof that my book continues to sell globally on amazon at different prices. I have never received a royalty for book sales. There is a website: BookFinder 4 u.com that will give the name of a book publication and comparative prices. It has been since 2007 that I paid for a best-seller contract to Trafford publishers. Each time I notify them and Amazon I am told that there is no sales reporting for my book: Tones In Twilight…..since then I have pulled my book from the hands of Trafford publishers as Amazon forced them to remove their inventory of my book from their warehouse. I have self-published four new publications on Amazon"s Kindle KDP and I have been accepted through Amazon"s movie studios for my movie scripts. I still purchase copies of my book from Trafford publishers from their book store at a discount price. I do not know how much longer it will take for the authors in this class action suit to receive compensation.

  10. Another Vanity Publishers are UK-based Austin Macauley. I emailed them a copy of my manuscript, which is a children’s book, and they replied saying that after the board of editors had reviewed it they would get back to me in six weeks to tell me which route they were going to take as to getting my book published, however it only took three weeks for A M to email me, instead of the six as they had originally said, where they gave my book very positive feedback, but the real reason for their speedy response was because they wanted a fee and emailed me a 14-page contact, plus sent a hard copy of the contract in the post, outlining the terms, should I, the writer be expected to pay for publication of my book, and they were: £1900 for paperback and e-book, £2900 for hardback and e-book, £4400 for hardback, e-book and audio-book. Needless to say I will not be going ahead with this. Also they are not listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, as I can only assume legitimate Agents/Publishers are listed there.

  11. David, because of what authors (and myself) went through avoiding scams and struggling to find the right support, I and fellow writers set up BookGarage with having in mind the creation of a community of like-minded people where writers can find the support they need and be financially protected a well.

    We opened last September and have now about 200 authors registered and vetted in about 120 freelancers, most members of SfEP and other professional organizations (and from recommendations from authors).

    Would you mind visit us at bookgarage dot com and maybe advise us to do even better in terms of transparency and integrity? We have been discussed our model with Jane Friedman and I was on her “5 On:” interview series.

    All the best,
    Massimo

  12. I am so very lucky to have found your site. Just the other day I stumbled onto a pop-up ad for Patridge Publishing in Singapore looking to help authors publish. I’d never seen such an offer before, all my knowledge about the book industry is that you try and try to get published and get a million rejection letters from people who barely got past Page 1, and if you’re very lucky and catch a break you may just end up a famous author who was given a chance.

    I gave them my details expecting at most to register for a “Learn How To Publish In the 21st Century!” seminar as the best outcome, but instead I got a call from “Indiana” (although when I spoke to the consultant, he was very obviously Filipino) offering to sign me up to a publishing package. I was suspicious because these people were offering to get me on the shelves when they hadn’t even read a single word? Impossible to believe. I even told them I was only 50 pages into my book and reckoned it ought to be 300 pages to even be worthy of hitting the shelves (a lie since I am still at the research stage and haven’t even bothered putting pen to paper).

    The consultant proceeded to tell me some long complicated stories about how their plans work, but he tripped up a few times and told me things I don’t think he was meant to because they sounded contradictory to other statements. At one point he was telling me the publishing plan would be available for 4 months, which caused me alarm because the fee was broken down into 4 monthly installments as well, so does this mean it ends as soon as I finish paying??? He clarified later by saying I can publish whenever I want, even if it takes me 2 years to finish the book, but sidestepped my question about the 4 month availability when I brought it up again.

    I did consider paying for it when they mentioned that there would be content from published authors such as (get this!) Seth Godin and R.L. Stine … its ludicrous to think that they would ever bother talking to anyone for less than a few $100k, but they were promising a lot more authors than them! I figured it may be just quick little video recordings at most, but the most important thing would be to help me get on the shelves … So I told the consultant that I would think about it and get back to him, and immediately the pressure points started “This offer won’t be around long!” “After June 20th, we will no longer be featuring this package … it will be separated as a standalone that costs more … be sure to call by the 14th, because I will be going on vacation until the 21st!” What a load of crap!

    Thank you for shining a light on why a company would do this and go through all this effort.

    1. Hi Nick, I’m sorry to say that your experience is pretty typical – I’m just glad you were able to find some independent information to warn you away in time (many aren’t that fortunate).

      I’d appreciate more detail about their claims surrounding content from Seth Godin and R.L. Stine – if you could share here or privately by email that would be great: https://davidgaughran.com/contactfaq/

  13. Reblogged this on A.R. Rivera and commented:
    This is an excellent blog post!
    Are you a first time writer thinking about using a vanity press?
    Read this first…
    #SharingIsCaring

  14. Giskan and Anderson ,, ???? deceptive lawyers ???? If you would be running a company engaging in deceptive practises, what would you do if you would face such a law firm ?? Anser is ,, you turn THEM IN TO YOUR FAVOR ,, it is better for the law firm to get immiedate payment the next day and higer amount also, compare they would get from the class act against AS ,, i just say ,, dont count on Giskan. Dont beleaive in them.

    1. Actually, it’s my understanding that the law firm is significantly out of pocket over this class action (which was ultimately settled). In such actions, law firms will run up a lot of costs – the discovery process alone can be very expensive – in the hope that they will eventually register a big win for their clients, and, yes, collect a nice fee for the work they did. That didn’t happen in this particular case. The lawyers only get a big win when the plaintiff does and most class actions don’t succeed. So the law firms take a risk in mounting such cases. The level of altruism/good intentions that form part of the mix in any such case may be a matter of debate, and there has been a range of opinions on how this particular case was handled, but I’ve seen no indication whatsoever of anything nefarious on the part of the law firm representing the plaintiffs. None at all.

  15. Kudos to you for offering this revealing article. It is so important that new authors recognize these scams for what they are, and that writers start confronting these companies and exposing them to sunlight for everyone to see.

  16. This is a warning to any aspiring authors, Do NOT buy any marketing plans from Author Solutions. They are make to believe marketing plans that do not exist. I was an employee before of this company but my conscience is killing me everyday! Do not buy any marketing plans in Author Solutions.

    1. Hi, this is my blog. If you have any information you wish to share, you can contact me here: https://davidgaughran.com/contactfaq/

      I have had many employees share information and they have been able to do that safely and anonymously and their identities have been protected. If that is something you are interested in, click the link above to send me an email.

    2. Hello,
      I published 8 years ago with Author Solutions a book “Hades and Persephone” but unfortunately despite I cancelled the contract the book is still on sales internationally and I haven’t been paid
      even $1 yet.

      Please advise.

      Kind Regards,
      Mary Modirzadeh
      +61 422 352 433
      Skype:goldenfleece5 or golden.fleece5

      1. Your contract with Author Solutions should contain a standard provision for termination, which is usually something along the lines of Author Solutions has X days to remove your book from sale once it receives a termination notice (the form of which is normally outlined in the contract too, but can probably just be a simple letter indicating you wish to terminate your contract). Author Solutions has no legal right to continue selling your book once you have terminated your contract (and the time has elapsed which allows them to remove it from sale). Don’t worry if you can’t find your contract, or if your contract doesn’t mention this – you have basic legal rights here which still cover this scenario, regardless of the contract terms.

        I need a lot more information here before I can advise, such as what the relevant portion of your contract says, if you terminated the contract (and if so when), and links to where your book is still on sale (I can’t see it on Amazon, for example).

        Alternatively, you can write to the relevant imprint of Author Solutions, threaten legal action unless they remove your book from sale, and request a final statement with regard to your royalties. If you have evidence that you have sold books which they have not accounted for (and this is a very common complaint), then you can email that to me too and I can take a look. You can contact me here: https://davidgaughran.com/contactfaq/

        On 9 March 2016 at 07:01, David Gaughran wrote:

        >

      2. Maria,
        Our records show the cancellation was submitted in May 2015 and the book was pulled from distribution. If you find that a third party retailer is still selling new copies of the book, please send links to those pages immediately so we can take action to have those removed. Obviously, we can’t control secondary sales of used copies by those who purchased the book.
        We can happily share with you your lifetime sales records, and if you did not cash the royalties checks that were sent to you, reissue those. Please send me a note at kgray at authorhouse dot com.

        Best,
        Kevin Gray
        Author Solutions

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

    1. IP address from The Philippines? I’m guessing this Author Solutions staffer needs to get back to work. Don’t you have a Hollywood Pitch Package to sell to some newbie for 10 grand? Get to it.

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

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

  20. Will any other lawsuits be filed against AuthorHouse? I just learned about the lawsuit-too late. I"d like to find some recourse with them.

  21. Authors Solutions called me even when I told them not to! It’s an invasion of my privacy and I won’t stand for it!

  22. Re You May update The Bookseller appears at this point to have deleted and closed all discussion on their puff piece on the scammer and scam company Author Solutions

  23. Another issue to be aware of is that this spread of vanity press greed is causing other scammers to take notice and jump into the fray. I recently had the good fortune of dissolving a publishing contract between myself and Pegasus Books (www.pegasusbooks.net) after they claimed to be a traditional publisher and then set about charging me for every step of the process and then insisting I buy a certain number of books before I could go to print. None of this was ever disclosed on their website or within their publishing contract, of course.

    I wrote a detailed report of the scam here: http://www.michaelmorning.com/2015/09/why-i-chose-integrity-over-a-publishing-contract/

    Please help spread the word!

    1. With all these blatant scams is there no legal remedy to the authors. After all, the AuthorHouse, Lulu or Pegasus are big names in publishing industry. They rob authors of their legal rights and there seems to be no law that forbids them

  24. Hi David,
    I just signed with Westbow Press and you mentioned them as partners with AS. Do you know if they follow the same unethical r practices? I am considering canceling but now fearful they will steal my manuscript or worse sell it! I worked really hard this manuscript. Thank you for your insight and hard work yourself bring awareness to authors that want to share information.

  25. I have published 6 books on with Lulu. All I can tell you is my work seems to be selling yet I never see any profits. And some of my story ideas, as in exact words and concepts turned up in a couple movies, one on ABCFamily, the other on Lifetime. I believe Lulu may use spy tools through the government. May sound crazy but I wouldn’t put it pass them.

  26. Luckily I’ve had the venture to do a lot of research in the publishing environment to be able to avoid scams and pitfalls, but…

    After years spent in publishing my novels, always aiming at the most professional and polished books for my readerships, I’ve dreamed of an environment where all caring actors around the creation and enjoyment of great books could be together, interact, and contribute to the realization of our dreams, for sure, but with a professional and committed attitude as well.

    So I’d like to share with you all a vision that is about to come true.
    BookGarage opens its doors to welcome authors, freelancers, and readers together.
    We talk about a vision, and a dream, and the importance of quality as the foremost goal in the long journey required for turning a manuscript into a book that readers will enjoy.

    I encourage you to explore our vision and our mission from BG website at http://www.bookgarage.com/, and subscribe to our mailing list in order to be kept up to date with our development and—soon—our start of the operations: http://www.bookgarage.com/newsletter.html

    Profit from this run-in period, while we finish developing the heuristics and advanced search capabilities, to share with us your expectations and wishes. 

    BookGarage will be as great as its members are.

    All the best,
    Massimo Marino

  27. AuthorHouse is a real scam. I self-published a book with them paying them for editing, publishing, marketing and even advertising. The book is now a bestseller on amazon but sales report at AuthorHouse says only a single copy was sold over the past five months? So, I don’t get any Royalty. Is there any way to sue them?

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

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

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

      2. Hey,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  44. Hi David,

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

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

    Cheers, Arlene Prunkl

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

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

  45. David,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  46. Are there no journalistic enterprises (aside from blogs such as yours and Emily"s) that are not beholden to Random Penguin? Mother Jones, perhaps, or is this not up their alley?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      1. David,

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

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

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

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

        | | | |

        | New comment on David Gaughran | |

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

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

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

    3. Let me put it another way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (my first attempt at “reblogging”….)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        | | | |

        | New comment on David Gaughran | |

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

        |

        |

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

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

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

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

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

      2. David,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      5. Let me put it another way.

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

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

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

    (my first attempt at “reblogging”….)

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

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

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

  72. Much thanks for confirming my suspicions about Xlibris specifically. I got a call from one of their reps out of the clear blue sky the other day who immediately started pushing me to buy their Platinum package at $15,000 without even telling me what was it was or what it included. When I realized they HAD in fact said fifteen THOUSAND dollars, I got them off their sales pitch by asking for actual (gasp!) information, gave the ensuing email a read-through, and then searched the internet for a review, which led me here. Thanks again!

  73. May I suggest to every aspiring author looking to be published and see their work in print and as ebook a simple Occam Razor test? Follow the money: if money flows from your pocket to the so-called publisher’s you have two options:

    1) RUN

    2) RUN FASTER

    If the money flows from the publisher’s pockets to yours, READ THE DARNED CONTRACT, and if you don’t understand it, seek legal advice. Don’t sign right away. You’ve NOT reached Nirvana because of that.

  74. I am a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month. I perma-linked this article to my regional forum so new writers can understand the scam market better and (hopefully) not get sucked down the drainpipe that is Author Solutions.

    Thank you, David. You do amazing work for the indie world.

    Cheers

  75. I really wanted to believe that what I was reading about Xlibris/Author Solutions was in the minority and that it wouldn’t happen to me, and that ‘I would be treated differently’. To all of you out there that are thinking the same as me – it won’t happen..! They have caused (and continue to cause) me untold stresses, they will say ‘anything’ to get the sale, but, fortunately I was wise enough to listen to some of what has been said here and have not purchased anything additional other than copies of my books which I can sell privately. Their ‘super-duper’ sales manger, was trying to convince me to list in the NY Times, telling me it was approximately $6,000 and that I can pay over 3 months, taking the comments on board here I asked him to send me the details so I could look into it. When I received it the cost was $24,000, he never once told me this amount, and only mentioned $6,000. I can see how some people could get duped as they may then feel obligated to go through with the sale once being put through to payments. Admittedly, this will not happen to everyone, but the small percentage that it does, would make it worthwhile from Xlibris/AS point of view.

    I told him I had heard ‘unsavoury’ things about Xlibris and that I was going to look into this and was not going to do anything with Xlibris/AS until I had done so. A month later I receive a call from him about our ‘agreed’ marketing plan which he then again expected me to pay for then and there. We had agreed absolutely nothing, and I reminded him of this. He tells me over and over how he really believes in my book and think it’s wonderful, worthy, inspirational etc., but, he’s not read it..!

    Luckily for me, I am a strong character and I managed to talk him down after about 20 minutes or so of his continuous persistence, but not everyone will be the same.

    Within this conversation I mentioned to him that I had heard about the law suits against Xlibris/AS, to which he asked boastfully asked ‘how many had been paid out’ and gloated his own reply ‘none’ citing that they were not valid cases, he also went onto say that many companies have complaints against them, but that’s the minority and to be expected and compared themselves with Microsoft saying you can’t dismiss a company just because it has a compliant against it! I was ‘gobsmacked’ at his response.!

    I have now listed my book on Amazon/Create Space myself, which was before Xlibris/Author Solutions listed it. They have, however, listed my e-book, without my authority so I have asked them to take this down, as I will be listing this myself via Smashwords. If they do not do this, then I will rename my book and re-list it, and although I may have a couple of copies out there, I will be promoting my own.

    I am still dealing with Xlibris/Author Solutions as my book, although printed, is going through the marketing stages. I spent almost 2.5 hours completing a questionnaire sent by them to compile a press release for me, only to find that they copied – verbatim – from my book and also misspelled my name. I rejected this and the two subsequent ones they provided and have now found someone to write this myself. I am just deciding whether to let them send it out to their mailing list or if I should find my own?

    On top of this, I have been to a children’s book writers conference in Australia (my side of the world) where I have met with main stream, traditional publishers, and from what I am hearing from that side, although not a scam in any sense, authors earn extremely little, anything from 0.05c per copy to $1 per copy, although there is no upfront outlay, the financial rewards are minimal and you receive approximately 6 weeks publicity, if it doesn’t take off in that time, it gets dropped for the next new publication.

    My thoughts after these enlightening experiences is that self publishing on Amazon, Create Space, Smashwords etc., is probably the way to go, but I’m still working through this.

    It’s been an exhausting and enlightening journey, and again for those that are considering Xlibris, Balboa Press or anyone else that uses Author Solutions – do yourself a favour, listen to what’s being said here and do it yourself.

    If you are interested, my book is a self-help book for children to help them overcome the emotional effects of bullying, called Discover the Magic of EFT for Bullying, and it is by overcoming bullying myself, that I am able to stand up to Author Solutions – and you can do the same.

    Debby

    1. Yes I’m haven same problem with one of Xlibris’ marketing agent calling me every day for the last few days to shamming me into high prices for book fairs. This guy will not take no for an answer to where I’ve blocked his number. I told him I’ll accept e-mail correspondence only. I’ve already accused him of fraud. Furthermore I’ve already marketed my book myself thought social media; friends and other folks within the industry of my story story line. If he continues to bother me, I’ll show him this to, hopefully, leave me alone.

  76. So in other words I should not even bother trying to find an “honest” publisher? All I read here were negatives seemingly about every publishing company in the f—–g world!

  77. Karl.

    I don’t think the giant 5/6 are any longer publishers in the traditional sense. They are conglomerates owned by “money men”. Which explains hardnosed decisions on “income streams”, rather than decisions based on love of books. [That is not a comment on the many employees who have more traditional attitudes.] I make this comment as a former financial journalist.

    Outstanding work David; great to see it.

    1. JCRHarris: the “money men” mentality is also very much alive and well among the putative experts who offer advice to indie writers. I call it the MBA approach to writing. These mentors/coaches/advisors are encouraging writers to tailor what they write for the consumption of people who want a paragraph here, a paragraph there, sandwiched in between texting about what they had for lunch, or how their significant other just turned out to be a jerk. This MBA mindset is perfectly consistent with seeing language strictly in terms of commerce: forget what the writer is moved to write, concern yourself exclusively with the marketplace. I suggested in one comment that such writers should stop speaking of themselves as writers, in favor of something better suited to business, like “language monetizer,” or prose capital liquidator.”

      1. I like your asperity Barry, and sympathize with that sardonic comment. I suspect the verbal monetisers are simply filling a gap widened by the indie innocents versus the jaded professionals. A gap waiting for the opportunists! Yet I know among them are genuinely helpful people (like David Gaughran) alerting them to the elephant traps their hopefulness and innocence fail to see in the headlong belief that the world is still an oyster.

      2. Philipparees–(if such a handle can be believed–Phillippa Rees?):
        David Gaughran is the mirror-opposite of an opportunist. He is a hero of mine. You could even call him a folk hero, a kind of legend-in-the-making, someone who is courageous, someone who speaks truth to power. I admire him a lot.

      3. Thanks for the query Barry…actually nearly right Philippa rather than Phillippa because I am possessive of the Philos as much as of the ‘hippos. The one thing to thank my mother for- a name I like. I agree about David and all who speak truth to power. That is one thing the internet ( and self publishing and blogging) has made possible–the erosion of power.

  78. Thanks, as always, for shining some light into the sewer that is Author Solutions. The really shocking thing about this for me is not that AS are thieves and con-artists — there will always be thieves and con-artists in the world — but that one of the world’s leading publishing houses would choose to take this pack of thieves under their corporate wing, and to support their ongoing thievery.

  79. WOW! Really good information here. Thanks for taking the time to not only do the research but share your findings, David. And, I must say thanks to your followers for sharing their experiences as well. I spent hours, days, weeks – nay, months if I’m truthful – on research for getting published as well as looking for an agent. I confess my head was spinning like a roulette wheel (Place your bets! Place your bets!). Then I decided to go the digital route and found a link to your site via Jane Friedman and I’ve been hooked ever since. Again, thanks for sharing your wealth of information about self publishing in the digital world and your words of support. I’m going to follow your advice to hire an editor (if I can find one) as well as someone to do the book cover and march forward.

  80. I once signed up for some free services at an Author Solution site… It was not until almost a year after I had asked them to stop listing my books, because I couldn’t change anything without going through customer service, that I found out that they were actually owned by AS.
    It’s just insanely hard to keep track of every new start-up site’s real ownership. I’m glad I only went with the free retailer listing!

  81. Thank you David, this is the most valuable information I read in a long time. As a Creativity Coach I need to know this in order to help my clients. Looking forward to Part !!.

  82. Reblogged this on Illuminite Caliginosus and commented:
    David Gaughran does yeoman’s work in this, the first in a series of articles exposing the fraud committed by Author Solutions and their ilk in scamming would-be authors. Read and heed.

  83. Authorhouse published my book as an e book without my permission. It took many e mails to get them to take it down from Amazon. They still ring me from time to time. When they were in England which is when I published with them I had a pleasant helpful consultant, these days they don’t even speak the language fluently and as for their e mails, the nine year olds I used to teach could do better.
    My books are now available on Kindle, which I did myself, at no cost, except to pay for the cover. They will be re-published later this year by a small independent press and I will finally be free of this malign corporation.
    I warn everyone who is thinking of publishing against them.

  84. Oh dear… I’ve recently signed up to Xlibris and am about to have my first book published with them. I must admit, I have been less than impressed with how I have been treated so far, but I’m so far down the line now that I can’t back out. I purchased a 2 for 1 package so I have another book I am due to publish with them later this year.

    I have been ‘hounded’ by one of their sales people selling me a package where I get an ad in the New York Sunday Times magazine, with 9 other books published that week, along with the e-marketing services package. He called me every night until I told him to ‘stop pushing me’ and he hasn’t called me since.

    Now I’m not sure what to do about this, I trusted the fact that it was linked with Penguin and Random House and personally, I didn’t feel the need to look behind such high profile, ‘household name’ companies that have such a great reputations.

    1. I suggest you send them a notice of termination, DON’T give them the second book, and kiss the money you’ve already given them goodbye. You’ll never get it back.

      1. As a lawyer, I don’t think that solution will work. Yes, you can inform AS of your intent not to comply with the contract (called anticipatory repudiation) but they still have a right to sue you for damages.

    2. Hi Debbiie. Apologies for being slow getting back you you. I had a book launch and missed all these new comments. If you need any help, please feel free to contact me at david [dot] gaughran [at] gmail [dot] com

      1. Thank you David, I have posted an update to my current experiences with Xlibris/Author Solutions.

  85. Reblogged this on Rich Meyer's Reviews and Ramblings and commented:
    David Gaughran on AuthorSolutions again. I can’t believe even the low percentage of 5% of people propositioned by this evil fucktards take them up on their outrageous and usurious practices. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, PEOPLE: USE GOOGLE BEFORE YOU PAY OUT $5,000 TO SOMEONE TO PUBLISH A BOOK THAT SHOULD COST YOU $0!

  86. David, you are an investigative reporter of the highest order. Bravo. Two things: Why is the industry determined to destroy new authors instead of partnering with them? Second, two authors from Florida Writers Association did a really good seminar on self-publishing they charged $50 for half a day. Spoke very realistically about costs, their own journeys. Went over the Amazon process.

    For blog readers who are veterans of indie publishing you might think about reaching out in your writing groups or at libraries to hold educational events. I’m still new to the process and I do have David’s excellent book. Spend $50 and save $4k-15K makes a whole lot of sense.

    1. Virginiallorca, like I’m afraid of anyone on Goodreads. Very little about the site is positive. If I encounter a bully reviewer, I win. I’ll voice everything you won’t, and I won’t be nice about it…hehehehe.

    2. I review a lot on Goodreads, and not all of it good. Not because I’m a troll, but because I’m increasingly frustrated with the state of ‘literature’ today. I think though, that the frustration comes by the way the books are treated once the writer approaches an agent or publisher. These days, my reviews end up tagged with ‘who edited this?’ because all writers make mistakes, but it’s up to the editors, proof-readers and publishers to iron out the tiny issues, not make them worse. There are some horrendous books out there with long lists of people in the thank you who have put these books together. Reading through this, and other linked articles, I’m now wondering if these reviews are actually given to targets of AS and their affiliates. The whole thing makes me feel sick.

  87. As always Dave, awesome work. Thanks. This hole just keeps getting deeper.
    And I love the AS logo, I hadn’t noticed it before. It struck me as oddly appropriate; the green bands make me thing of authors money going off some waterfall at the end of Asgard, disappearing into a nether region, never to be seen again.

  88. I was stung for a few grand with my book back in 2009. And I should have known better but the salesman was very convincing. As it turned out the book was badly formatted and they’ve never stopped calling me since with all kinds of outrageous packages. The Hollywood offer is being pushed again. My next book was with Smashwords and I’m sticking with them and Amazon. Would join with the writer and those who commented in warning EVERYONE against Author Solutions and Authorhouse. At the time it was a case of why the he’ll not give them a chance. Big mistake but at least I learned. Would love to get the book back off them although I’ve heard that can be hard as well.

  89. David–
    As one who was duped, not by Author Solutions but by a well-known and respected “expert” in book marketing, I am positioned to appreciate just how valuable the information is in your posts. Thank you. I was going to raise a questions: just what kinds of books can we expect to be written by people who are taken in my Author Solutions–and then I remembered how quickly seduced I was in a related area. Thank you again.

    1. I know several writers who were, and who have managed to rebuild their careers since (often under new pen names). I think we all have to remember what it was like when we were starting out. The publishing world is quite strange and confusing for a beginner, and there are sharks everywhere.

    2. Barry, If you were duped, have you broadcast the information widely – with or without your name attached? If people speak up, at least these ‘companies’ are sometimes forced to close shop (and reopen under another name), and lose some time (where they should be losing something else – I’ll leave that to your imagination).

      Alicia

      1. Alicia–I’m replying very late in the game, but hope you get this. No, I haven’t broadcast the information at all, and here’s why: the company and its owner are so well known and “respected” that I would come off as an ungrateful naysayer. In addition, speaking truth to power sounds good, but can turn out to be very dangerous. But I was assured that my little book, a novel for adults about dogs, had what it took to do well. Just give us $4,500, and we’ll set up a plan that’s going to do great things for you. But this plan assumed a level of familiarity and sophistication on my part relative to the Internet, social networking, etc., that rendered the “plan” all but useless to me. See how it works? The marketer has fulfilled the terms of the original agreement: she has provided a plan as promised. Except that plan is worthless to the client who bought it. When I think of how much wise, gun-for-hire editorial advice my $4,500 would have bought, it makes me sick.

  90. Shameful, utterly shameful. This makes Publish America (or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves now) look like an afterthought.

    1. PublishAmerica is definitely worse in the lies it tells customers to publish with it (pretending to be a genuine publisher and so on). But I don’t think they ever had such a sophisticated operation for upselling such a vast array of (useless) services. And the sheer breathtaking scale of Author Solutions puts it in a league of its own.

      I often get emails about why I don’t blog about this scam, or that scam, etc. It’s pretty simple. Author Solutions is probably doing more damage than the rest of them put together. The scale is mind-blowing.

  91. Reblogged this on lambert nagle and commented:
    Brilliant investigation into Author Solutions and all the companies it uses to prey on emerging writers.

  92. Reblogged this on Jake's Blog and commented:
    When looking for book publishers on Google, an Author Solutions company is always one of the first results. If you see that result DO NOT CLICK. Don’t fall for the wonderful promises. These guys are scammers, and will take all your money… There are cheaper and better ways to self-publish.

  93. Great post. Thanks for taking the time and effort to lay this out so well, in all its damning detail. Isn’t it great that our “plucky” publshers (as you called them in an earlier blog) are watching out for us writers while the evil Amazon is destroying all life as we know it? 🙂

    1. This is the thing. I have no problem with Amazon being subjected to scrutiny. It should be subjected to scrutiny. But I can’t stand to see the news media writing page after page of fears about what Amazon *might* do in the future, while they spend ZERO time covering this story.

      1. Oh, I agree. As authors, we need to look hard at everyone involved in our business. It’s the total typecasting of Amazon=evil, publishers=good that drives me nuts. I can read screes against Amazon everywhere, pretty much all the time. But except here and a few other places, no one takes the publishers to task or even discusses how they are hurting writers.

  94. As one badly bitten by Trafford (in 2006) I add my pennyworth. I designed and formatted both book and cover and they ‘published’ a pretty professional book. Too ashamed to admit the vast fee required to ‘ provide a high res print ready file’.(I was very green and self publishing was then in its infancy) I was not paid for a single copy sold EVER, although twelve or more marketplace sellers offered ‘used’ copies. Amazon still lists their edition as available although I have withdrawn it and intend to republish myself. (Amazon says they cannot withdraw what others may have bought!) To try and ensure that Trafford would not continue to print and sell my book I had to pay £150 for the ‘high res’ file! Caveat emptor could never cover this, so your posts on AH companies ought to be widely circulated.

  95. WOW! All I can say is WOW! For YEARS the big publishing houses have fed off the dreams of authors to be published and make an income from their writing. Gone are the days of large advances and marketing. The royalties are still crap and the contracts have gotten worse. No book advance. No marketing. Crappy royalties. And we’re supposed to be happy about the tiny checks we get when we’re doing all the work. Digital self-publishing was the answer we were all looking for!

    But it’s a ton of work to publish your own book – I have three self-published novels where I did the covers, formatting, uploading and, of course, marketing. I’m blessed that my best friend is an editor, so with her, I’m a one-stop-shop for my novels. Not a lot of authors can do all that…so here come the vultures…Author Solutions…to feed on the dreams of those authors. AND THEN the king of the vultures swoops in, buys the little vulture up and gives him high-technology hunting weapons! GAWD it just sticks in my craw!

    Instead of finally offering authors what they want – a fair share of the profits and someone to believe in them – they stoop even lower in their devices. Think of how much further the publishers could go if they would spend that $116m to foster the authors’ hopes and dreams instead of take advantage of them. They would sell more books, not have to scramble for scams like these and put money into lawyers’ pockets, and actually save money on advertising if they learned about how to properly advertise on the internet. If they did, more authors would rather go with a publisher than self-publish and everyone would win. Bastards.

    Okay, that’s my vent! LOL Thanks for the post, David! Looking forward to Part 2.

    1. In the next post, I will explain how Author Solutions pitches itself to *publishers* – and the key selling point is basically “we will help you monetize the slushpile.” More to come.

      1. The same reason people fall for emails from apparent Nigerian princes, sadly. I can’t believe these scammers keep making that kind of money–and it’s only gettng worse, it seems.

      2. Sad to say, but there are a whole lotta people out there for whom “write a book” is a thing on their bucket list–they are the memoir writers, the family historians, or the Nana or Papaw with an incredible story to tell…but they are not looking to make a career of it. All they want is to have their story in their hands, maybe to pass out a few copies at the family reunion, or memorialize their experiences for friends and family.

        These folks don’t understand to look at the business end of things, and they don’t want to–they just want to tell their story. And they need a service or suite of services that can help them do that. Predators like AS step in and take their life savings in return for less-than-promised. But the “one book in ’em” crowd is out there, and they’re a segment of the indie population that needs attention. Right now, it seems like the only people who are giving them that attention are the predators. :/

        Had I the time and resources, I’d create a business with a handful of copy editors, printers, and formatters and put together basic, very reasonably-priced packages that would include editing, cover art, formatting/uploading, and print prep for createspace, for a flat fee under a thousand bucks, along with a little booklet to tell them exactly how to view their sales, buy print books for themselves, buy print books for their families/friends, buy their ebook from all the major distributors, and tell their local librarian that they wrote a book. In fact, the concept seems so simple that I bet there are more than a few businesses out there doing just that. If they can get past the noise of Author Solutions.

  96. I actually considered using I-Universe when they first appeared on the scene around the turn of the century. At that time, they had displays in Barnes & Noble stores, which seemed to lend them credibility, although the nature of the arrangement with B&N was hard to figure out exactly. It didn’t take me long to discern the nature of the company and others like it, and I decided to do everything myself. One of the major considerations, then as now, was that a book with one of those imprints would have little credibility with potential reviewers.
    It was quite hard to figure out the mechanics of genuine self-publishing in those days, and it was rarely done for fiction, but I managed pretty well, and it was certainly more rewarding in every sense than vanity publishing. I was able to get reputable reviews, got the book into mainstream distribution, achieved reasonable sales, had the book optioned for a movie and basked in the warm glow of satisfaction at what a clever boy I had been.
    In 2006 I wrote “Self-Publishing Fiction” in which I passed on what I had learned and specifically warned against companies like this. (This is not a plug for that book – it has not been updated since the original edition, buy one of David’s excellent works instead.)

    1. Going through the full history of Author Solutions would be a post in itself, but, in brief, it purchased iUniverse in 2007. Prior to the purchase iUniverse actually had a reasonable reputation, from what I can tell. As soon as AS purchased the company, however, complaints started to roll in to places like Writer Beware. The same pattern was witnessed after AS purchased Xlibris and Trafford (AuthorHouse was the original company). B&N purchased a 49% stake in iUniverse soon after it was founded in 1999, and didn’t retain a stake (AFAIK) after the sale to Author Solutions.

      1. Good point. Although I-Universe was even then not a good deal, I don’t remember it being quite as exploitative as AS appears to be, or should I say “as sophisticated”.

      2. What’s interesting is how quickly and spectacularly service levels degraded once AS took over. It happened every single time it took over a competitor.

  97. To the “caveat emptor” section, I’d like to add:

    4. Blaming the victim(s) is a callous reaction to those whom we should consider colleagues…and is often a dodge by those who cite it to keep from taking a moral stand.

    1. I would heartily agree, with the caveat that some are unaware of the full scale of the deceptive practices Author Solutions engages in. However, at some point that does become willful ignorance.

  98. Thanks once again David for an(other) excellent piece of investigative journalism. Looking forward to Part 2.

  99. I have heard rumors for several years now that Penguin actually pays stalker trolls to attack promising new self-published authors with the intent to drive them, out of fear, to the traditional publishers.

      1. Mind you when I state ‘I think it’s true on sites like LinkedIn and Goodreads’, it’s my opinion. Yes, trolls lurk under the Internet bridge, coming out to attack people for no reason. However, since the overwhelming number of attacks occur against self-published authors (based on reading the comments and information about the book on Amazon), I wouldn’t be surprised if the attacks were motivated by the likes of Author Solutions.

        David, thank you for posting the article. I look forward to reading part 2. If you learn anything about Penguin or Author solutions hiring “trolls” to attack self published writers, please let us know.

      2. David, once in a while I encounter people on LinkedIn who say nothing but positive things about Author Solutions. These people have profiles that indicate they are writers. I think they are paid mouthpieces to spread fake positive messages because there’s no proof they composed a book or if they did, earned profits after paying high Author Solutions fees. Personally I don’t believe any author scammed by Author Solutions earns a profit. I’ve challenged authors to prove it, but they refuse or ignore my request. Please give me your opinion on the subject when you have the chance. Thank you.

      3. Tannera, David, Virginia, and everyone else:

        A few words of caution:

        The above “Mary Shelly” is almost certainly one Rick J. Carufel, a self-publishing author who has established a reputation around the Internet for his belief that traditional publishers and the authors who write for them are systematically targeting “indie” writers for intimidation, harassment, and terror. “Stalker trolls” is one of his catchphrases, and he’s used the misspelled “Mary Shelly” moniker often enough before. Your search engine of choice may provide additional information.

        By the way, David, terrific article. Thank you!

      4. Linda, like I’m worried. I don’t spend much time on Goodreads due to arguments and debates and I use Amazon forums even less.

    1. I think there’s a large chance that many trolls in the publishing sector are someone’s paid employees rather than genuine trolls. The purpose of an internet troll is to elicit a response. It’s unlikely that one would troll a book for any reason because objects rarely respond. My books don’t even frown when someone trolls them. Their pages don’t even wilt under a tirade of violent insinuations. I’ve run tests on it by shouting at my books, and they really don’t care because they’re inanimate objects.

      Even if the trolls are trying to upset the author, authors are the least likely people to respond publicly. They have a reputation to maintain. An author and their book are not what you’d class as ‘high-risk targets’ for genuine trolls, and there is little benefit in trolling one, unless you have an agenda, a different motivation that doesn’t involve generating a response.

      Since trolls only do it for a response, it must be something other than genuine trolls that are behind it all.

      Which brings us to public image. Harming a book’s rating and claiming outrageous things about the author is damaging to an indie author’s reputation and their sales numbers. I’ve avoided many great authors because I’ve read that they committed some horrific crime. Then years later, I find out that it was all BS (sorry innocent authors). That’s black hat anti-marketing at its very best, doing what it’s intended to do, killing the competition.

      I worked as a white hat marketer for ten years, so black hat tactics are no surprise to me. I’ve seen enough to know that there’s always someone on the net playing dirty to manipulate the system for monetary gain. Although, comparing the two, publishing is far skankier than marketing. Seriously, marketing is the naive little brother in comparison to some of the crap that goes on in the publishing world.

      I’ve always found it strange that there are so many trolls in the publishing sector. Real trolls generally do it for their own amusement or to protest against something like a big corporation. I’d love to hear the grandfather of trolls take on trolling indie authors in the publishing industry. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have signed off on that.

      But then to me, it just seems natural to assume that the trolls in the publishing world are fake ones. I’ve seen con men publishers blame hackers for their loss of all the author’s royalties, so it comes as no surprise to me to see companies blaming trolls when they use abusive tactics to scare off new indie authors. And they have scared off new indie authors. There have been many who’ve quit writing because of trolls. Often they are younger, first time authors in their late teens or early twenties, prime targets for psychological warfare.

      Then you have sites like STGRB, a website that claims to take down bullies by publicly bulling people on their website in some kind of vigilante justice. They stalk people online and publicly post their personal details for anyone to see while persuading others to attack that person. I don’t rightly care about the person’s crimes, especially if that crime is writing some fiction about some fiction. It’s a book, an inanimate object. I’ll never agree with an eye for an eye, and I’m pretty sure that stalking is still a crime, and yet such a site exists. It’s odd that Anne Rice (a traditional author) is a strong vocal supporter of that website, a site that promotes bullying on its own pages, and from an outsiders view seems fully ingrained in the publishing troll culture to a point where you can’t tell who the bully is anymore.

      There have also been enough cases of big authors caught with their fingers in the troll reviews jar, most famously the John Locke case, so I think it’s fair to say that these vile elements in the industry are not coming from innocent readers or innocent indie authors. But that’s just my observation from the outside of it all. I’m sure there are many stories about trolls out there. The point is that harming a human being over a book is an act of the insane, but it happens all too often in massive flame wars that involve 30 fake people against one real one.

      There’s a lot of fake out there. I’m pretty certain that the trolls aren’t even genuine trolls. I can’t see a lot of young (12-25 year old), usually shy authors incurring the wrath of the troll community. So what other possible reason could there be for them to be receiving death threats in their inboxes? It all strikes me as one big fake way of manipulating the system. But when that manipulation rests on harming new authors, it classes as one of the most disgusting elements of publishing imo.

      Also, great post David, and sorry for going off topic. It’s not that far off topic. I rate vanity publishing as highly as I do publishing trolls. They probably are related, married cousins or something.

  100. I am routinely contacted by AS, most recently last week on a Saturday and 7 PM. As a mainstream author with many bestsellers, iUniverse (connected with them) has reprinted all my books as part of the Authors Guild back-in-print program. They are always trying to sell me ad services etc., even though this is supposedly against AG rules. I contacted them once 5 years ago on my own looking for someone to convert my print books to e-books, before almost anyone was doing this. They had a program to TYPE in the books at a huge expense. Within hours I found a superb service that converted my book cheaply and they have thrived in this independently published format. By the way, when the pushy salesman asked about my plans for my next book, I mentioned a major big 6 publisher who was publishing it, and they guy didn’t know the name!

    1. Can I ask everyone’s advice? To my (now seething) chagrin, I signed a “two book deal” with iUniverse. Basically, I’d “won” a writing contest and they contacted me. Long story short, I signed up for the 2600 dollar package, and was “guaranteed” two books…If the first one did well, as they assured me it would, the second would be under the Penguin banner…It has taken me less than a few weeks to see the ulterior motive.

      They cater to your ego and emotions, your joy at having been signed and having someone appreciate your work. Essentially, it comes down to : “Wow, this is awesome! Now, if you [buy this, buy this, buy this] you’re a guaranteed success!”

      The question is: Can I get out of the agreement? Is there grounds to have my money returned? Thanks in advance.

      1. Nathan,
        We’re here to help. Please send me a note at kgray at authorsolutions dot com with your full name and preferred contacts. I’ll see to it that a member of our team reaches out to you promptly to discuss your concerns. Thanks.

        Best,
        Kevin Gray
        Author Solutions

      2. Ah, Kevin Gray. Where do I remember that name from?

        Maybe it’s from the comments of this Writer Beware post in 2009, where he makes the same offer to a bunch of disgruntled Trafford authors (Trafford is yet another Author Solutions subsidiary): http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2009/04/victoria-strauss-author-solutions-buys.html

        Note that Kevin Gray’s comment there is from July 2009. In August 2009, a writer comments:

        “After reading the message from Kevin Gray I sent him an email stating my complaints about Trafford. This was over 2 weeks ago. I did not receive an answer! So much for Mr Gray!”

        Five years later, customers are reporting the exact same issues. And Kevin Gray still has a job!

  101. This newbie just stepped back from the Xlibris abyss and will walk in the opposite direction towards an unknown destination that may include not publishing AT ALL (because it is all too damn hard)….. In which case, my Grandfather’s life and times, including his Boer War and WW1 experiences (so well documentated through letters, photographs, diaries, and his “animadversions”) will remain hidden from view, and my 14 or so lever-arch folders of primary documents will be tossed out by my next of kin when I die. Along with my musical compositions of the past 28 years. Ah well ….. Ed K

      1. David, thank you. I have bookmarked this site and downloaded your pdf (238 pages) and will read it with concentration and gratitude and I hope to apply it to my particular circumstances. You have cheered me up immensely already and added years to my literary life …. Thank you for sharing your wisdom so generously!!!! Edward Kermode

  102. While you mention the companies to stay away from, you never talk about the legitimate ones. For those of us who do not have a working knowlege of the business and want the help of a self publishing company that has reasonable pricing, can you please give the name or names of legitimate companies? I know that Create Space and Amazon offer free services but once you opt for added services, their prices exceed that of the for mentioned companies? Thank you in advance for any advice you are willing to share.

    1. Hey,

      I’ll do my best to answer, but… it’s complicated. However, definitely avoid the paid services offered by Createspace – I think they are poor value.

      I have a post here which covers the basics of self-publishing – https://davidgaughran.com/basics/ – it’s short, but will give you an idea of what you need to do.

      As you will see from that post, there are four main steps involved: Cover, Editing, Formatting, and Uploading.

      Most self-publishers outsource the cover design and editing (using freelancers), and then either learn the formatting themselves or pay a small fee to a formatting service.

      The uploading part is critical, and you don’t want a third-party doing that for you. You *need* to retain control of your account – it’s crucial for innumerable reasons, some of which I touched on in that post.

      In other words, I don’t recommend using *any* all-in-one service. Even if the price is good (rare) and the quality of cover design and editing is as good as you could get from a freelancer (unlikely), you will be putting yourself at a severe disadvantage. If you don’t have control over your account, you won’t directly control your book listing.

      This will prevent you from changing price as quick as you will need to (no third party service will allow this, despite their claims), indeed you might lose control of pricing altogether. You won’t be able to put your book in the correct categories, and may also be hampered in important areas like choosing the right keywords for your book.

      The idea of paying a little extra is seductive, having someone else take care of all the trivial details. But it usually ends up causing more time and stress than doing it yourself – and the results are often questionable.

      If you still want a trustworthy provider after considering all of that, I’ll dig out a recommendation for you, but I strongly urge you to consider handling it yourself.

      Dave

  103. Hi, Found you through twitter and just reblogged this. I have heard a few authors talking about going with Penguin’s self-publishing service, so thought I would try to warn them. Thanks for the info. Luckily, I have not had experience with any of the services/publishers you mention. I have to say, though, that Abbot Press was a surprise to me. Seems like Writers Digest has gone to the dark side!

  104. Very interesting article. I’m writing a book about networking and just now begin my research on how to self publish. Now I know several publishers to avoid. Thanks much!

  105. David has a great article and insight on the Vanity publishers..

    Here’s what is missing.Look around your homes for vanity purchases, including just about everything from the iPhone to your car. Vanity is everywhere in purchasing. Any class action may or not succeed but it will not put an end to Authorsolutions. Class actions rarely put down a revolution they simply suppress an aspect of it for a while.

    The invention scam business is alive and as well as it ever was 30 years ago despite multiple losses in class actions. Same with fashion model scams and any myriad of others in business all aimed at vanity and the indestructible passion the world has for self delusion. It will never end.

    Vanity Publishing already has the words DONT DO THIS YOU ARE NUTS written all over the tin yet thousands drop for the film flam pitch each month. The madness of crowds..

    The world is full to vomiting point with tricksters like the Authorsolutions scam. Class actions will be stuffed to the gills with another scourge on society…the corporate lawyers who will ensure that despite some wrist slapping and a possible whopping fine the bottom feeding pond life of the vanity press will continue relatively unabated. Nobody will ever write the last chapter on vanity businesses. They were here 200 years ago and will be saddling up for business in another 200.

  106. I have to admit that a lot of self-publishing sites are appealing to self-publishers but people often don’t realize that those sites still have to make money too. Hence that’s why they often have overpriced packages whether it be for marketing, editing, or for the cover design of the book; things you can do yourself (at least most of it if you’re good). However I don’t agree with them being ‘evil’ especially since some provide cheap packages or even the option to self-publish for free, granted you have more things you are in charge of taking care of.

    1. Thanks David for your continued wisdoms and sharing with those of us who tread these waters. I am so enjoying and learning lots from your Let’s Get Visible book after having read ‘Digital’ 🙂

    2. Yes, they have to make money. But the way some (like the huge Author Solutions group) deceive first-time authors (like myself) is not good business practice. David has exposed their tactics in detail. I have now read both of David’s books and I learned a lot. It would be nice anyway to have some reliable self-publishing companies that provide honest and needed services; not everybody has the time and capabilities to do all the jobs to be a successful author. Right now, I haven’t really found any.

  107. Thanks to Penguin taking it global my elderly relative in New Zealand was scammed by Xlibris for nearly $4000 and would have been for more if I hadn’t stopped the nonsense. Thanks Pearsons.

    1. Hi Sebastian. The email attached to your comment doesn’t appear to be working. If you would like to share further details about this, please contact me at david dot gaughran at gmail dot com

  108. Class action suit link does not work: “This is something I’ve been noticing for a while, and Publishers Weekly isn’t alone. The pieces in The Bookseller, GalleyCat, and Digital Book World also make no mention of the widespread criticism that Author Solutions has attracted, nor do they mention that the company is currently the subject of a class action suit for their deceptive practices.”

  109. I tried the link “class action suit”: “This is something I’ve been noticing for a while, and Publishers Weekly isn’t alone. The pieces in The Bookseller, GalleyCat, and Digital Book World also make no mention of the widespread criticism that Author Solutions has attracted, nor do they mention that the company is currently the subject of a class action suit for their deceptive practices.”, but it does not work. I wanted to read about the class action suit and see in how far anybody can still join.

      1. Thanks. Somehow something went wrong when I posted this, it said “you already posted” and it seemed deleted. So, I used another login… Result: double entry. Sorry about that. BTW I found the law firm form and filled it out for the class action, now waiting to see if I hear from them.

      2. Dear David Happy to say I just bought your two e-books a few days ago (finally!). Now need time to read them! I registered at the law firm, did send them another message to ask if I could join the class action suit but nothing received as feedback. So I wonder what they are doing, especially because the form is still there to fill out. I don’t know if other “victims” have been able to get involved in that suit, except the 3 persons said to have started it. Would be interesting to investigate? I just went through the dozens of comments on your blog. Great reading… kind regards Gilbert ____________________________________________________ Tel: (86) 10-6553 2151 Fax: 10-6553 2148 Mobile: (86) 13601392009 – DL: 65530858 Skype: newgalileo Twitter: @bjprc Beijing Global Strategy Consulting Co., Ltd. The business blog: http://blog.strategy4china.com Beijing life: http://www.beijing1980.com

  110. Reblogged this on Savvy Writers & e-Books online and commented:
    Penguin and Author Solutions
    We wrote in dozens of blog posts about the difference between publishers, self-publishing service companies and Vanity Publishing, recently in an article “99% of All Manuscripts Will Be Accepted… http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/99-of-all-manuscripts-will-be-accepted/

    A Must-Read for every author is David Gaughran’s article about Author Solutions, where he explains:
    “Traditional publishing doesn’t talk about Penguin’s 116m purchase and ownership of Author Solutions. No-one wants to talk about how a supposedly legitimate publisher now owns the most successful author scamming organization on the planet, that has cheated 150,000 writers out of their savings.”

    Unfortunately Author Solutions / Penguin owns also XLibris, Balboa, Trafford, iUniverse… ,collaborates with Lulu, and spam the internet with FindYourPublisher.com

    The good news: Three authors filed a class action complaint against Author Solutions Inc. and Penguin Group USA in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Allegations include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, various violations of the California Business and Professional Code, and violation of New York General Business Law and request release of publishing rights for the class, and payment by the plaintiffs of restitution, court costs, and compensatory damages in excess of $5 million.

    Read David Gaughran’s extensive article and re-blog it, to warn as many writers as possible, so that they do not fall into their traps.

  111. I thought your post about ‘lazy agents and Argo Navis’ was excellent. This one on Author Solutions and Penguin exploiting authors is a great companion piece. I’ll blog them both. As one who researched diligently because I had no one to ask, I am disheartened when I see friends exploited by these companies. It’s a done deal by the time I learn about it. I don’t want to come off as telling them they were a fool. I regret that Lulu (first, as far as I know, actual affordable DIY self-publishing company) has changed so much since I did the first edition of my memoir with no cost except any books I bought (2004) with them. By the time I had learned enough to want to do the second improved edition they had begun to change and help was less available.
    Yes, there are reputable indie publishers out there and authors who don’t want to be fleeced can find them. I believe you are doing a real service by keeping on sounding off about scum like Author Solutions and Penguin’s collaboration. Because THEY will find and dupe unwitting authors.

  112. Thank you for this. It certainly started a debate. Since e-books and the likes came on the scene, publishing your novel has grown more complicated.

    My first novel was published by Austin & Macauley Publishers. Yes, it cost me a bucket of money, but it was my baby and just to see my hard work in print was magical.

    I remember sending my first three chapters to a total of 15 publishers before they said yes!
    I like to think that in the future I won’t be so naive.
    Thanx
    Jane

  113. Someone made a good point, on one of the posts you pointed us to, about so many publishers climbing on the Author Solutions bandwagon. They’re shooting off their own foot and more complaints will rise and more heads will turn, with annoyance in their eyes, at these publishers with dinosauric processes.

    Long live trad publishers. They’ll get what they don’t pay for.

    What about Amazon though? I’m still finding too many horror stories from users on that website. Things I’ve never even IMAGINED. Things that water down the marketing process on that website.

    Not to say it doesn’t happen everywhere else. Can you suggest a few places where people are logging all this craziness? I am spending a lot of time reading this stuff. It might just be my karma; I do not know.

    I still worry about them. Any way you can calm me down about these people? A dollar a book? 7/11 has a similar process. They pay the rent with Slurpie income.

    I’m supposed to be a Slurpie?

    Thanks.

    Heather
    wordwan

  114. I’m firmly of the self-publishing fraternity after years with traditional publishers. I now have control and am much, much, better off. Thank you for this post, David. I’ve shared it on my blog, tweeted/fb’d it, linkedin,stumbledupon, pinned it, google+’d it and asked people to share. We all need to keep our wits about us in this increasingly cut-throat and exploitative business. Well done for making us better informed.

  115. If I knew a year ago what I know now… So I am connected somehow to the publishing business in Romania, this small European country with a chaotic publishing market to say the least. And more than a year ago, a brilliant Romanian writer, young but optimistic, finished a fantasy novel written exclusively in English. Asked me to publish it in the US, as here he wouldn’t have a chance. So not knowing anything about publishing in the US, I queried-around for a while from this other side of the world. In my journey I met vanity press that almost killed me, the writer and the project, very very serious self-proclaimed publishers who asked obscene sums of money to publish the book and small presses, independent ones, who seemed to be ok. The said author and novel received three contracts. We chose the one that sounded better. And I believe we made a mistake. They still seem legit. Yet, no marketing strategy, no savvy promotions, no nothing. It’s just like we are a self-published author with some distribution going on. Being here, wanting to break through in the business, having an author already acknowledged by his (yet very very small audience) as being brilliant and having the potential of becoming a classic, I tend to dream big. I tend to wish for a large house, a big-6 one to show up and say “I want you guys on board, we’ll make it big!”. I dream of taking my writer to a huge house and to the Oscars. And then you read articles like this one, you talk to other publishers, other agents, other writers and feel you ended up in a jungle with no flashlight and no guide. It’s heart braking and makes one just wanting to quit… So if it’s hard for you guys out there, imagine how hard it’s for us, thousands of miles away, not having any support and fighting a battle we can’t win with just some books and some talent…

    I’m gonna share this article. In spite the sorrow it brought me, people just have to know.

  116. Thank you for this article. I am seeking to be published. I sought out West Bow because of their connection with Thomas Nelson. After reading your article, I am so thankful I did not pursue anything through them.

  117. It’s worth mentioning also, I think that the percentage of Create Space’s take on titles published through them FAR exceeds the royalties one might expect from a reputable independent publisher. In researching such costs for a POD client the other day, (yes, folks even we publishers must constantly do our homework) in order to offer our authors the best possible array of options,) I was honestly shocked and with 30 years in this industry, I’m not easy to shock.

  118. Very interesting. I published my first book ‘Of Land, Sea And Sky’ with Trafford, some years back when it was an independent company in Canada. It’s always been my view that if a thing’s worth doing it’s worth doing right so I took their ‘best seller’ package, read most expensive.

    At the time Createspace wasn’t available. My next two books, How To Anchor Safely and Hill’s Heroes were published on Createspace. My partner believes there’s some value to still having Of Land, Sea And Sky on the Trafford site. It’s already there and apparently Google views it as an authority site. On this basis I have very discreet links on my websites which I hope no one will find except the Google spider which rates them!

    However I’ve also added extra work to the original Of Land, Sea And Sky and published it again with Second Extended Edition appended to the title and undercut my own Trafford edition by a few cents. I recently received a royalty check (cheque in English English!) from Trafford for a single penny as someone unfortunately bought a copy of the old edition. Shows how much they pass on but i felt better when I realized the postage cost them over a pound!

    I frequently receive phone calls from Trafford trying to sell me enhanced distribution, reviews, even film scripts. Naturally I always decline. It’s transparent that their business model is to exploit writers. I wouldn’t entirely make that accusation of the original incarnation of the company, but it seems pretty apparent that this is the case now. I have received calls from many different reps (consultants) over the last two years which suggests a high staff turnover. Reading between the lines I wonder if they’re taking people on with huge promises of commission and little in the way of salary, then giving them a list of published authors to try and squeeze more money out of. Given we’ve wised up the poor who thinks he or she has landed a good job is on a hiding to nothing.

    Actually it’s all rather sad.
    Malcolm Snook

  119. I’m late to the party as well. I signed with WinePress, and I am pleased with their work. Yes, it is POD, but, they did the cover, editing, and will help my with publicizing the book. It’s not as if they took the money, published what I wrote, shipped it to me and left me to my own devices.
    I agree. Read the contract carefully. If you have a friend who is an attorney go over it. If you are at all uncomfortable don’t do it. Don’t let the desire to have your baby published over rule your commen sense. I even looked the company up on the BBB. Be smart.

  120. Excellent post! I like Mark Coker’s advice: find out where they make their money. Coker’s Smashwords platform make money by selling books, either on their own site or via iBooks, Nook, Sony, etc. they take a cut, but it’s still a good deal for the writer. Companies like Author Solutions make a lot more money selling service to authors than the authors make selling books. It’s particularly galling that these kinds of scam companies want the writer to assume all the financial risk but insist he share the rewards when he does find success.

  121. Great article — I’ve provided a link to it in the course I teach on self-publishing your own e-books. I agree with Heidi’s comment that it isn’t just the publishers who are taking advantage of authors, as so many indie publishers are drawn in by marketers after they do publish themselves. The more information we can make available to writers, the faster we can help eliminate the scams.

  122. First, let me say that my heart goes out to all of you that have suffered at the hands of the aforementioned vanity presses. I knew their prices were high and they did a lot of upselling, but I thought that at least an author would get a decent product and whatever else they paid for. This blog by David (and replies by all of you) has opened my eyes to reality. I’m a book designer and I used to work as a creative director for a good-sized publisher. I now do work for self-published authors and small presses using what I learned to turn their manuscripts into finished books, ready for bookshelves or Nooks or Kindles or whatever. Please understand that I’m not writing to promote my services in any way. Right now, Like Kristen King, I’m helping a legally blind WWII vet get his poetry into book form, with the only charge being for the number of finished books he wants printed. For any author, although I offer suggestions, I never claim to be a marketing expert–that part is up to them. I do promise a product finished to their satisfaction. In one case i worked up 16 cover designs before arriving at one that the author liked. When you’re providing a service to someone who has put his or her heart and soul (and sometimes years of their lives) into something, I couldn’t do anything but my best to help them see their dream realized. I’m also a writer with a bi-weekly newspaper humor column and a dozen or so short stories sold, so I have a great sympathy for, and interest in, other writers and authors.

  123. Thank you for this information. Just two days ago, I decided to forego paying some mega bucks to the “vanity presses” and launched “Mariah Communications” to publish my memoir, From Tears to Triumph, My Journey to the House of Hope. I will re-blog this on: lbelloruizmemoir.blogspot.com

  124. Sadly, vanity publishers aren’t the only ones trying to make a buck off authors. Marketing “experts”, “advertising space” on websites, and even paid reviews. My philosophy is that if someone cannot give you quantitative data on their services (such as how many cpls, what sort of exposure you can expect,or how many views their pages get…) then they aren’t worth paying. As for paid reviews, that is patently ridiculous!! A reviewer should write their reviews for their audience and if they are good at reviews, then there are better ways to get paid than charging the author. I use Amazon associates and make decent money from people buying a book based on my reviews.

  125. An excellent post, David Gaughran. I think an interesting follow-up would concern the publishers, somewhat normative in poetry but a gray area in prose publishing, that charge authors for some or all provided services but whose charges match those of standard book packagers and/or those one would pay, working indpendently, separately for a good book designer, printer, etc. Such publishers unfortunately tend to pay royalties, however fine those may sound to new authors, on net rather than gross sales income, and have a tendency to slide out of business and leave authors stranded. Generally, these are small companies and many are dedicated but simply undercapitalized, but some turn out to be, or turn into, scammers; how do writers tell which are which, and how does one warn of the bad apples in this realm yet recognize their difference from the Authorhouse variety?

    1. One thing to keep in mind regarding so called “hybrid” independent publishers is that ALL publishers pay net royalties, simply as a protection against the return policies established by booksellers.Otherwise, the publisher is left holding the bag for unsold or returned copies. Too, amazon and others keep changing the rules for electronic and print titles. They used to pay every month, now, they pay 90 days out. and if they have another bad quarter, it may take longer than that. We’ve had to alter the terms of our original contract accordingly. Finally, it’s crucial for every independent author to recognize the trend in tightening distribution for self published titles. amazon, for example will not list any print title that is not distributed through either Ingram or Baker and Taylor, and though Create Space (amazon’s subsidiary) distributes through those channels, they will not produce a hardcover. They have also put titles out worldwide, thereby removing an author’s chance to sell rights in those territories. So the idea that amazon and others are not trying to control the huge rise in self publishing authors’ profits or paying them on “gross” sales is completely ludicrous They have their hand in your pocket, whether you publish with them for “free” or not. When dealing with small independent publishers, it’s therefore crucial for authors to research the personnel on staff thoroughly. Most of the time, an author needing services chooses cheap (amateur) over professional, when the whole advantage of having a publisher at all is finding someone who actually knows what their way around the business and will advocate for their rights. .

      1. Excellent points, Teresa. Having worked with designers and as an editor, I was able, when considering a hybrid small press, to compare its charges with those of independent and excellent designers, etc. should I hire these separately. Thus I could compare charges and tell that the press in question was genuinely dedicated and not a ripoff (though of course such conclusions always wait on seeing the royalties in hand, in dealing with any press that does not pay an advance). It is important that authors query a few design and editing professionals and do cost comparisons, and as you note, check on distributions issues such as access to Ingram or Baker and Taylor, yes.

  126. I’m late to the party, and so I could make a career out of reading all the comments here. But kudos on your post, David. I just wish there was some way we could get the word out to every wannabe author not to do business with these scam artists. Almost always, people get burned before they figure it out.

    Coincidentally, Rich Meyer wrote a post this week on vanity press predators for Indies Unlimited. Maybe if we all yell loud enough, even new authors will start to pay attention. http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/05/10/the-biggest-vanity-predators-publishamerica-and-author-solutions/

  127. Reblogged this on Kristin King Author and commented:
    Big publishers owning vanity presses turn to make money off writers rather than books. This article by David Gaughran is eye opening as it focuses mainly on Penguin/Author Solutions scamming while getting great press from Publisher’s Weekly, NYTimes, The Bookseller, GalleyCat and Digital Book World where every one of these trusted sites fail to mention the class action suit against Author Solutions. Gaughran notes that Penguin isn’t alone in bilking hopeful writers: Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Harlequin have jumped on the band wagon. Other vanity press divisions indicted include West Bow Press, Balboa Press and Abbot Press with is actually a division of Writers Digest. Lulu which has long been an outlet for indie authors has also made a deal with Author Solutions for “premium” services. Writer Beware! Trafford, AuthorHouse, Xlibris and iUniverse are all owned by Author Solutions.

    Recently I helped a fellow author disentangle herself from Xlibris, so this all hits home for me. Providentially, this author began work with this arm of Author Solutions when their terms still included a no risk policy whereby she has applied for a refund.

    Born in the same year as Anne Frank, this particular author is an 84 year old Iron Curtain survivor who is sitting on her personal memoir which is an absolute historical treasure. Who is her publisher now? I am. Do I charge her for converting typed pages to digital files? No. Is it painstaking work? Yes. So why am I doing for free what Xlibris charges another $2.50 per page to do? (337 page manuscript, BTW). I believe in the value of the work, the need for this story to be told. I also think this work will be a financial success given time, so I will do what traditional publishers used to do. At no cost to the author, I will apply my indie publishing expertise to the project and wait for my payment in terms of royalties.

    I’ve gotten off track with my personal example, but I do highly recommend writers and readers check out David Gaughran’s article, The Author Exploitation Business.

    Do you know someone who has been taken by a vanity press? Any vanity press success stories? Comments welcome.

  128. Thank you, David. As a new writer, I was tempted, but held out and went to the independent publishers instead. I have nine books now with three publishers and am proud of and thrilled with all: Astraea Press, Musa Publishing, and Secret Cravings Publishing. I have also self-pubbed three times. I put this on my facebook page, Googled it, will tweet, pin, and link it, and have reblogged this on http://www.samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com and added by personal credo: Write, publish, and be informed!

  129. David, I would like to ask permission to quote from this article in a forthcoming book of quotations (1,001 Tips for Writers). However, this should be done privately. Could you e-mail me your e-mail address at NRBooks@aol.com? Thanks. Great article, by the way. And you are right. The Times’ publishing correspondents do not seem to understand the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. The paper makes the same mistake over and over again.

  130. Thanks David! Very interesting article. I went directly to self publishing, so I have no awareness of how traditional publishers and the vanity press work. After reading this blog, I consider myself lucky. My foremost advice to any writer is to self-publish as soon as possible and then improve your writing via direct reader feedback. W4$

  131. As an independent publisher who has more than 30 years in this business, both with traditional houses and independents, I have to say that many aspiring authors and self-published authors particularly, tend to tar all publishers with the same brush. But wanting to make money, and seeing opportunities to make money in a thriving industry is not a scam per se. Penguin is simply operating on the much touted “abundance model” that traditional publishers have always used. Sign enough books, throw them out there and depending on how hard the author works for his or her own success, you might squeeze out a bestseller or two.
    Some of us, my own company included, operate on a different model. We offer services that are desperately needed, editorial, design, publicity, how to write a query, how to use social media, etc.I don’t sign up anything that I don’t feel can compete in a very crowded market for my imprint and I do charge for my editorial and other services;I give solid and honest advice to those who want to self publish, those who want to go tradish, and those who don’t have the faintest idea what they want or need, save to get their books out there. Unlike those publishers who see prospective authors as little more than cannon fodder, I evaluate EVERY book on an individual basis.And I’m not doing that to exploit anyone. I do that because nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see good books get published.

    1. Hello Teresa, I read your comment(s) with great interest. As a new published author “Sailing against the Current” published by Trafford, and now available on Amazon, I’m starting to come to grips with all the issues. Thank you for your very useful perpective.

      1. Thanks Albert! When everyone these days is jumping on the “bash the corporation wagon” (and believe me I have NO love for the big houses and how they do business) it nevertheless remains in every author’s best interests to seek the help of qualified professionals when they need it. Realistically, the chances of success going it alone are very slim.

  132. Thanks for being you David. Your posts are always such great and informative reads. Makes me all the more unsure about my own direction, but I still have time on my hands to figure it all out and I am super glad there are people out there in the world like you, who offer such helpful and sage advice. x

  133. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I’ll share it on my FB page, personal timeline, and LinkedIn. Dare I hope the tide if finally turning against these predatory companies, no matter who owns them?

  134. I was scammed by Author Solutions back in the early days. I totally agree that it is unacceptable that all the trad publishers are using them to offer some kind of self-publish option. They don’t sell books. They sell more and more and more “services” to the authors. Ugh.

    Personally, I don’t think the only option (as some of the commentors have said) is a press with an advance and a print run. I started a small publishing company for an under-served niche and I certainly don’t think I’m a scam! At this point I offer small advances but there is no print run. I discuss that very openly with authors ahead of time. It’s ebooks and POD. The contract makes it very easy for them to take back their rights if they change their mind. I think what sets something like that apart from a scam is that I never take money from authors. I make money selling books not author services.

    Mercy’s definitions make sense to me. New authors should definitely be looking at where the money goes when deciding what route to take.

  135. I think a lot of new authors get confused because we don’t have good, clear terminologies in publishing anymore. All these vanity presses talk about “helping the author self-publish.” Well, in that case, it can’t be a scam, right? /sarcasm

    I’d really like to see people consistenly using terms based on where the money goes:
    traditionally published: Author pays nothing to publisher. Sales income flows mainly to the publisher.
    self-published: Author pays individual contractors as needed. Sales income flows mainly to author.
    vanity press: Author pays publisher to publish book. Sales income flows mainly to the publisher.

    That way, regardless of what size of publisher, we know what we’re talking about. If the money comes to me, it’s self published. (If you split checks on a traditionally published book, the bulk of the money still goes to the publisher.) If the money goes to the publisher, it’s either traditionally published (if I did not pay the publisher anything) or vanity press (if I had to pay the publisher).

  136. Author Solutions is getting a new CEO. Whether that will make any difference in the way they do business remains to be seen. I don’t think it will. After all, Penguin bought ASI “as-is” to make money. Why would the ASI biz model be changed by Penguin and risk butchering the cash cow?. Here’s the press release URL:

    http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/pearson-appoints-penguin-company-insider-andrew-phillips-to-head-author-solutions/?et_mid=616264&rid=233872614

  137. David I’d like to thank you for taking us Indie authors and newbies such as myself, under your wing. When I first began writing my book and realized that a writer is not just a writer without wearing many hats if they want to strive for success, I was astounded at what is actually involved besides the art in-it-self of writing to become a published author. It seems to me that there aren’t too many corners left in the world where anyone can escape greed and the preying on of innocent people. I am halfway through my first draft and spend more time doing research on following up on publications (such as yours), trying to stay current and informed and learning all about self-publishing, all of which take up more time than the actual writing of my book. I do all this so I can make informed decisions and learn the tools to make my book the best it can be. I believe that there are bad apples in every bunch and it is up to all of us to do our diligent best to protect ourselves, and the duty to pay it forward by spreading the news so that the uninformed writers who have yet to learn the tricks of the trade, may be spared the costly mistakes. I believe if writers and authors alike can all keep abreast on these issues as you do, perhaps we can all come up with better ways or even new associations where we can make the self-publishing process become easier for new authors to be able to tackle the technological challenges and fears and therefore not be led astray by the piranhas in the publishing world.

  138. Hello David, Thanks for your most informative overview (about Penguin etc.). Having recently published my new book titled “Sailing against the Current” with Trafford’s highly competent assistance, (at a very reasonable price), I have only good words to say about Trafford. I have learned much about the industry from what you have written, and this is a vital perspective for me. You can see my book on Amazon, just type “Albert Edelson” in the search box. I plan to continue publishing with Trafford – their have earned my fullest confidence.
    Regards, ALBERT EDELSON, NES ZIONA, ISRAEL

    1. Hi Albert,

      I’m sorry that you fell into the clutches of Trafford, but I can’t let your recommendation stand.

      I have looked at your book on Amazon and it has many issues that are typical of Trafford’s sloppy approach. The cover isn’t great. The typography is impossible to read even at full size – let alone thumbnail. THe designer shows little knowledge of how to design a cover which looks good online, or one that is suitable for an e-book.

      The second problem is the pricing. Because of Trafford’s scammy pricing structure, you have to set the price of your paperback extremely high to generate any royalties at all. The paperback is showing at $19.75 to me, which, I’m sure, prices most readers out of the market. Your e-book is also overpriced at $9.99 – I presume you set the price that high to try and claw back some of the outrageous costs you paid to Trafford (which you neglected to mention).

      Your book is 129 pages long and you are charging $10 for the e-book and nearly double that for the paperback!

      I also note that you have around 100 chapters in a 129-page book – meaning that each chapter is just over a page long. A good editor would have advised a different structure. Even James Patterson and Dan Brown – famous for super-short chapters, stretch it out to three or four pages. This would become extremely tiresome to read (not talking about the subject matter, but the structure, some of these chapters are but a paragraph – this isn’t serving you well, and a good editor would have strongly recommended changes).

      Another problem is the formatting. Trafford have placed the (lengthy) table of contents at the start – which is a problem when you have 100 chapters, and a TOC several pages long. Your book is already short at 129 pages – meaning your sample on Amazon will be around 12 pages. Between the TOC, the title page, the copyright page, the cover, the dedication, and the prologue, a reader sampling your book gets little actual book to sample.

      I haven’t read the sample in detail (what little of it is there), but it looks like the editing could have been tighter. Another big issue is the metadata. You are only in one Kindle category – severely limiting your discoverability. This is basic stuff that Trafford can’t get right.

      What we have here is a great example of a poor job by Trafford that severely limits your ability to sell books. On top of being published badly by this company, you will have paid a hefty fee, then will pay again the second time in the form of a percentage of your royalties.

      Doubtless, you will be aggressively upsold so-called “marketing services” which aren’t worth a tenth of the price, and will do nothing for your book anyway.

      So no, I’m sorry, Trafford is not recommended. My advice to you would be to cut your losses, request a reversion of your rights, and publish the book yourself – properly.

      1. I think this comment by Albert Edelson is typical to the problem we’re dealing with = many hopeful writers just don’t realize that they’re being scammed by companies like Trafford. I wish they would read your columns before they turn to these scam publishers.

  139. Great overview, once again. Yes, we first-time authors are the suckers. I did quite some Google research before I “chose” AuthorHouse instead of Xlibris (you are allowed to snicker now). With so many channels leading to the same scammers, not easy to see the truth, especially not having known this blog yet.

  140. I love it when the truth gets told. Really good post David.
    As with writers, I think designers share similar experiences. Being scammed, disrespected etc. Without any of these professions, there would be no books. Alot of traditional publishers laughed at the idea of self-publishing. Now we have these very people trying to rob us of the very thing they insulted. I agree. Something should be done about it. I will spread this, and do my best to write on it too.
    Thanks David!

  141. Thank you for the information related to Readers Digest. I was wondering if the world had turned upside down on me.

    Decades ago I had several year’s worth of a subscription to the magazine – way before there was an internet. They were often informative, encouraging and always had books to sell – many of which I bought and still have.

    Then, one day my life turned a different direction and I dropped the subscription. Now I have time to return to this effort in earnest. I decided to first try their email subscription – and got about one half-hearted, half-informational email about once a month (it is a free newsletter, so I didn’t expect too much, but this was less than that), but also got daily (or several times a week) spiels to sell me something. After about 4 months, I unsubscribed. It just felt scammy to me.

    I can see now that my world view did not change so much as theirs had. It’s disappointing, but it also seems like the burgeoning of large old industries are disintegrating all around us. It is probably time for that.

    I think you are on the right path in encouraging all those that know to get the word out about these sorts of shenanigans. Paradigm shifts will most likely take a multiple-faceted approach to get the word out – not all emerging writers will know about subscribing to your’s and other’s websites who watch this unfold.

  142. Reblogged this on woelfdietrich.com and my comment included a cute analogy: “A vanity scam is like a gigantic evil squid–once you’re caught by one of its many clawed tentacles, you’re going to have a hard time breaking free and it’s going to cost you. You’ll either lose everything or you’ll lose chunks of flesh while trying to escape. Honestly, we don’t need vanity publishers. There are way too many options open to us. But not many writers know this. What is also worrisome is that some of these vanity presses are owned by traditional publishers. That is the shocking part.”

  143. I just want to add a thought about the recession, starving writer’s and parents like myself. I wonder how many extremely desperate, wanting to be published author’s borrow the cash from – let’s face it – someone like Wonga.com – because they don’t have a steady income. It’s quite sad really, when you think of it like that

  144. Interesting and comprehensive survey of the vanity press market that takes your money and does nothing for you. But it is possible to self publish without getting ripped off. Printing a book is a task that almost anyone can figure out to do. Marketing is the tough part, but the vanity presses don’t do that anyway.

  145. Reblogged this on Illuminite Caliginosus and commented:
    A shocking, damning commentary on the state of affairs in publishing.

  146. Do we realize how much Hugh Howey being indie costs these traditional publishers? By Hugh skipping the slush pile and going directly to readers he makes $100k per month for a few years – digital dollars the Big 6 will NEVER recapture as Hugh will own those rights for eternity.

    It is in their vested interests to squash such opportunities.

    See they believe that the next Talented Mr. Howey will come from the Author Solutions ranks – but the types of authors that buy into that scam are the polar opposites of a Hugh Howey, or a JA Konrath, or a Barry Eisler, etc.

  147. I had no idea this was happening. Thanks for spreading the word. It’s sad that traditional publishers are sneering and mocking digital self-publishing while promoting a crappier version of the same thing.

  148. Great post. Having spent 10 years in the music business I was already pretty adept and smelling a scam when I began writing. My basic rule is anything you have to pay for up front is not worth it. I’m not talking about advertising, of course you have to pay for certain types of advertising, but any kind of “We have awesome connections so pay us in advance and we’ll hook you up”.

    With print on demand services and the ability to self publish ebooks so easily to all the major platforms, aspiring authors should be saving their cash for proofing and cover design (if they can’t do it for free through friends), and of course advertising!

    Thanks for sharing, all the best 🙂

    Rohan.

  149. Not to get too political; but what you see here is liberal media protecting it’s own. US media is state-run; with few exceptions (one?) it’s main purpose is to further its agenda. As 95% of the publishing world is liberal-leaning also; sites like yours David, are the only alternatives exposing the truth.

    Today’s politicians are of the ‘you didn’t build this’ mentality; all of us are so ill-equipped to lead our lives that we require governmental assistance and ‘protection’ to create a level playing field. Hogwash. Now you have legions of authors, mostly liberal, buying into the fact that they haven’t succeeded because giant publishing houses aren’t helping them – and presto, perfect storm for the Big 6 to exploit these emotions.

    The true Indie success stories did it 100% themselves, as entrepreneurs. They wanted to write and not promote? Tough, they LEARNED the promotion angle, and cover design, and social media, and uploading files to KDP, etc. They did indeed build it themselves, and they will be millionaires.

    Authors who fall for these scams are following the lead of our ruling class in looking for excuses as to why they aren’t rich and famous, instead of looking for opportunities of which to take advantage. And by all means, EVERYONE in the media has a vested interest in giving these saps what they are looking for – a convenient way to buy yourself into the industry, at a heavy, heavy price.

    As of now: I’d imagine the scorecard of indie successes who were involved with an Author Solutions type company shows zeros, while the hundreds of new writing stars did it themselves and that gap will only widen.

    The NYT is a fish wrap on its best days. Remember we live in a world where a Nobel Prize Winner has a documented Kill List. Where an entire political party against waterboarding is perfectly OK with dropping a bomb on your head via drone strike as you sip coffee at a cafe in Kabul.

    No author could make this stuff up.

    1. Seriously? You’re going to shoehorn this into your “evil liberal agenda” conspiracy-mongering?

      Two can play at this game. Author Solutions is the epitome of right-wing, soulless capitalism. So long as it can extract money and line its pockets, it’s irrelevant if they’re actually providing a service to its customers-slash-victims. Survival of the fittest, man. Those authors who feel cheated should have paid more attention, done more due diligence.

      Hell, Author Solutions is a friggin’ capitalism success story. They got no assistance from the government, beyond the copyright law which is the purview of the gub’mint, thus spake the Founding Fathers through the Holy Constitution. They won big by forging partnerships with tens of thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs, creating a revenue stream that eventually attracted investment capital from the biggest names in publishing. U S friggin’ A!

      Hell, no, your touted “indie success stories” did not do it “all on their own.” They did not “build it themselves.” They outsourced distribution to Amazon, editing and cover art to freelancers… exactly the sort of relationships and services that Author Solutions promised but didn’t provide in any meaningful sense. The only thing they may have done by themselves is the publicity, and they did so by taking advantage of platforms like Twitter, Blogspot, etc., that they didn’t “build themselves”, and that are themselves built atop a technology invented by a partnership between government and academia.

      Had these authors had the good sense or good fortune to go with someone who provided actual value, many of them would have done very well for themselves. Had there been basic transparency laws in place — the sort of “intrusive government regulation” you right-wingers decry — then many of their customer-victims would have seen the figures Author Services was putting up on the board (your $5000 investment in our author services will yield you 150 book sales) and run like hell.

      Government regulation creating a functioning free market? Nah, could never happen. Violates the first maxim of modern rightwingism: gub’mint bad, entrepreneurs good.

      More than half our politicians (thanks, Republican gerrymandering) are firm believers in the fantasy of “you TOTALLY built it yourself, and to hell with anyone who tries to lay claim on any of YOUR money which you earned BY YOURSELF YOU PRECIOUS LITTLE SNOWFLAKE!” It’s a line of reasoning that panders to our egos, would look ridiculous coming from a nine-year old, and I pity the fool who is narcissistic enough to swallow it. Every genuinely successful person is the winner of a huge cosmic lottery. Had Bill Gates been born in a remote village in sub-Saharan Africa, he would today be a subsistence farmer in sub-Saharan Africa. Probably a very clever one who is doing very well for himself, compared to the rest of the village, but a subsistence farmer nonetheless.

      I won the lotto when I was born with good genes: they made my life easier by granting me intelligence, generally good health, and — let’s be totally blunt, since we live in a racist, misogynistic society — my white maleness. All those things opened doors for me that will remain forever closed to others.

      I won again because my parents both came from a middle-class background, and had been instilled with notions about education and hard work.

      I won again when I found my interests bending toward computers rather than 17th-century French poetry. It’s a very lucky thing when one of your true passions in life happens to be highly marketable.

      I won a third time when I happened to sell a real estate property near the height of the housing bubble (pure dumb luck on my part), thus clearing my student loan debts and providing me with money to finance a meager living while I work my ass off to become a crazy-famous author. Without that money, I’d have a lot less “spare” time to invest in my improbable rise to greatness.

      I’m not hugely successful. Hell, I’m looking up the ladder at the middle class — and come on, middle class, wear underpants, cuz nobody wants to see what I’m seeing — but I’ve had opportunities and lucky breaks that most people would be jealous of, and even at my current impoverished state, I’d be happy to pay more in taxes if doing so gave more people the opportunity to succeed, and the opportunity to fail without courting disaster.

      1. You made my point exactly: the hypocrisy of a liberal-led machine like Big Publishing practicing evil capitalism a la Author Solutions. Everyone has equal access to the institutions you cite such as Amazon, Twitter, etc. Billionaires get on the web from their gold plated laptops, and the homeless get on the web from the public library.

        Some maximize those opportunities, others squander them. I believe that Author Solutions puts up yet another barrier to success for many, and that ain’t right. Anyone claiming to ‘help’ you in your quest to be an author, is first helping themselves at your expense.

        Write your books, submit to agents/publishers, collect rejections, learn from constructive criticisms and come back stronger. Repeat 500 times. No one needs Author Solutions in that formula.

    2. “US media is state-run; with few exceptions (one?) it’s main purpose is to further its agenda.”

      Gee, I wonder what the sole exception is. I’m sure it’s a bastion of agenda-free truth and objectivity, with the singular goal of protecting the interests of all Americans.

      Somehow, even with that paragraph as your starting point, your post still managed to go downhill. Bravo!

  150. Reblogged this on Michael R. Hicks and commented:
    I’ve posted myself about this topic, but it can’t be repeated enough. If you’re an author (or aspire to be one), do NOT fall into the trap of paying one of these companies a boatload of money to publish your book! It’s a complete and utter rip-off.

  151. It’s crazy out there, and publishers get away with a lot they shouldn’t. Harlequin was able to get away with paying authors 3-4% royalties (vs the 50% they expected) for digital versions by what any reasonable person would call dishonest means:

    http://paidcontent.org/2013/04/03/heartbreak-for-harlequin-authors-as-judge-tosses-e-book-case/

    Considering the authors likely thought their contract protected their rights, it makes a writer re-think wanting to deal with a publisher at all – would even a seasoned writer know to include a clause stating the royalty should be 50% of the selling price even if it’s licensed to a third party publisher?

    P.S. Read some of the short stories you have on Amazon, left me impressed with your ability to create compelling, well-rounded characters.

    1. (Caveat: not a lawyer, and haven’t read the actual complaint or the judge’s reasons for dismissing it)

      From what I have read about this case, I thought they had a reasonable chance. I’m happy to hear the authors are appealing, because what Harlequin did was particularly underhanded. I’m not happy with the royalty rates that most large publishers are paying, but at least they are (more or less) upfront about it, and don’t try this kind of bait-and-switch. It’s a con, pure and simple.

      P.S. Thank you for your kind words about my shorts, so to speak. Looking back, I’m probably only fully happy with how Transfection turned out, but they were all fun to write. Need to get more out there. Soon!