Author Solutions Scam Goes To Miami Book Fair

Another day, another Author Solutions scam in my inbox. Remember the Author Solutions book signing scam planned for The Word on the Street Festival in Toronto next month (to which the organizers are turning a blind eye)?

This post is from 30 August 2013. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links, but it’s important to preserve these older posts on author exploitation and the comments remain open.

I suspected that the Word on the Street Festival wasn’t the only literary event that Author Solutions would be targeting, given that Author Solutions made $297,000 from the 2012 Word on the Street Festival. I was right.

The Miami Book Fair is a long-established, reputable literary festival (celebrating its 30th year) which has wheeled in some big names for this year’s event, such as Junot Díaz. Unfortunately, the Miami Book Fair is also allowing a terrible scam to take place at its event.

Author Solutions – and their various subsidiaries, including Palibrio, Trafford, iUniverse, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse – has emailed customers pimping a unique opportunity to get your book in front of thousands of readers at the Miami Book Fair this coming November.

For $3,999 you can have a one hour slot at the Author Solutions booth to sign some books. You’ll have to cover your own airfare, hotel, and food, but you will get some free copies to sign, and some bookmarks to give away… if anyone shows up.

The experience of twiddling your thumbs for an hour, looking forlornly at a pile of poorly produced books, is likely to be so memorable that you will deeply regret not swinging for the premium package. For just $7,999 you get to do the book signing and get a 60 second video to treasure forever.

This is likely to be profitable for Author Solutions. In 2011, it had over 50 authors signing books, netting at least $199,950. The following year was even better with more than 60 authors participating, bringing in at least $239,940.

Those numbers don’t even take into account the 400 authors who shelled out $799 each to be in a “new title showcase” that nobody will look at, further netting Author Solutions an estimated $319,600.

In total, Author Solutions is estimated to have made over half a million dollars from the 2012 Miami Book Fair. That’s a pretty good return when booths are going for just $1,000.

This is a scam, plain and simple. We know that Author Solutions have no quibbles about pulling tricks like this (and that their owners Penguin Random House have no issue with profiting from this fraud), but I hope that the Miami Book Fair take action.

I expressed the same hope about the organizers of the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto – only to find out that they didn’t care if authors were scammed at their event. I sincerely hope that the Miami Book Fair will view things differently. I hope they understand that they have a duty of care towards attendees of their event, have some responsibility for what takes place at their booths, and can’t just pass the buck.

The Miami Book Fair has a range of options open to them here, from exerting pressure on Author Solutions to stop selling these useless, overpriced packages, right up to banning Author Solutions (and, indeed, all scammy vanity presses) from the event. I would hope they would do the latter, but would certainly settle for the former.

In case any of you are tempted by the stunning value above, unfortunately this offer is only available to authors who have published with Author Solutions’ brands such as AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, and Palibrio.

However, if you have published with Simon & Schuster’s vanity press – Archway Publishing (which is operated by Author Solutions) – you can get the exact same package for an even higher price!

Archway Miami book fair author solutions book signing scam

I guess the extra $1,600 covers the kickback to Simon & Schuster. Nice work if you can get it, a sentiment clearly shared by Lulu.

Update: Miami Book Fair Responds

I contacted the organizers of the Miami Book Fair International and, after multiple emails and much prodding, they only chose to say this:

The Fair as an organization does not take positions on these issues.

Delia Lopez, Director of Operations

Yeah, that was the entire email.

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.

54 Replies to “Author Solutions Scam Goes To Miami Book Fair”

    1. Just wasted 20 minutes of a beautiful June day talking to someone who really wanted me to impressed by all the opportunities she was offering to showcase my book at the Miami Book Fair. Can’t wait to get her email and see the prices.
      Thank you, David Gaughran and Michael, you have solidified my suspicions.


  1. I’ve published dozens of books with Trafford and I Universe. I have no complaints with their production and quality and I do receive small checks every 3 months. Sometimes, one of my books catches fire for a little bit and sells a lot of copies. I don’t fall for their advertising promos but as long as they produce the books well and on time and I get royalties, I’m okay with them. There are other companies that offer the same as them but for nearly triple the price. Word Clay in its original form was the best of the free ones as they actually paid royalties. Create Space and Lulu are also good, but you have to do all of the work. The worst of them all was Publish America who made money only from selling books to authors and NEVER paid royalties. They’re another company now but just as crooked. The point is, go ahead and self publish but do your own damned advertising. Don’t buy any publicity package as they are all scams and you’ll just be flushing cash down the toilet.

  2. Thanks for this post, David. A friend of mine suffered heavily first with Trafford (One book) and later AuthorHouse (two books). She paid heavily and never sell even ten books.
    Permission to reblog this to Moja Da’Silva.

  3. my mother has been suckered into this twice. she knows it’s a rip-off, at least now the 2nd time she does. on this occasion, we used it as an excuse to visit toronto. i am her photographer. she’s been suckered into that twice too, but at least i’m up front about it

  4. I recently got a great deal from Authorhouse. They shipped a small collection of my books to the wrong address, costing me a school reading- I contacted an AH supervisor (which was no easy task) and demanded that they double the number of books in my original order (at no extra charge to me) as well as eat the shipping. They honoured my request, over-nighted my books, and indeed, ate the shipping. That’s been the best deal thus far with Authorhouse….ha.

    (Pleasure to meet you, by the way.)

  5. They were all over the Miami Book Fair last year as well. An entire row was filled with Author Solutions booths. I used to vend Miami at the small press tables. Last year, the only two indie presses I recognized were Akashic and McSweeney’s. Everyone else who used to get a booth gave the show a pass.

    There probably won’t be a Miami Book Festival within a few years, or at least there won’t be vendors.

  6. I’ve RT, and now am a convert to your blog–thanks to Anne Albert who posted this latest on Google+ Authors, we all know that feeling of wanting, needing attribution, and validation–and companies like Author House, etc make it soooo easy. I’m pleased to say that I’ve just talked a young author out of signing with Author House, and not to say that going Indie is for everyone, but after showing her how easy and cheap the process is, she’s gonna go Indie!

  7. Good job, David, as always an advocate for the creative side. And to the suggestions about renting your own booth — great idea. I’d like to suggest that the more money these ripoff operations make the less pressure on their more legitimate affiliates to find good books and talented authors. Overall the ripple effect is felt even in the ranks of internet-scam savvy authors. No creative professional profits from a business model like this and writers have a lot at stake here.

  8. They may have a veneer of legitimacy, but folks need to shake their heads before reaching for their wallets. If the booths are a grand each, I can just ignore their services entirely and rent out four or five booths, knock down the dividers, and set up the ‘A.G. Claymore’ book pavilion, with blackjack and drinks…

    On second thought, forget about the books…

  9. And they could just do the math too. If they whipped out their calculators and figured out that they could buy books for, what $10, and sell them for $15, they would need to sell 800 books to break even, just for the cost of the books. Do you think they lugged that many books to the fair? And let’s say they have 16 hours to sell. That means they have to sell 50 an hour, or nearly a book a minute. Yeah, I know, if they were mathematicians they wouldn’t be writers.

  10. Hi, David, just started following and like your blog and this post. As far as literary scams go, what are your thoughts on all these literary contests not tied to actual publication but usually in the name of somebody we’ve never heard of and chaired by a university prof. The problem I have with them, and I’ve had the inside scoop from profs who have been involved with them and disgusted, that they sucker thousands aspiring writers to pay the $10-20 entry fee for a $1000-2000 prize and then just give the prize to a student they already had in mind. Usually an easy sign of this is when they don’t declare that the contestants will be anonymous to the judge(s) or, as I said, it’s not tied to any real publication, which should be the ultimate goal of any writer. These contests, since there are so many of them, probably rake in quite a load of mullah each year. What do you think?

  11. Reblogged this on Cubby's Corner and commented:
    Thank you David for constantly keeping all of us new authors abreast with your continual follow ups with the big bad wolves out there.

  12. David your posts are invaluable to so many. I know I’ve learned a lot from you and if you keep putting out this kind of information enough, it will allow more and more new authors to get a heads up before they get caught in some of those snares. Thanks for looking out for us!

  13. I’m with Bill, I can’t imagine why a couple authors couldn’t pool a fraction of the money these people are asking and set up a pretty spectacular booth where they could hand out trinkets and sign books throughout the whole festival. More fun to do it with someone you know with similar interests, maybe even with books in the same genre, to chat with when things are slow. I’d do that before forking over $4000 for a single hour.

    1. Take the 4k they wanted and pay a grand for the booth and then give away three grand worth of Swag. You’d definitely be ahead of the game. Hand out raffle tickets for a few kindles (tickets printed with a QR Code to a free copy of one of your titles on Amazon on the back).
      And maybe, out of pity, you could take in the poor souls who spent their hour at the AS booth and make a party of it.

  14. The idea of “inexperienced and experienced” writers being taken in just hit home. After speaking against Author Solutions at various conferences, I just had a very unexpected encounter with them. A couple of years ago my agent, at that time, recommended me to some people who were doing interviews for the “Author Learning Center” based on my book that was just published by Writers Digest on the creative writing process.
    We videotaped the interview, and I followed up a few times, even searched their website to see if it was ever posted, but it never was. However, I did see a couple of major names that I recognized.
    Last week I was contacted by a very nice lady who apologized that they had lost the video, just found and edited 3 clips from it, and was posting it on YouTube and included the links for me to look at. She offered me a complimentary membership for a year so I’d have access to the ALC site. I thanked her saying I would use them in my online courses and for the screenwriting class I teach at a university.
    She immediately contacted me back asking if I would be willing to do some webinars that they offer their authors for free. I said “yes,” because it was an opportunity to help writers and to promote myself and my book. We set up a phone meeting.
    Low and behold when I went back to read the email again, there in large letters after her title was Author Solutions, and Penguin’s info. I was stunned that I had overlooked this before. The Author Learning Center is part of Author Solutions. I wondered if I should do the webinar and warn their authors. Of course, I realized that I could not in good conscience have my name associated with them.
    I emailed her back and told her that it was nothing personal to her, but that I could not work with Author Solutions as I have heard nothing but bad about them.
    I am experienced, teach about not getting snookered, and still almost blindly walked into their network.

  15. Some writers I know are simply lazy: have more money than brains as my dad used to say.
    Eg: too lazy to re-write: so paid AS a huge sum for editing. She learned a little bit from that but more recently this same author, who now prints her SF novels locally, refused to proofread the back blurb of her second volume at the request of the printing co – only to discover errors after it had gone to print!
    Needless to say I don’t try to have cosy writer to writer chats with this person – it’s too frustrating!
    Words fail me at the air-heads and suckers who are born every minute!
    Even when warned of scams they persist with their delusions.
    Just as some will read David’s condemnation of AS and consider it advertising and check out the services we warn them about!

  16. David,

    I’m curious. Where did you get the stats for the number of authors ASI scammed? From ASI? From the Miami and Toronto Book Fairs? So sad that those who were scammed couldn’t do math or basic research on the cost of getting their own booth for the entire run of a book festival.

    No question that P.T. Barnum was right when he said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Barnum was an optimist and understated the truth, IMHO.

  17. So the Miami Book Festival is enabling a scam which allows a company to sublease its space to authors and make a profit? That doesn’t seem right.

    I haven’t read the festival’s terms, but it seems like an author could pay a grand for his own booth and have it available throughout the entire festival. Heck, several authors could get together and do that, and save themselves a huge amount of coin compared to what AS is doing.

  18. I can only imagine the way that hour unfolds – Excitement…boredom…worry… realization that you just spent all your savings to sit in a chair and twiddle your thumbs… depression.
    Thanks for posting! Good work for shedding light on scams like this.

  19. I worked for Author Solutions in the last years before my retirement. I was involved with editing, rather than sales, so it took me a while to realize what a wretched operation it is. The atmosphere at the company is that customers are foolish, childish, no-talent dupes who deserve to be taken for whatever money they’re willing to put down. No festival that aspires to any degree of legitimacy would permit Author Solutions to buy space to run their scams.

  20. I can’t imagine how these people cope with being in the same booth with a series of poor deluded writers, one after another, who’ve paid serious money to sit at a table with copies of their books and no customers. Talk about stony-hearted and shameless…

  21. Applause, David, for your continuing work in this area. I am afraid there are authors who don’t read the internetz. My cousin, years ago, told me proudly that her son had written a poem, and got an offer to have it published… in a book they would sell to her. Well, she didn’t buy it, and apparently they didn’t print the poem. Then when she asked about it, they said, oh! A mix-up! It will be in our next edition… which she bought for around $80. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was simply a book-selling scam.

  22. Sadly, these scams will continue until either AS stops getting avenues to peddle them through or people wise up to the fact that they are scams. Since the former is never going to happen when there’s so much money to be made, the only way to stop it is to keep spreading the word – which is why posts like this are important.

  23. David, thanks for keeping this on the front burner for all to see. I concur that the main villains here are the scammers, but I actually hold the ‘enablers’ such as the book festival in even greater contempt. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see these operations for what they are, and the fact that these organizations are turning a blind eye is, in my opinion at least, unconscionable.

    1. I’m just commenting ^^THIS^^ because there’s no “like” function available.
      Author Solutions et al wouldn’t be able to pull this crap if the festivals didn’t take their money and look the other way.

      1. Ok, I get it now – it just took me a while. Thanks to all of you for making your points.

  24. This is disgusting beyond words, but it’s another sign of the slavish obeisance to money that is currently ruining our culture. They’re gonna run these scams as long as they can get away with it, and until people wise up and realize how they’re being taken advantage of, it won’t stop. All the warnings in the world aren’t going to make authors with stars in their eyes see the truth.

    Keep posting this stuff, though. I think it’s important to get the word out if one can.

    1. Theo, I absolutely agree with you that the root of the problem is the “stars in their eyes.” I’ve been watching authors and studying Indie publishing for some time, and I think, almost without exception, that that’s the biggest pitfall. Thanks for your comment.

    1. I understand your point, but Author Solutions has proved to be an expert at creating a veneer of legitimacy. Appearing at literary festivals like this is just one small aspect of that grand plan (and it really doesn’t help when they are invited to speak onstage at events like BEA either).

      Think about that (faux) legitimacy for a second. They are owned by the largest publisher in the world – Penguin Random House. They have partnerships with HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Writers Digest, Hay House, Sony, Overdrive and Lulu – all respected companies. For example, if you go to the Sony Ebookstore and look for information on how you can publish there, you are sent to Author Solutions – see here: – and it’s the same with Overdrive.

      On top of that, they run a number of fake websites, purporting to be independent publishing information sites, that only recommend Author Solutions companies.

      The people they target aren’t experienced writers/self-publishers. They target those *without* experience (and the knowledge and instincts that come with experience). These people look at the companies partnering with them, look at the company that owns them, see the festivals they appear at, see their ads in places like the New York Times and the Bookseller and they think “these guys must be okay.”

      I really don’t blame anyone for falling for it. I blame the companies that profit from this scam (Author Solutions and Penguin Random House). I blame the companies that partner with them to make a quick buck (a list too long to go through here). And I blame people like the Word on the Street Festival who allow the fox into the henhouse, and then turn a blind eye to their actions.

      1. I appreciate your reply but I don’t entirely agree with you. I think that before the internet this trap would have been easy to fall into, but, surely today, people who have any savvy at all understand that they need to do due diligence – and it’s all available at their fingertips! I used to be naive beyond belief, but after spending years of reading the net everyday, I’ve grown up a bit (that’s putting it mildly) – and that’s a good thing. 😉 It honestly is difficult for me to understand how (today) any adult would soak that kind of money into something without digging around first. End of rant.

        Since writing the above, I’ve spent a few more minutes thinking about it all, especially your comment in the fourth paragraph that : “The people they target aren’t experienced writers…They target those with experience…” I now more fully appreciate your point.

        It’s still interesting to me, though, how people can be so smart in some ways and so incredibly dense in others – but I’m sure I’ve been the same many, many times and probably will be again. 😉

        As always, thanks for your time and your POV.

      2. With all due respect, anyone who is prepared to spend the very considerable sum of $3,999 on anything without investigating it closely is partially to blame when they get taken advantage of. In the law, this would be termed contributory negligence.

      3. Great post David, but dude, Caveat Emptor. This kind of swindle is the second oldest profession. This is essentially the publishing industry’s version of mortgage bonds – buy up cheap product, repackage it and sell it off in parcels. Either way, the festivals are doing themselves and authors a grave disservice by allowing this to flourish. But in this hallowed blog space and, I would suggest, amongst our twitter followers, we are all preaching to the choir. I would encourage anyone providing comment to take it to the next step and voice your ire directly to the festivals’ organizers.

        They are the ones who need to hear the message.

        Short of that, we kickstart sponsor a booth for David to proselytize in the booth right next to AS.

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