Simon & Schuster Sets Up Sleazy Vanity Press

Simon & Schuster has launched a self-publishing operation called Archway Publishing – contracting one of the most disreputable players in the business to run the show: Author Solutions.

We’ll get to that distasteful link-up in a second, but first let’s have a look at what Simon & Schuster are offering prospective customers (i.e. writers).

This post is from 28 November 2012. 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 comment section remains open, as always.

Fiction packages start at $1,999 and go up to $14,999. If you have written a business book, prices are saucier again: $2,999 to $24,999.

While the upper end of the pricing spectrum is obviously shocking, some of you might think that $1,999 isn’t too bad if you are getting a proper edit and a decent cover.

Not so fast.

That price tag doesn’t include any real editing, just an assessment which – according to their own website – is “not a replacement” for editorial services but “a preliminary diagnostic tool.”

But what if you need proper editing? Fear not! Simon & Schuster is here to help. For just $0.035 a word, you can have a thorough edit of your book. Which sounds cheap until you realize that a standard 80,000 word novel would cost you $2,800. So, in actual fact, the cheapest package, plus their edit, will set you back $4,799 for a standard length book.

As if that wasn’t enough, Simon & Schuster will also take half of your e-book royalties – after Amazon and the other retailers take their cut – and pay pennies for print sales.

Not looking so reasonable anymore, is it.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “Those Simon & Schuster editors might be pretty damn good.”

Alas, Simon & Schuster won’t be lending any editorial expertise to this new operation; it will be run and staffed by… Author Solutions – the not-so-world-famous repository of editorial talent.

The whole operation has been outsourced by Simon & Schuster to Author Solutions. And in case you aren’t familiar with them, let’s go over a little history.

Dark History of Author Solutions

Author Solutions is the umbrella company which owns several seriously shady self-publishing service companies (or vanity presses, if you prefer) – such as AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford.

author solutions
How The Author Solutions Scam Works – a detailed breakdown.

Each of these companies has managed to achieve disreputable status on their own, but together they have screwed over more than 150,000 writers. Going through the full history of their rip-off schemes would require a book, rather than a blog post, so I’ll stick to the highlights.

The formidable Emily Suess has been covering Author Solutions for some time:

The short list of recurring issues includes: making formerly out-of-print works available for sale without the author’s consent, 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, and calling at least one customer a ‘fucking asshole.’

Read the above list carefully. Take a moment to consider it. This is the company that Simon & Schuster has hired to run their self-publishing operation – a company which was purchased by Penguin in July for $116m.

penguin author solutions

If you are unfamiliar with the charges above, the above post will give you a little more detail.

Penguin and Author Solutions

At the time of the purchase, some commentators expressed hope that Penguin would clean up this cesspool. Instead, Penguin gave Kevin Weiss – the head of Author Solutions – a seat on the board.

A seat on the board!

And the scammy behavior hasn’t stopped; in fact, some of it is getting worse. I’ve received reports of Author Solutions staff calling prospective customers and asking if they want to be “published by Penguin.” Yes, they went there.

Then, a month after Penguin’s purchase, Author Solutions were heavily criticized for their misleading marketing strategies by Victoria Strauss of industry watchdog Writer Beware.

Aside from the usual litany of dodgy affiliate programs and misleading “independent” websites, Author Solutions had now gone a step further: using fake people to tout their services. A social media profile for “Jared Silverstone” was decked out with a stock photograph, and sent out to hustle for Author Solutions – under the pretense of recommending them independently.

Since Fake Jared’s fifteen minutes of fame, I’ve seen similar “writers” and “publishing consultants” disingenuously promoting Author Solutions companies in various writing groups on Facebook. And they’re just the ones that slip through the net – the administrator of one popular Facebook group told me that she “turns away people like this all the time.”

The latest wheeze is even better: an army of spam bots, posting comments to writing and publishing blogs, attempting to both lead people back to AuthorHouse and boost SEO. I snapped a comment from one such bot on the blog of Porter Anderson last week (which hasn’t been deleted at the time of writing).

simon & schuster author solutions

Thank you, Author Solutions. The world really needed more spam bots.

A Predatory Business Model

Before you say that any writer who gets suckered only has themselves to blame, you must consider that Author Solutions is extremely disingenuous about how they target customers.

They prey on people who don’t understand the industry. Their entire business model is predicated on customer ignorance – and they are relentless at exploiting that, hounding people with incessant calls, pushing every emotional button they can think of, until they crack.

And it works. The average customer spends $5,000 getting their book published – which is crazy money – and Emily Suess has received reports of writers being tricked out of tens of thousands of dollars. After all that, the writers don’t sell anything anyway, and what little they do make is often delayed or unpaid altogether.

I can’t say it any plainer: Author Solutions is in the business of ripping people off.

That’s who Penguin purchased. That’s who Simon & Schuster hired to run their self-publishing operation. That’s who the Author’s Guild partnered with to help their members get books back in print.

150,000 writers have already been duped by Author Solutions. That number is likely to increase significantly now that Penguin has legitimized the company by purchasing them and Simon & Schuster has validated their business practices by hiring them.

Let’s make sure no more writers get ripped off.

UPDATE 29 Nov 2012: As you can see, this post has received a lot of comments. One in particular deserves highlighting, from a writer called Khloe on her experience with Xlibris (an Author Solutions company). She says:

“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 – the next 50 shades I was told I would be!”

This is the second such report I’ve received of Author Solutions using Penguin’s name to try and snare writers. The last person was asked (by AuthorHouse), “Would you like to be published by Penguin?” and then was offered the standard AuthorHouse packages, but with all sorts of promises about how “Penguin” would market their work.

Make no mistake, this is on Penguin. They knew what they were buying. Let’s recall the words of Penguin CEO John Makinson:

We spent time getting to know the people at Author Solutions and their sophisticated operation. They have skills that can help us at Penguin.

simon & schuster author solutions penguin
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.

222 Replies to “Simon & Schuster Sets Up Sleazy Vanity Press”

  1. Just wanted to say that in 2023, Archway is still very scammy. I made the mistake of giving them my contact info at a writer’s conference. The first month after, they called me daily – sometimes 2-4 times a day! I was in school at the time and had my ringer off most of the time, so I missed the first few calls. The flood that followed made me miss the rest deliberately. That sort of high-pressure follow-up set off alarm bells for me. I decided not to call them back. Even still, For SIX MONTHS they called daily or every other day. After that they dropped to weekly.

    Here it is over a YEAR later and they are still sending me emails from people claiming to be my “publishing assistant”. This despite the fact I have never once responded to them. They have never even seen a writing sample from me. It’s insane the amount of time they have devoted to chasing a potential sucker. I would never respond to a company that acts so desperate. It screams scam.

    1. I am being screwed over by Archway at this very moment. I spent the last of my savings to publish the book and immediatley I got a phone call from their high pressure marketing rep. wanting to sell me a marketing plan. I told him I was broke and had no money for a marketing plan. He told me that without the marketing plan my book would fail. So I’m now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Waiting 5 months before I can even find out how many copies have sold just being on amazon and other online booksellers. What can I do. But wait.

    1. HELLO DANIELLE , I just read an old post of yours . it seems I’m going through the same situation , cant find a publisher I can trust and feel comfortable with ! I’m trying to publish a children’s book , could you please put me in the right direction .. thanks Conrad Hosbach

  2. I was doing a mock up business plan in a field that I am likely to go into. I was looking for industry size when I found this. Sadly this isn’t the only company. They seem to thrive on the desire to make dreams a reality. All I can said to other writers please read this post and take it to heart. Thank you for trying to watchout for other writers.

  3. This is wonderful and alarming, sad, nauseating advice — so glad David has shouted out, and though it is now 2015, the word still needs to be spread. I’ve just published a biographical fiction on CreateSpace happily — because I was already an author and creative writing tutor aware of the scene. Only came across this blog as I crank up the publicity side of things. Is this Penguin, Simon & Shuster, Author SolutionsNOT still going on? Despicable.

  4. I would love to thank all of you for sharing this information. I would have never had the slightest clue. lately i’ve been conversing with xlibris and archway about publishing my book. After reading so much of this feedback, i’m truly reconsidering. I love to write and i will continue to do so. And I completely understand when a writer has written and shared what is meaningful to them on paper, then in return be manipulated by vultures. So now I guess my conclusion when it comes to dealing with publishing companies, you might as well cut your ear off just like Van Gogh and hand it to a prostitute. Very sad.

    1. Hi Antonio, you need to run away from Xlibris and Archway as fast as possible. Xlibris is an awful, awful company. Archway is the same (actually run by the same people/staff with identical services) just with a higher price-tag. Read my latest post on all these companies here:

      And if you want to know how to publish your book (and stay away from these predators), go here:

  5. I have a friend works in one of the imprints of Author Solutions. Unfortunately, she confirmed that are a lot of authors complaining about their royalties. Authors would claim that royalty checks that correspond with their book sales. The company never provides detailed sales report and always gets delayed for months. They’re not proactive in providing the information either, instead they direct authors to their websites for the said report, which is most of the time empty. Check this out:

  6. Am I happy I read this first. I was just about ready to sign up with Archway (Author Solutions?) tomorrow. Thx to all the writers who shared their experience and wisdom.

  7. offered my book ‘The Soul of a Poet’ – that was stolen 11 years ago by Author Solutions – for One Penny in the UK. How’s that for nerve (who have also declared on the www that they have sold OVER ONE MILLION COPIES!) and then then went on to offer it as a Collectable at $999.00c on the www. Also, recently stated that they have sold OVER 500,000 COPIES. Contact me for the full

    1. This sort of thing is pretty common on Amazon, Alfred; but it’s usually NOT Amazon doing it. Remember that Amazon has thousands of associate businesses using the Amazon Marketplace to sell their products. When you see books for a penny, or books for obnoxiously high prices, it’s almost always one of these Marketplace companies reselling a copy.

      This confuses a lot of writers, because they see “Amazon” selling their book long after it’s been taken down from whatever POD scam they got involved in. That’s not Amazon. It’s book sellers selling off their copies.

      Likewise – Amazon doesn’t say anything about the books it sells. The publisher does. So whichever Author Solutions company you worked with might have claimed it sold over one million copies. But nothing in the book dexcription is created by Amazon. It comes from the publisher.

      1. Then why the hell don’t authors get together and deal with this blight – as far as I’m concerned I hold both Author Solutions and Amazon responsible – Author Solutions because they are responsible for keeping my original manuscript safe -(even though I cancelled my Contract of agreement back in august 2002) and Amazon for allowing this to happen under their name. By the way, have you seen whats underneath your message? Author Solutions offering a Free Publishing Guide!!!! however, many thanks for the information (once more). If you can send me your Email Address I will send you my full Expose this coming week. All the best, alfred Campbell – The Scottish Author & Poet. Sunday 2/10/2013

      2. I don’t think Author Solutions or Amazon had anything to do with what you saw. People bought copies of the book. They can then resell those copies of the book. This sort of thing confuses writers often, as I said… They sign with Author Solutions, then later ask ASI to take the book down. ASI does, but the book is still available on Amazon! And for all sorts of crazy prices!

        That’s not Amazon selling the book. It’s not ASI selling the book. It’s not some thief making copies on the sly and selling them. There are a LOT of companies out there who resell copies of books, or grab POD book listings and put them on the Amazon Marketplace. They have automated systems which scan book catalogs and Createspace listings for this sort of thing.

        Short version: it is almost certain that nobody did anything illicit with your book. What you saw was almost certainly resellers using the Amazon marketplace to resell copies they had legitimately purchased.

      3. I still don’t buy into this explanation. I have it in WRITING that INGRAMS Print Co. claim to have sold only 11 copies – 5 of which I have, leaving just 6 in the entire World. In the last year there have been over 1,200 spread out over 11 countries. This book business is now so screwed up that most people can’t see the forest for the trees. Amazon themselves declared that 1,000,000 copies sold, also Alibris made a statement on their site to the tune of 500,000 Orders Filled – no other company was involved in these offers. I now have a 400 paged document of downloaded evidence, and intend to use that along with my Expose of the shenanigans of those, and another 125+ Co’s in this sorry senario. Thanks for your feed-back, wishing you continued good blogging. Alfred Campbell – the Scottish Author & Poet. Dania Beach, Florida.

  8. This is actually pretty frightening. I am self-published, and as a young member in the community I can not say I am well prepped or bright enough to know the business as well as i would like. But from reading this post, again, it scared the living soul out of me, I will pay more attention to the business, which in turn, could help me avoid spending thousands of dollars that I do not have on promises that will not be delivered. And right now, I am angry that there are people out there that would scam without shame, but such is the world…Thank you for this blog, very informative.

  9. I signed up with Matador Publishing in the UK thinking it would be too technically difficult to self publish my book (wrong!) and paid them £500 and they were rude, unhelpful, unprofessional and when they finally converted the book it was so terrible (words running into each other, random indentation on paragraphs, different fonts and print size, erroneous punctuation etc – and this is an ms I’d had professionally copy edited!) that I told them to withdraw it immediately. They refused saying they’d rectify the problem but the next version was just as bad. I finally got them to withdraw it and got my money back. Now I’m going solo! Thanks David – you’re doing a great job.

  10. Wow. I am fairly ignorant with publishing. My sister and I are both writers. She is 13 and I am 16 and for a few years now we have been looking into publishing, mainly self-publishing. We have looked at the sites for AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Traford. We also exchanged emails with representatives to learn more. We were weary about them because of the price. It didn’t help us to trust them that they had horrible grammar and spelling.They knew how ignorant we were because we had told them our ages so they were able to prey on that. We were thinking we might just be able to get the money up for it. After reading this my sister and I are both very glad we never decided to go with them.

  11. Ron Stephens/Detroit Working Writers: I see it this way, my fellow literates. It’s a lot like paying a fishing guide, one who also offers to clean your catch. If they’re such able fisherpersons, why are they sitting on the shore waiting for someone to come by…

  12. Alright, here’s the bright side:

    Writers who make a ton of money at their day jobs and want to get expenses written off for something they do as a hobby — write — listen up! Penguin and Simon and Schuster are THERE for you! That’s right, with their wonderful tax saving services, if you’re in that soulless job that brings home a ton of bacon and pushing into that tax bracket you just don’t want to pay, you too can take your blog postings, word documents, and other musings and make them into a book. What’s more, Penguin and Simon and Schuster aren’t just going to save you a bit of pennies like a token charity donation. No siree! At a MINIMUM they will help you write off $5,000 from your AGI, with no additional fee for this tax savings service! Buy marketing and editing services and watch yourself plummet to a tax bracket Mitt Romney pays in!

    So hurry up and check your My Documents folder, scrounge up a few thousand words and get a YourNameWriter email address from a free email service. There’s only 20 days left in 2012 to take advantage for this year’s tax burden, and don’t worry about 2013 and 2014. Thanks to IRS rules, you can have a business fail for 3 years out of 5 before you have to figure out a new tax scam to pay for your fun.

    ****This is COMPLETELY satirical in tone and I do not encourage anyone to knowingly take advantage of US tax law for a tax break on their hobby of writing.

    1. Well, you can always buy a Dressage horse and write off $77,000 on your tax returns. And then you can write a feel-good novel about a dancing horse that dreams of making it big at the Olympics, get Archway to publish it for you, and then write off $5,000-$25,000 more in hobby expenses.

      Naw, I think I’d rather chew my own leg off than deal with Archway.

  13. Thanks for sharing this, David! I only can watch and wonder why anybody would like to accept such horrible conditions …
    I’m proud to be an independent self-publishing author!
    Keep rocking and be wonderful!

  14. As a former in-house acquisitions editor at HarperCollins, a current ghostwriter and developmental editor, and successful author, I am not impressed by S&S’s self-publishing program. At least with Balbo, Hay House’s self-publishing arm, you have a shot at getting your book in front of people who love the HH brand. S&S doesn’t have a brand recognized by consumers looking for a particular type of book.
    Whenever you’re hiring an editor, you have to know who that person is and what their skills and background are. Otherwise, how can you know what you’re getting for your money?
    Here’s what I recommend for authors who want to self-publish nonfiction: Work out your outline and the beginning of the book, looking to other successful books as your guide, and then call in a developmental editor who can evaluate the material and advise you. If at all possible have a clear description of each chapter whether or not you do a whole proposal–don’t make the editor guess at what’s in each chapter. If you’re looking to sell the book to a publisher and need a book proposal, follow the standard templates and ask a developmental editor with an acquisitions background or success in shaping proposals that sold to evaluate it. A developmental editor will alert you to writing issues you need to be aware of, and will guide you on structural changes you need to make. This is the cost-effective way to get editing. Then, when you’ve gotten the ms. into the best possible shape, hire a copyeditor/light line editor to clean it up and create a style sheet for a proofreader to work from. Hire a proofreader and ask a friend or fellow author to be another set of eyes. And always, always check the resume of the person you’re hiring. Don’t write the whole thing and expect someone to restructure and rewrite it for a few grand! Invest time and money before you get off track. It’s disheartening to see how many people come to me with a manuscript in a shambles, a deadline they’re committed to, and nowhere near the budget to do a complete overhaul.

  15. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Are you freaking kidding me? Author/Writer BEWARE. Thanks to blogger David Gaughran for this post & to Dionne Lister (@DionneLister).

  16. I would not recommend working for them either. I used do freelance editorial evaluations for iUniverse. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to continue developing my editorial skills, which it was, but not in the way I had hoped. The amount of work they wanted us to do required much more time than the deadlines they would give and you were paid $75 per project. You got $100 if you had more experience. If you had no other work obligations of any kind then it was certainly possible to get through the manuscripts, but if you were a freelancer with other projects or working full time then it was not an easy task. We were also encouraged to recommend a service regardless if the manuscript needed it or not, and from the way we had to write up the assessments, it did not seem they would be would all that helpful to authors. The assessments focused so much more on whether the book would be marketable rather than whether it was any good. I stopped taking projects after a while because it just wasn’t worth it.

  17. Now that the sock-puppetry portion of this posting is finished, it’s nice to see it going back to the business of writing. Clay, good advice above, I would add one more. I;ve got five ficvtion books under my belt and a sixth in the works right now. One thing that is extremely important is to begin thinking of your novel as a product that needs to be targeted and focused before it’s marketed. Do you knopw exactly who its readers will be? Find four or five of them that perfectly fit the mold as close as you can determine, and offer them a beta read. You are not asking for a line edit. You are asking for impressions and suggestions dealing with plotting, character dev., conflict, etc. ONce the reports are back, thank them graciously (no matter what they say, of course) and digest the comments down into a useful set of guidelines that still work within the voice and style of your work without killing it’s spark. The result of a couple more rewrites like this will be a book that can be more easily read by your targeted reader. Next, have an editor take a look and correct the typos. Now you’re ready to begin pitching your book to the agents who handle that kind of fiction and have had recent successes with it. Best of luck. Self-publishing is a direction to consider also, for all the learning that’s in it. Be careful!

    1. Now you’re ready to begin pitching your book to the agents who handle that kind of fiction and have had recent successes with it.

      Very bad idea. Bad agents (and there are a lot of them, including some very famous agencies) are running their own pseudo-self-publishing scams. Good agents are finding that they have no leverage with publishers, so they are advising their clients to sign deals with grossly unfair and restrictive clauses. (Example: a publishing contract with a blanket noncompete clause — so for the next three years, you need your publisher’s written permission to write anything viewable by the public — even a blog post.)

      Kristine Kathryn Rusch recently discussed the issue in detail here:

      Money quote:

      Think long and hard before you hire an agent to handle your work for you. The business model no longer works in today’s new publishing environment so most agents are moving to dicey practices that, in fact, violate [their] fiduciary duties.

  18. I am one of thousands of unpublished writers who dreams of leaving my day job (I work in a prison) for the chance to do what I enjoy for a living. As of this point, I have no reputation and few writing credits. I do however have a book I think is great. In short, I am exactly the kind of person these fuckers want to make a victim out of. I think the key for new guys in the biz is to keep cool and wait for a deal that pays YOU for your work. After all, isn’t that the way life is supposed to be? You do work, and people pay you? I am not selling myself short, and I hope other new authors take the same spirit.
    Clayton J. Callahan, famous Correctional Officer & Unknown Author

      1. There are many advantages to self-publishing now. You can get real feedback on the quality of your work, you can build a fan bases that gives you leverage when negotiating a publishing contract and remember one job-related injury could turn you into a full-time writer.

      2. Nope, I have a great critique group to help me improve my work. I also have a fan base from my side business (I design role playing games). I survived three tours in the middle east so my work environment doesn’t scare me at all. I’m good.

  19. WOW, I had no idea it was getting this bad. I knew that Christian publishers had turned to this, with Thomas Nelson having Westbow which, and Charisma House offering some authors a buy in deal. The greed for easy money seems to be spreading. Where will it end?

    My guess is in the collapse of the big publishers as more and more authors are learning how to do their own publishing.

  20. Sadly, I went this route twice before I ran across other writers who chose to self-pub the RIGHT WAY. It was a very valuable and expensive (only crawling out from the debt some four years later) lesson to learn.

    About the only thing of any value I got out of this was a permanent tax deduction (Schedule C in perpetuity). However, I’m glad to say that I was able to regrough and get published the traditional way. If/when I decide to self-pub in the future, you can bet that I will take the advice from knowlegable writers (such as yourself) who have done it successfully over the advice from ASI.

  21. Fantastic post to which I can add nothing except an account of my own unsolicited contact with Author House who got my name from a writing site. I was harassed for months by some persistent hard seller who would just not understand NO. Never ever go near them!

  22. This is a great post. Do we know that the 50% royalty a guarantee? The publisher I work for, we give the author 100% of their royalties and they still don’t make a lot off of Amazon sales, because Amazon gets 55% and distributors a chunk, leaving authors with $3.00-4.00 a book. If S&S is getting 50% and the author is spending 10k to publish their book, you’re looking at best selling number to even start looking at breaking even.

    Also, has it been confirmed that S&S is using Author Solution staff members (IE editors, designers ect…)? If so, how are they going to get anyone to sign up? “Give us 10k, which does not include editing or marketing nor the slew of small charges we’ll add to your account along the way and in return, we’ll give .02 every time you sell a book.” Deal? Did we tell you that you’re being published by S&S?

    Holy sh** is this a scam!

  23. And here, I thought it was just a clever ploy to either turn prospective authors away from self-publishing or a cry for a shoulder to weep on because of the high costs they bear! Why, a Big-Six publisher wouldn’t stoop as low as to try and recover intrinsic support service costs at retail plus markups, would they? Would they let the bean-counters dictate their product line?

    OH! The Humanity! My Belief System is crumbling! I have no faith in Publishing Company’s Ideals!

  24. Dear oh dear. But the dodgy ethics of trade publishing aren’t new, they’re just taking a new and disgusting form. I once had two novels published by Simon & Shuster, long ago,and of course I thought I’d made it. I went down to London and was taken out for the obligatory lunch with the editor, intended to massage the writer’s ego, and I asked her which other novelists they published. She proudly quoted the name of a romantic novelist – can’t recall the name now, but I’d seen rows of her books in W.H. Smith’s – she said S & S had just paid a million or two to ‘buy’ her – they were brining out her new book next month. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘What’s she like?’ I got a patronizing smile from my editor. ‘She’s dead,’ I was told. ‘She died about 5 years ago. But it doesn’t matter. All her books are written by this ghost writer in Texas.’

  25. Many heartfelt thanks for publishing this blog. I was one of the mugs to fall for Trafford, who initially had a good reputation, but this went downhill when they came under AS and co. Anyway, I parted with the thousand for the set up of my book, and the high freight cost to send 20 copies to Australia. Okay, I put up with that, but then I was offered a email marketing campaign … later a Hollywood pitch campaign … more money thrown away. They wrote up some report for the Hollywood campaign which advised the book was not suitable for film … but were happy to take my money for that. They actually wanted me to fly to America to pitch my book … all at my own cost for flights and accommodation from Australia. I didn’t do it, of course. Now, the latest was an offer to hire literary agents to approach traditional publishers, put an ad in some magazine … all for about $14,000! What?! I said that was too much … oh a special deal … a talk to the manager and the offer was down to $7000. Still too much, I said. Then they made some other offer and I was saying No but she just kept talking. I hung up. She kept trying to call me every morning from America. I kept ignoring the call and answered an email from her. I said I was been harrassed. She replied it was not her intent but, fortunately, for now, stopped the calls. Phew! My second book is going with an Aussie publisher … never again Trafford and AS.

  26. I saw this over at Passive Guy’s blog and man, I’m blown away. The worst part is people WILL get duped into this sort of thing. I had a small run-in with iUniverse all because I asked to be sent information from the site. Over the next several months I received emails left and right as well as telephone calls. I eventually told them I started my own damn publishing company.

  27. Fred said; “…the printing of words so uninteresting and poorly authored…”
    Sounds like some traditionally published books I’ve read, and they did get SOME money thrown at them.

  28. David,

    Thank you for sending out the word. ” Let’s make sure no more writers get ripped off,” is the battle cry.

    The publishing industry is in such confusion. Could it be the S&S behmoth will become extinct?

    Linda Joyce

  29. Thanks for this bracing piece. I teach wonderful undergraduate writers and when I try to explain to them how the publishing world works these days, I’m so discouraged I don’t know where to begin. “Um.. it’s kind of like the Old West in movies, or maybe like a post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi film.” That’s what I want to say. Have you ever done a post titled “what young writers need to know”? Would you consider doing one if you haven’t?

  30. I paid under $1,000 to iUniverse for a self-authoring package and it taught me a lot about what I needed to do to get into print. Yes, I had to resist the marketing pressure for “add-ons” for everything. But I got a basic printed paperback book (Run Before the Rain-An Antediluvian Adventure) that, in my opinion, looks very nice. I paid a recent English Lit. graduate to do a creditable editing job for $500 and an artist $3,000 for a fantastic cover and eight illustrations (its an adventure book for young people.) I’m happy with what I paid iUniverse for.
    I think digital self-publishing is the way to go in the long run and will investigate that while I write the sequel.

    1. Michael, I’m afraid to say you could have got your book in print for much, much cheaper. Createspace is *free* and a far superior option to iUniverse in so many ways. KDP is also free for e-books, as are the rest of the e-book retailers. As you said, you had to pay for editing, illustrations, and covers separately anyway, so your only other costs if you had gone done the Createspace/KDP route would have been about $200 to $300 for print and e-book formatting and many authors do the latter themselves.

  31. Thank you David. I got scammed and force to write them a review before the book release. I got 5% royalties of my print book deal. I was heart broken, but I learned.

  32. I’m not an author, but this is interesting and illuminating. Personally, I think the problem stems from calling self-publishing “publishing” at all. Real publishing involves a raft of duties and performances, few of which emerge in “self-publishing.” But it sounds like many of you are too emotional and afraid to call it what it is: the printing of words so uninteresting and poorly authored that no one would actually pay to publish them. If you were good, someone would actually publish you. That’s the unfortunate truth. The price of self-publishing doesn’t matter. It’s an amount. It’s whatever it is. However, the idea that most of you are under the impression that there exists a fair price for such a charade DOES matter. And that’s where the cycle repeats.

      1. Don’t flatter yourself. A real troll wouldn’t evoke such long-winded and visceral responses. Lighten up dude. You’re awfully touchy about an industry that doesn’t really want anything to do with you. Anyway, good luck with your blog or whatever this little thing is.

      2. Ah yes, “the industry.” You have revealed yourself now and quite obviously work for a publisher. Only an arch-defender of the status quo would define “the industry” in such a narrow and archaic way.

        I couldn’t give two shits about “the industry.” The only essential actors in the publishing industry now are writers and readers. You don’t *need* all the other middlemen and so they now have to prove themselves as being worthy of a slice of the action. And the only middlemen doing that right now are the retailers like Amazon. Publishers? Agents? Not so much.

        Enjoy the disruption. It’s only getting started.

      3. <>

        This may be an oversimplification, but the sooner everyone concerned with writing realizes this the better they will all be. We still need some distribution method, and we need editors and others to assist us in writing and production, but we do not need anyone telling us WHO will get published and controlling everything in the process while dribbling a few pence to hard-working writers. Readers don’t need someone telling them what books they can read. By controlling what gets published, this is what it amounts to. Choice is nice–at least I think it is. Now writers and readers both have more choice and more freedom.

        Readers pay less and writers get paid more.

        That sounds like one of those win-win scenarios to me. Well, it is unless you’re a predatory publisher, I guess.

      4. “Catalina could feel his eyes _ watching her.” Really? Really. Watching her? As though eyes do anything else. No wonder you’re self-published. Shocker.

      5. From building straw men to ad hominem attacks – those opposed to self-publishing rarely engage in true debate.

        By the way, is it Simon & Schuster you work for or Author Solutions?

    1. Real publishing involves jerking authors around for decades before they condescend to publish a book, taking most of the money and completely trying to control who gets published and who don’t. Authors are not going to stand for that crap any longer. This post is insulting and poorly informed. I have only one question for you Fred: Which publisher do you work for?

    2. Fred, I think it takes a lot of gall to put down self-published authors when, by your own admission, you’re not an author yourself. Your opinion in this matter amounts to nothing.

      1. Sorry guys. Self-published means unpublished. It simply does. It means you’re living in pipe-dream land. Just try harder to get actually published. Then you’re an author. Until then, you’re a a scribbler with $5,000 to waste. If a real publisher doesn’t pay you to publish your book, move on with your life. Find another thing to suck at.

      2. Interesting theory, Fred. But speaking as someone who has been publishing both by other publishers and by the small press I founded, I have to disagree. I make significantly better income from publishing my own fiction than I did from working with traditional publishers. And I’m nowhere near an outlier; my self publishing sales are pretty modest.

        Published is as published does. As a professional writer, you go where the income is, and right now that means actively working the indie route with at least a portion of your work.

      3. Dear Fred, You’re quite confused by the change in publishing. If this were 2007, you’d be spot on, because being self-published meant “unpublished”. I would even say as of two years ago, self-publishing meant “unpublished”, but that was two years ago. Today, I was approached by a traditionally published author who has one of his books being made into major motion picture. They are on set right now and he has his seventh book in a series that he just finished writing. He looked at the numbers and said, “If I front the money, I’ll make a lot more money when it starts coming in.” Does that mean my author is “unpublished” or does he “suck at writing”? Maybe it’s both in your confused little head. Might want to consider sucking at something that doesn’t involve writing comments on blogs, because it’s public and people see how much you suck at…it

      4. By your definition, JK Rowling, Jackie Collins, and Mark Twain are unpublished, but Snooki and The Situation are real published authors. Which guardian of our literary heritage brought Snooki’s timeless tome to our attention? That’s right, Simon & Schuster. Here’s the book trailer they made.

        Luckily the bank takes a different view to you “Fred” – and cashes the (rather nice) checks I get every month.

      5. This guy is clearly a sock-puppet for some publisher. This type of rabid attack is typical of Author Solutions. Or perhaps one of the Amazon Forums Trolls who wanders away from their usual pit. The bottom line here is when someone has no valid argument to support their views they resort insults, ridicule, debunking and lies.

      6. Fred, examples of books that have been self-published: Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” which was the best-selling work in 18th century America; Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac”; “Ulysses” by James Joyce; “The Elements of Style” by E.B White; “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer; “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, to name a few.

        List of authors who have self-published: Deepak Chopra; Mark Twain; Ezra Pound; Virginia Woolf; Carl Sandburg; Edgar Allen Poe; Bernard Shaw; Stephen King; Rudyard Kipling; Gertrude Stein, and the list goes on and on.

        So, according to your theory, none of these books and none of these authors are any good because of the self-publishing element. The corporate publishing houses you’re so fond of is a distinctly late-20th century phenomenon that is beginning to pass by the wayside. You need to seriously rethink what publishing really means. Until then, O non-author you, stay out of conversation.

    3. Fred:

      You have no idea about what you are talking about.

      I self-published my first book over 20 years ago and have make a living at it ever since. The last seven years I have made a great living at self-pubishing with an income better than 90 percent of wage earners – and I only work two or three hours a day.

      My second self-published book “The Joy of Not Working” made me over $250,000 in its self-published format and has now made me a total of over $650,000 since it was published in 1991.

      Another one of my books “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” was turned down by 35 British and American publishers. So I self-published it in 2004 and it has now made more in pretax profits than “The Joy of Not Working”. It has now sold over 165,000 copies and is the best-selling retirement book on Amazon, outselling the name brand retirement books such as Random House/Ten Speed Press’s “What Color Is Your Parachuret for Retirement” and the “AARP Retirement Survival Guide”. Go to and type in “retirement” or “retire” into Amazon’s search engine and see which book comes in the number 1 spot.

      And I can give you examples of several self-published authors whose books have done much, much better than mine, in fact, earning in the millions of dollars.

      Incidentally, Random House and Wiley have both tried to pursuade me to turn my
      “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” over to them under a normal pubisher/author Agreement. I have told them to take a hike.

      Ernie J. Zelinski
      International Best-Selling Author
      “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
      Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
      (Over 165,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
      and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
      (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

      1. I don’t mean to cut in, but this was really interesting Ernie. What do you think you’re doing right that publishers aren’t? I daresay any publisher would have given you the returns you have gotten on your own. My kudos. I love hearing stories like this.

      2. So 35 publishers have better taste than 165,000 people who need to be told by a book how to retire. Great. I learned something. Have fun with your money Ernie, since evidently that’s how you measure what being published is.

  33. Good post, David. I wrote something of an angry/frustrated response myself, but this really outlines a lot of the details that I feared.

    $14,999… wow. How many book sales is that?

    1. Infinitely more than you will actually get out of the deal. Author Solutions have already made their nut just by selling you the package up front. They have zero incentive to actually market your books thereafter. And no reputable retailer will touch a product released by a known vanity press. (Amazon will list it on their website, but they make a fetish of listing everything — just on the million-to-one chance that somebody might want to buy that particular bit of the ‘long tail’. But they won’t order any copies for their physical inventory.)

  34. Another great article, David. A few years ago, I spoke to Author House and some other entities like this. Luckily for me, I had enough information to see through them. This latest development is another step in the wrong direction for the traditional publishing industry. In my view, they began committing suicide about twelve years ago when the started firing their senior editors. It’s been downhill ever since.

    1. Just a note: I never spoke to Author Solutions. The Author House reps were nice enough, but it made no financial sense for me to publish through them. I prefer to hire individuals whose work I respect: editor, cover artist, formatter. It can be expensive, but nothing close to $5,000.00 and up.

  35. I can’t help but get the feeling that this is a plan to punish Indy writers for not complying with the time honored practice of letting the Big 6 jerk them around for decades before they will publish a book. They know they can steal thousands from would-be authors and be virtually immune from legal action because no-one can guarantee a book will sell and it’s literally impossible to get legitimate proof of marketing and promotional efforts to sell a book from the people running the scam. So the victim has no legal recourse except to not get involved in the first place.

  36. Reblogged this on Russell Phillips' Blog and commented:
    If you’re thinking about using a company like Author Solutions or Archway Publishing, make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, and whether or not it’s value for money.

  37. Under $3000 is reasonable for an edit, but as you say, David, it is not done by S&S editors. The fact that S&S and Penguin are getting into bed with crooks will make me happy when they sink like a stone. The good thing is that you are warning authors out there. You will get karma points for that, David. If you have a good product, sign up with Bent Banana Books. At least the only thing bent is in our title.

  38. Yes, I know what your saying David. Just mentioning the AS banner because that is association enough to stop a writer from researching AS and Archway any further. Writers will just assume the new “imprint” will be run by Penguin, even if there is nothing said to that effect.
    I didn’t realize until reading your blog this morning, linked from WB, that Penguin has purchased AS. Makes it worse then the partnership I had previously thought they had entered into.

  39. I added an update to the post this morning. Here it is for all the comments subscribers:

    UPDATE 29 Nov: As you can see, this post has received a lot of comments. One in particular deserves highlighting, from a writer called Khloe on her experience with Xlibris (an Author Solutions company). She says:

    “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 – the next 50 shades I was told I would be!”

    This is the second such report I’ve received of Author Solutions using Penguin’s name to try and snare writers. The last person was asked (by AuthorHouse), “Would you like to be published by Penguin?” and then was offered the standard AuthorHouse packages, but with all sorts of promises about how “Penguin” would market their work.

    Make no mistake, this is on Penguin. They knew what they were purchasing, they haven’t changed any of the scammy behavior of Author Solutions in the last four months, and now they have lent legitimacy to their whole operation.

    Let’s recall the words of Penguin CEO John Makinson on the purchase of Author Solutions. “We spent time getting to know the people at ASI and their sophisticated operation,” Makinson said. “They have skills that can help us at Penguin.”

    1. I wonder if the PTB at Penguin have thought through their legal responsibility for owning this shady business. I am not a lawyer, but with Author Services playing up their connection with Penguin — & the very obvious fact that Penguin owns them — there seems to be a prima facie assumption that the editorial staffs at Penguin *will* play some role in the production of any book AS handles. I suspect that after a lawsuit — or the threat of one — forces upper management to send one or more senior editorial staff to look closely at what actually happens there, any reasonable business professional would make the argument for them to clean up AS, shut it down, or sell it off. There is a minimum ethical standard for businessmen, even in publishing.

      1. Mr. Gaughran:

        It’s a potato/potato thing.

        I think the original song lyric makes an appropriate comment about S&S, Penguin, Harlequin, and any other house that jumps on the vanity-press bandwagon:

        To-may-to, to-mah-to,
        Po-tay-to, po-tah-to,
        Let’s call the whole thing off!

  40. Excellent article. I was with Xlibris many years ago when they had a ‘free’ option. Yes, free if you didn’t need to make any corrections, or want a cover and all the rest of ‘standard’ things at publishers. I was a bit naive then. I still get emails from them even though my book is out of print with them for years, wanting me to buy ‘marketing packages’ and what have you. I’ve learned a bit since then, have been published with some reputable e-publishers (no charge for edits, cover design, layout etc.) and have also used Smashwords and Lulu for some self-publishing. I would never dream of going with someone like Xlibris or this new S&S venture either, I just couldn’t afford it.

    I’ve put a link to your article on my blog, the more writers we warn about this the better.

  41. I very nearly got sucked into Xlibris … Still trying to get my money back.

    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 – the next 50 shades I was told I would be!

    They talk a good game and definitely take advantage of the unaware newbie author.

    I’m just glad people like you are warning others and saving so many people money and heartache.
    Well done.

    1. The really bad thing about this is that if you spend $25000 to produce your book there is no way to insure that sales will happen. This allows these schemers to take unlimited amounts of money for marketing and promotions with not return on the money.

    2. Hi Kloe – thank you for letting us know about this. It’s the second report I’ve received of Author Solutions companies using Penguin’s name to try and snare writers. The last person was called up by AuthorHouse and asked, “Do you want to be published by Penguin?” and was made all sorts of promises about how Penguin would market his work now that they were a Penguin company. Which is a lie, of course.

      1. David, AS association with penguin is Posted in b/w on their web site.

        Everyone has expressed my shock over this already and so well. I’ll just add that this must feel like a slap in the face to a Penquin author, it would to me!

      2. The point is that Penguin will have nothing to do with the publication of any Author Solutions books, or the marketing of same. Writers signing up with Author Solutions won’t benefit from, say, Penguin’s brand or editors. Using Penguin’s name in this way is an attempt to hoodwink inexperienced writers. (Penguin will, of course, profit from all of this deception. They own Author Solutions. Which is why it’s on them.)

  42. A couple of years ago I did a Google search on self publishing and came across Xlibris and Author House. Xlibris offered a guide to self publishing which I requested, thinking it may be useful. What a load of crap it was. There was nothing remotely helpful in it, I was just as clueless about exactly what self publishing involved as I was before. It was nothing more than a marketing booklet. It went straight in the recycling. I also received persistant emails and phone calls about publishing my book, but I ignored them all. I, fortunately, managed to read between the lines. This company does not care about authors or quality writing, just their profit margins. It makes me cross that supposedly reputable publishers are consorting with companies like this. I can’t believe for a moment that Simon and Schuster didn’t do their homework before getting into bed with Author Solutions, so what does that say about them?????

  43. Holy scam, batman. Fake Jared, really! And yet Amazon keeps removing my little book’s real reviews by real readers under some pretense of cleaning up publishing. And yet this can go on with nasty Authorhouse spambots and all. Not surprised, just sickened by it. How do I get a seat on that board?

  44. I would like to think that I, and other writers, would be too astute to fall for this kind of predatory practice, but we need this cautionary note Obviously the people behind this are as clever as they are nefarious. Glad to see that so many are putting this post on their blogs. Let’s not let them get away with this!

  45. Good catch, Dave. Saw the short version over at DWS blog and I knew you’d have the fleshed out one here. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  46. Thanks, as always, David. I was not aware that xlibris, iuniverse, Trafford and author house all belonged with this group too. Not that I would use any of these myself, but I will stear others of them as well.

  47. This is a sad state of affairs, and it’s been going on for a long time. It also shows how desperately people want to get published, and that won’t change. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell those folks to slow down and learn about the industry before paying out money to see themselves in print.
    It’s also hard to get the hundreds of thousands who are throwing up books on Amazon and other book sites to understand that there’s more to storytelling and quality writing than just putting it down on paper…and then they wonder why no one is buying their book. It takes not only a great book but lots of marketing, too…just my humble opinion.

  48. Here we go again. The biggest thing the new wave of self publishing has done, alas, has been to provide a steady crop of idealistic and naive new authors for the predatory ‘publishers’ like this. I got into the publishing services business precisely because I got sick of seeing my writing students get ripped off for thousands of bucks for nada! I’m not surprised that the legacy houses are after that cash cow but shame on them!

  49. It bothers me that there are so many predators out there for the uninformed. I recently did a presentation on independent publishing at a session where the other author had their book published through Author House. I just wanted to shake my head and cry as the person described some of what they went through because they still didn’t realize that they were a victim of unscrupulous practices. Even more scary were those listening who might decide “if that’s how this person got their book published, it must be legit.” I did have several slides on “author beware” describing exactly such practices and can only hope they took my warnings to heart.

  50. Thanks for this important information. A friend of mine used iUniverse and they are lousy. So is Author House. I discovered Aventine Press a few years ago and have been very pleased with them. You are providing a valuable service with these posts, David. Sharing this one with all my writer friends, too.

  51. There are far too many companies out to prey on the would-be writer. That is why I started Richter Indy publishing. I publish PODs and eBooks for a flat rate with no royalties or contract. You give me your edited and proofed manuscript and I turn it into a POD paperback and an eBook. I have actually done two jobs for clients who were being robbed by Xlibis and Trafford. They were delighted by my economical and quick publication of their work. I started the publishing to help my writer friends who seem to be constantly sold a bill of goods that you need to spend huge amounts of money to produce a book. If it isn’t that them there are a million books on how to write and publish books. Anyone wanting free advice on how to self-publish gets it from me. Any questions? I can be found on facebook.

  52. I’ll help spread the word about this scam.

    Am I the only one who sees the funny side of this? Traditional publishers struggle to make money with legitimate publishing, so in their desperation, they turn to rip-off scams. I see it as a sign of admission that traditional publishing, as a business sector, has failed. .

    Of course, the traditional publishers (as well as the agents and other parasites involved) insist that “Authors need traditional publishers!”

    Yeah, sure. Just as we need tapeworms in our guts 😀

    1. Too right. My first reaction was to howl with laughter at the absurdity of it; but of course, it’s serious and horribly sick as well. But paying $5,000 to have your book published, when you can publish for free and get a top class cover and editing for a tenth of that, or less? There are a lot of poor naive victims out there.

      Once again, many thanks to David for excellent investigative journalism, which helps us all. I’ll reblog it too.

  53. Reblogged this on shadesofgay and commented:
    Absolutely required reading for anyone new to the world of self-publishing…

  54. Great stuff!

    Others have reblogged the first couple paragraphs with a link, but with your permission, I would like to blog a little more but still link to the rest of the article as everyone else has done. I would like to go to the first subheading, right before you start talking about the history of Author Solutions.

    I’ll also gladly link to books on Amazon or whatever other links you want. If you like the idea, please send me an email.

  55. Definitely beware. Author Solutions is all about selling books to you, the author. I published a book through Balboa Press, an imprint of Hay House that I subsequently found was outsourced to Author Solutions. Because of the way they do things and the nature of my book, I had to set the type myself, format the ebook, and write my own press release.

    The book got lost in editing, delaying publication for months. When it was published, there was a problem with the ebook version that kept it from being linked to the print edition at Amazon. When the problem was rectified, it caused the ebook to lose its sales rank on amazon. And the print versions were grossly overpriced ($35 for hardcover, $17.98 for paperback). As a result, the book sales are minimal, especially compared with subsequent volumes in the series that I have self-published.

    Author Solutions calls me once a month to see if they can sell me more paper copies of my book. I am preparing to send Balboa a written request to dissolve my contract with them and publish a new edition of the book on my own.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and sorry to hear about your troubles. I’m glad to hear your subsequent self-published work is doing better. Good luck with dissolving that contract. If you have any trouble, come back to me.

      1. Thanks. There shouldn’t be any trouble, though they might request that I buy the proofs from them. I can’t see that, considering I set the proofs myself. I provided the cover image as well. If they do try to pull that, I will issue it as a new edition.

      2. I should probably add that Balboa was recommended to me by a big west coast literary agent, to help build my platform and shoeing my way into Hay House. They really play up their affiliation with Hay House, especially the idea that Hay House editors review all of their publications with an eye towards acquiring them under their own banner. Once on the assembly line at Balboa, I found that Hay House’s interest was hardly more than a glance at the slush pile.

  56. Makes me very sad and very angry to see these big publishers take advantage of unknowing writers. I’ve really lost respect for most of these companies who would dare to do this. I think this is a great opportunity for indie authors to shine and show these companies that we don’t need them to be successful.

  57. As an emerging writer with VERY little knowledge about how the self-publishing market works, I really appreciate this piece. It makes me sad that people would take advantage of you when all you want to do is share your story with the world. I’d sooner post a chapter a day on my blog for the next month if it meant people could read my words without any of us being taken advantage of. This is both sad and a little discouraging. 🙁

  58. Haven’t read all the comments, so someone else may have mentioned this. A MASSIVE downside to using this service (aside from being shamelessly gouged) is the loss of ability to influence your visibility on Amazon. As far as I can tell, you won;t have access to the KDP interface. I believe David is working on a book about this topic.

    1. And not just that. No live sales reports – making it difficult to measure the effectiveness of marketing, delayed payments (on paper, in reality, difficulties getting paid at all are widely reported), and I’m willing to bet they don’t put your book in the right categories on Amazon.

  59. Reblogged this on C h a z z W r i t e s and commented:
    This post from David Gaughran from Let’s Get Digital is equal parts enlightening and depressing. It also reinforces the idea that we gave Penguin and Simon and Schuster too much credit. Read on! ~ Chazz

  60. David, thank you so much for this information. I work with a lot of self-publishing authors who work hard to do their homework and become savvy marketers, and they’re going to love this article and all the comments. Simon & Schuster isn’t fooling anyone I edit for! I’m reposting this on my facebook page.

    And Ruth Harris, that acronym is hilarious. Thanks for that!

  61. Thank for this, David, as always. Even though I think I’m cynical, Penguin and S & S’s foray with Authorhouse is shocking. It makes me think we gave the former houses too much credit for being sentries of the arts all along. As for the latter, I’m gobsmacked such a business model could work at all. Sadly, I’m not cynical enough, am I?

  62. Honestly, there are a lot of ways that traditional publishers could enter the indie market and make me sit up and cheer. Unfortunately, this type of thing just makes me more disgusted with trad publishers and more convinced that I want nothing to do with many of them.

  63. I get so depressed reading info like this. It’s more important than ever to keep ourselves informed, educated. I’ll spread the word too. Thanks for the post.

  64. Actually, 3.5 cents per word for professional editing is average, depending on the level of editing. For a stylistic edit that’s a hair high, but for a developmental edit that is way low; some pros charge 5 cents per word and up for substantive edits. Go to the Editorial Freelancers Association website for a peek at current accepted pricing for freelance editing and writing services. That said, poor reputations are earned just as much as good ones.

    1. I’ll agree the price they charge for the editing is within industry standards. It’s everything else they are charging, plus the false advertising, failure to pay over royalties… and no reputable editor would take payment upfront AND keep a huge percentage of royalties.

  65. Just reblogged this. Your thinking is sharp here. Thanks so much David! This is a wild frontier, without doubt. I think this venture has to fail pretty quickly if they don’t shift gears (my suggestion would be 100% royalties at least). Paying up front in today’s book world is certainly silly. But fools and their money…is that not what makes the world go round?

  66. Reblogged this on and commented:
    David Gaughran is someone to pay attention to on these issues. I think the venture he writes about will be short-lived and the market will take care of itself pretty quickly. I may be wrong. But I do think that in the spirit of free enterprise their are consumers who are going to need to pay a price before all is said and done (they already have been, of course, but the suckers who are born every minute have always put food on people’s tables).

    That said, the most important thing here is for writers to understand what independent publishing is about. Focused, “hand-crafted,” detailed oriented artists have always been able to find great satisfaction in their work. Readers should go out of their way to support those efforts. This is just another reason to ditch books by corporate houses on principle.

  67. I don’t see a lot of victims in this situation. I see thousands of desperate writers who charged into a publishing deal without understanding it. Self-pubs rarely offer editing or marketing services, unless you pay extra. No big secret.

    1. You don’t see a lot of victims here? Did you read the information on any of the links? Even if you don’t care about the vastly inflated prices, horrible royalty rates, the underdelivery of services, and the way Author Solutions prey on inexperienced writers with disingenuous marketing, watchdogs like Writer Beware and bloggers like Emily Suess have documented – in some detail – author complaints regarding Author Solutions companies including: publishing e-book editions without permission, charging more than was agreed, and non-payment of royalties owed.

      1. Yes I’m aware of the issues, David. The educated author will know either how to work the system or to keep walking. The vast majority of writers I meet, have no interest in such education. They just want to see their name in print, and charge ahead in ignorance. Their fault, and their loss.

    2. Sure, you need to pay extra. But you can get decent copyediting for under $2000, good cover art for $100, publish on Amazon and keep 70% of the sale price. Where these guys are charging over $4000 for basically the same services, whole hounding you horribly, and only letting you keep 35% of the sales price? That’s a rip off, plain and simple. And that doesn’t even include the false advertising, hounding potential customers and failing to pay royalties.

  68. From the amazing “” website David referenced in July in a guest blog on Indie Reader: where Author Solutions and others are referred to as “top indie book publishers.” WHAT do they think indie means??!

    1. What other types of services do indie book publishers make available to authors?

    Most of the top indie book publishers provide an array of editing, marketing, publicity, illustration, design, distribution, and other services to assist authors in realizing their publishing goals. Some offer editorial and marketing evaluation services too. Authors can choose as few or as many of these services as they like, depending upon their needs.

    2. Why do I have to pay to get published?

    Have you ever heard an indie film maker or band complain about investing his or her own money to get their work produced and distributed? Indie film makers and musicians invest in their work because they believe in it and want to make it available to their fans. Indie book publishing does the same for authors. Your goal is to get published, not wait patiently for rejection letters from publishers. Get your book out to readers and let them decide if they like it.

    1. Indie filmmakers do not give anybody the right to take a cut of the film equivalent of royalties until their film is picked up for distribution and they get the film equivalent of an advance. In other words, they shell out money to make the work, and when they get distribution they get a chunk of money. THEN the studio pays royalties on the net (they always suck) and the studio is responsible for marketing, printing copies (really expensive), distribution and advertising.

      Are you seeing the difference?

      These publishing operations take money at the front end for services and then take money at the back end *without offering an advance.*

      In addition, having worked in Hollywood (but not the music industry) I promise you it is not a business you want to emulate for authors.

      1. I’ve worked in the music industry – trust me – it’s just as evil, and not to be emulated in any way, shape or form by anybody doing anything. Especially authors.

  69. Reblogged this on Steve Umstead: Paginations and commented:
    David Gaughran’s got a great breakdown on a massive dick move by a major publisher, somewhat under the radar. Around $5k to publish, pennies on the dollar on royalties. Wow, such a deal. Writers beware…no seriously, if you’re looking to self-publish and considering a service to assist, PLEASE read his article first.

  70. So much for S&S’s reputation. I guess they’re so big now, they don’t care about it anymore. This is sad news.

    To answer a question posted earlier, I’m a freelance editor (no, I’m not looking for business; I’m booked solid) and I charge what amounts to one to two cents a word, depending on the quality of the writing. It also depends on how “high maintenance” the author is. (I actually bill by the hour at the end of the job, including my time spent editing or explaining my edits. Writers usually want an estimate up front, however, so I converted my editing speed to a price per word so that I can provide an estimate.) I determine the estimate after looking at a couple of pages of the author’s work and then sharing my feedback with the author. Based on the writing sample and the author’s reaction to my critique, I then decide what rate to quote. Or I decide not to take the job at all sometimes.

  71. These big publishers aren’t doing themselves any favours with authors by going with these companies. It is no surprise that more and more authors are now self-publishing ebooks, when this sort of thing is happening in the publisher industry.

  72. I’ll bet the Simon & Schuster goons who dreamed this up are big fans of FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM:

    “In reading Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, I was fascinated by the two publishers featured (Garamond and Manutius). Garamond is the “big name” press that the main characters work for. Manutius is basically a vanity press. However, Manutius is owned by Garamond. Garamond press publishes works that they think will sell. Manutius publishes works that authors pay for. When an author brings a work to Garamond that Garamond doesn’t want to publish, they suggest the publisher around the corner (Manutius). The author isn’t told that the two are owned by the same person. When the author goes to Manutius, their manuscript is looked over and the author is told how wonderful it is. Unfortunately, they are “ahead of their time” and Manutius is afraid that not many copies will sell. But if the author is willing to underwrite (pay for) the publishing, Manutius is willing to print the copies. If the author agrees, they sign a contract in which a minimum number printed is not specified but that the print run includes 200 author copies. Verbally the author is told that the first run will be 2000 copies. The author copies are printed (at the author’s expense remember) and shipped to the author. After six months a letter is sent to the author saying that it is as Manutius feared, the books just aren’t selling and as is written in the contract, Manutius has the right to pulp the remaining copies unless the author wishes to purchase them at a reduced price. Many times the author will purchase additional copies this way (even though technically they have already paid for them in the original payment for printing). In order to encourage authors to finance their own publication, the owner of Manutius will take them out to dinner with other published authors and butter them up. He will pull out an encyclopedia of who’s who among authors and show entries for authors previously published by Manutius (at the author’s expense of course). What the authors don’t know is that Manutius/ Garamond publishes and writes this encyclopedia. They take really famous authors and make a very short entry for them in the book and then take a Manutius author whose name is close alphabetically and put them in with a very long entry. It is a complete scam and Manutius makes lots of money doing this. However, as they see it, it is a win win situation. The author wants a book published so he/she can show friends and tell neighbors that they are a published author. Unfortunately their work isn’t anything that any standard publisher will publish (not enough market for it etc.). In steps Manutius. For the writer with money, they can say they are published and pass around copies of their work and are happy, and Manutius makes money.”

  73. Have spread the word to a bunch of writerly LinkedIn groups where I am a member. Will reboot over on my blog later. Great article, David. Let’s try to get the word out about this one, folks. The less writers scammed by this, the better.

  74. It’s discouraging, isn’t it? And a measure of how difficult people can find it in this business… after they’ve beaten their heads against the brick wall of agent queries and attempts to get into the trad publishing houses, they figure, well… I’ll just go the “indie” route. Only they’re too business-skittish or technically challenged (or think they are) to do it themselves, so they decide they’ll simply pay some legit outfit in order to get launched. And pay they will.

    But they’ll never get there.

  75. David, There’s a military acronym for this: BOHICA.
    Bend Over Here It Comes Again.

    Or, as a lawyer once told a writer friend of mine who’d sold his book to Hollywood: “They got ways to fuck you you haven’t even thought of yet.”

    Writers need to smarten up about the business they’re in. Thank you for writing this necessary post!

  76. Reblogged this on Author Jolea M. Harrison and commented:
    Writer Beware! This sort of thing is infuriating, especially coming from supposedly reputable companies like Simon & Schuster. Respect factor – zero! Thanks David Gaughran for researching this and other writer scams!

  77. Ho. Lee. Crap. I couldn’t even wrap my brain around this type of suckage when it was NOT part of S&S. This is just disheartening, as thousands will most likely continue to sign up to the tune of five large and pennies on the dollar royalties.


  78. Unfortunately, David, willful ignorance seems to be the modus operandi of many, many writers. Even when you shove the evidence in their face, they wave you away and say, “THEY promise to take care of me so I don’t have to worry about that business stuff.” A few months ago I had a writer tell me it was worth $5000 to her to see her book in print at the bookstore. I asked her if she’d ever seen an Author’s Solutions edition in a bookstore, she said, “It’s not like I care who the publisher is.”

    Okay then.

    I’ve known for a long time that the big publishers had lost respect for writers. This latest instance of jumping on the vanity publishing bandwagon gives me another reason to lose respect for them. Shees.

  79. Totally shocked and not happy that they dare announce such ridiculous prices. I sure hope writers will take a step back and use caution.

    Though… once word gets out that Penguin have sided with them, some writers may go in blind.

    Another epic post to highlight the demons amongst the doves.

  80. Points well made. Question – what would you expect a top-notch developmental edit on a first time novel with beginner-type issues to cost?

    1. That can be something of a “how long is a piece of string” question as many editors charge by the hour. Usually, you send them a sample which they edit and return with an estimate for the work required. To be clear: that’s not what is on offer from Simon & Schuster/Archway/Author Solutions. The package contains what is basically a manuscript assessment, and the figure I quote is for a line edit.

    2. Based in the UK, it’s not uncommon to pay approx £500 for a Copy-Edit from someone with good rep.

      Prizes will vary and go up with veterans.
      And if someone costing a lot less catches your attention, do get a one chapter sample with them and compare to others. Knowing that they spot 99% of issues is key when parting with hard-earned money.

    3. On my web site I keep a list of self-publishing resources, including a list of editors, and most of the developmental editors who list prices are around or just under .01/word (u.s. pennies), which might be $750-1000 U.S. for most novels. Copy-editing or proofreading only would cost less.

      It can vary depending on how clean the mss. is when submitted, of course, and not all editors list their prices so some may be much more expensive, but at .035/word, Author Solutions is charging way more than average.

      Also, as David says, most editors will do a sample edit for you as well, and AS isn’t offering that standard service. It’s important to pick an editor who you are comfortable working with, not just one you can afford.

      It really isn’t standard either to give a freelance editor ongoing royalties. Self-publishers can contract for the work they need for flat rates that are much lower than anything AS offers.

  81. Thanks for fighting the good fight on this David! I re-posted my earlier AUTHOR BEWARE blog post about Penguin’s acquisition of Author House, just because I can’t stand that there will be some of my author-friends that fall for this.

    1. Thanks Susan–and David, for pointing out the folly here and helping to educate newbies who might fall for this. The Big 6-5-4….or whatever they are today… had a lot of directions they could go in answer to the indie revolution. Jumping into scam vanity publishing wasn’t one of the smarter ones. I hope this is the huge, embarrassing failure it deserves to be.

    2. My11 years daughter finshed writing her book. She got in contact with authors solutions and got me hocked with them. finished all my payments since 4 months, not deliverables yet. they took my hard earned money and the dream of my little one.

      any advice on how to get my money back?
      any advice for a trusted publishing agent?

      what a painfully experience … would do everything I could to protect others from such stress.

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