Publishing Is Rotten To The Core Bewares Publishing

There is something seriously askew with the supposed values of the publishing business. The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets. As always, I’m conscious of whose agenda this serves and why writers allow themselves to be used as pawns in this game. Exhibit A: Harlequin Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using extremely common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company (and many other multinational corporations too). You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree), but these actions are Read More…

Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

A group of bestselling traditionally published authors – including James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Douglas Preston – engaged in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy on Thursday with an open letter calling on Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette. The letter is incredibly disingenuous. It claims not to take sides, but only calls on Amazon to take action to end the dispute. It also makes a series of ridiculous claims, notably that Amazon has been “boycotting Hachette authors.” Where do I start? The Phantom Boycott First of all, refusing to take pre-orders on Hachette titles is not a “boycott.” Pre-orders are a facility extended to certain publishers – not all publishers. Many small presses don’t have a pre-order facility. Most Read More…

Writer's Digest Dumps Author Solutions  Bewares

I have some huge news: Writer’s Digest has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions. Abbott Press – the imprint launched by Writer’s Digest, parent company F+W Media, and white-label vanity press provider Author Solutions – is still operational, but all ties to Writer’s Digest have been cut. It appears that Abbott Press will now be run directly as yet another Author Solutions brand but Writer’s Digest and F+W Media will have no further connection with it. (If you are unfamiliar with Author Solutions and its awful history, this will bring you up to speed.) Writer’s Digest and F+W Media refuse to comment, despite being given several opportunities, but I’ve had this news confirmed by multiple sources. As Author Solutions only Read More…

Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions  Bewares

I have some huge news: Writer’s Digest has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions. Abbott Press – the imprint launched by Writer’s Digest, parent company F+W Media, and white-label vanity press provider Author Solutions – is still operational, but all ties to Writer’s Digest have been cut. It appears that Abbott Press will now be run directly as yet another Author Solutions brand but Writer’s Digest and F+W Media will have no further connection with it. (If you are unfamiliar with Author Solutions and its awful history, this will bring you up to speed.) Writer’s Digest and F+W Media refuse to comment, despite being given several opportunities, but I’ve had this news confirmed by multiple sources. As Author Solutions only Read More…

The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers Bewares

The more you study an operation like Author Solutions, the more it resembles a two-bit internet scam, except on a colossal scale. Internet scammers work on percentages. They know that only a tiny fraction of people will get hoodwinked so they flood the world’s inboxes with spammy junk. While reputable self-publishing services can rely on author referrals and word-of-mouth, Author Solutions is forced to take a different approach. According to figures released by Author Solutions itself when it was looking for a buyer in 2012, it spent a whopping $11.9m on customer acquisition in 2011 alone. This money is spent on: Paying bloggers, websites, and companies a “bounty” based on how many writers they can deliver to Author Solutions. Buying Read More…

This Is The Kind Of Competition Publishers Want Publishing

Since the huge shift to online purchasing and e-books, a common meme is that there is some kind of “discoverability” problem in publishing. The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering. The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem. Amazon regularly gets slated for purported anti-competitive actions, but it has done more to create the digital marketplace Read More…

Why Is The Media Ignoring Author Exploitation By Publishers? Bewares

The Amazon-Hachette dispute has caught the media’s attention. But what about the story the media refuses to cover? The media is more concerned with one-sided accounts of Amazon’s perceived actions – when no one really knows the exact nature of the dispute. The media is more concerned with what Amazon might do in the future, than actual author exploitation by the world’s largest trade publisher: Penguin Random House. Penguin Random House owns the world’s largest vanity press – Author Solutions – which is currently subject to a class action for deceptive business practices, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violation of business statutes in California, New York, and Colorado. The court papers cover the same ground that I’ve been blogging about for the Read More…

Publishers Weekly Ignores The Real Scandal At LA Times Festival of Books Bewares

Publishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books, resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal. Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon. I’m not so sure that charge sticks. Either someone at the event buys the book in front of them or they don’t. Read More…

A Victory Against Author Solutions Bewares

It should be clear to everyone now that Penguin Random House has no intention of cleaning up Author Solutions. The only development since Penguin purchased the company for $116m back in July 2012 is that Author Solutions has aggressively expanded operations (see here, here, here, here and here). I’ve been covering the Author Solutions story for a while now – particularly since the Penguin purchase, which was met with disbelief in the author community.  It’s a frustrating beat, especially when faced with a wall of silence from the many companies and organizations in traditional publishing who have links to Author Solutions and its subsidiaries. Documenting the links between Author Solutions and the rest of the publishing world is depressing work. Read More…

Bloomsbury Seeks Deal With Author Solutions Bewares

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

Author Solutions Takes Signing Scam To Miami Book Fair Bewares

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

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

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

Penguin Random House Merger Helps Author Solutions Exploit Writers Bewares

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

The Bookseller Hires Author Solutions Exec To Spout Propaganda Bewares

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

The Author Exploitation Business Bewares

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