Penguin Random House announced the sale of Author Solutions on Tuesday, leading to headlines stating it has exited the self-publishing business and various commentators congratulating it for cleaning house. Unfortunately, neither of those things are true.
Four Penguin Random House-owned vanity presses will remain in operation – Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa, and MeGustaEscribir – and will be run as Partner Imprints. You can read more about how Partner Imprints work here, but the short version is that Author Solutions will operate these four vanity presses on behalf of Penguin Random House, and PRH’s job will be to provide leads (aka newbie writers), lend its name and brand to the effort, and then sit back and collect its commissions.
This is precisely how Author Solutions operates Archway Publishing on behalf of Simon & Schuster, Westbow for HarperCollins, and Balboa Press for Hay House, among others. In short, Penguin Random House is still in the vanity business, it’s just flying under the radar – along with many more famous names in the industry. Read More…
This new Spanish imprint from Author Solutions also continues the trend of very close integration with the local Penguin Random House operation – one aspect of the merger and subsequent reorganization that doesn’t receive any attention in the trade press.
MeGustaEscribir is being marketed as “the supported self-publishing platform of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial” and the logo of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial (PRH’s Spanish subsidiary) is all over the site.
This strategy of closer integration was flagged long in advance. When Penguin Random House Chairman John Makinson appointed company man Andrew Philips as CEO of Author Solutions in May 2013, he said that “a new chief executive from within Penguin would connect the business more closely to Penguin’s curated publishing activities.” Read More…
The more you study an operation like Author Solutions, the more it resembles a two-bit internet scam, except on a colossal scale. Scammers work on percentages. They know that only a tiny fraction of people will get hoodwinked so they flood the world’s inboxes with spammy junk.
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.
Author Solutions also needs to aggressively pursue new business because its existing customers don’t come back for more. According to figures released by CEO Andrew Phillips, Author Solutions and its subsidiaries have published 225,000 titles by 180,000 authors – an average of 1.25 titles per author. The lack of repeat business is in stark contrast to someone like Smashwords which has 310,168 titles from approximately 80,000 authors – an average of around 3.88 per author. Read More…