Vanity and The Media

Experienced authors tend to chastise vanity press victims for not doing sufficient research, but the murky web of vanity partnerships — and the uncritical coverage which invariably accompanies same — makes it exceedingly difficult for newer writers to chart a safe path.

Some vanity presses are very good at crafting a veneer of legitimacy, one which can be very convincing to those starting out. Infamous vanity press conglomerate Author Solutions figured this out very early on, creating partnerships with Penguin, Harlequin, Writer’s Digest, Random House, HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson, Hay House, Reader’s Digest, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.

These partnerships served two purposes. First, they delivered an endless stream of victims directly from the companies themselves who would refer business to Author Solutions in return for a cut. Second, they helped Author Solutions whitewash its past, acting as a reputational fig leaf, hiding its seamy nature until it was too late. Read More…

Author Solutions Steps Up Global Expansion, Penguin Random House Integration

Penguin Random House is speeding up the international expansion of its vanity press operations, while also seeking to integrate them more closely with the traditional side of the business – hoping to counteract flat growth for Author Solutions at a time when self-publishing is booming. Author Solutions launches a new self-publishing service company for the Spanish market next Tuesday – MeGustaEscribir – which contains the usual mix of crappy publishing packages and ineffective, overpriced marketing services, as well as some extremely questionable practices such as reading fees (more on that below). The way the Author Solutions scam typically operates is detailed exhaustively in this post, but here’s a brief summary. How Author Solutions Squeezes Newbie Writers Customers are captured through Read More…

Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

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…

The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers

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…

Author Solutions Takes Signing Scam To Miami Book Fair

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

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 Boosts Giant Scam

Defenders of the deal claimed that Penguin would clean up Author Solutions – a universally reviled vanity press which has been slammed by every watchdog in the business, and which is currently the subject of a class action suit for deceptive business practices.

Needless to say, all that has happened in the year since is that Penguin has aggressively expanded the operations of Author Solutions – a task that is a little easier when you can add the names of two historic publishing houses to your logo, and to your sales pitches.

As you can see from email excerpt below, AuthorHouse is trading off the Penguin Random House merger to try and hoodwink their customers into buying a massively overpriced YouTube advertising package that simply won’t sell any books. Read More…

The Vanity Press Scam At The Heart of Publishing

Those working in the publishing business like to pretend that the vanity press scam is something which happens on the fringes of the industry, but the most lucrative vanity presses are run by the biggest publishers and the most famous brands. 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 Read More…

Author Solutions Complaints Continue Under Penguin

Did you notice that skeevy self-pub racket, Author Solutions, is accumulating brands as quickly as it accumulates customer complaints these days?

It all started last July when Pearson bought Author Solutions, the parent company of dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango.

Then Pearson (who owns Penguin) merged with Random House after purchasing Author Solutions. Author Solutions, in addition to running its aforementioned arsenal of brands, was then charged with running a new self-publishing imprint: Archway. Read More…

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 Read More…

Penguin’s New Business Model: Exploiting Writers

Penguin’s parent company Pearson has announced the purchase of Author Solutions for $116m – news which has shocked writers, especially given Author Solutions’ long history of providing questionable services at staggering prices.

Author Solutions are the dominant player in the self-publishing services market – via their subsidiaries such as Author House, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford – and had been looking for a buyer for several months. According to the press release, Author Solutions will be folded into Penguin, but will continue to operate as a separate company. Penguin’s CEO John Makinson stated:

“This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.” Read More…