The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers

authorsolutionsPRHThe 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:

I could fill ten posts on the various deceptive ways that Author Solutions gets customers, but the idea should be clear enough. The sum of all these efforts is an impressive number of leads: in 2011, Author Solutions managed to capture the phone numbers and email addresses of 475,000 writers.

Some complain that prospective customers of Author Solutions should do more research – caveat emptor and all that. This is a little unfair for three reasons.

  1. Quote from Phillips "All our marketing is permission based... and our website is very clear that we offer a range of imprints so we are not trying to deliberately confuse anyone."

    From an article by Alison Flood which will appear in the summer issue of The Author – the UK Society of Authors quarterly journal. Read it here.

    The deceptive practices outlined above.

  2. Author Solutions keeps launching new brands (20 at last count) with similar prices and practices, but without the internet baggage. This makes a mockery of Author Solutions CEO Andrew Phillips’ recent claim that “we are not trying to deliberately confuse anybody” (pictured right, and more thoroughly debunked here).
  3. Finally, it appears that most prospective customers do actually research the company thoroughly and step away. Out of the 475,000 leads, Author Solutions only converted approximately 5% into customers.

Now you can see why Author Solutions needs to adopt the spamming business model. It knows that if a prospective customer starts googling thoroughly, it is going to lose them – so it must work on a giant scale. And this is probably why they spend so much on Google ads and SEO – it certainly doesn’t want people scrolling through those search results and reading the horrific experiences that customers have had (and the class action the company is facing).

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.

While it’s heartening to know that the writing community is reaching many prospective Author Solutions customers with its warnings, that 5% is still a significant (and lucrative) return.

Author Solutions sold 27,500 publishing packages in 2011 and, in the information sent out to attract a buyer in 2012, Author Solutions forecasted that the number of publishing packages sold to authors would increase to 30,700 in 2012, and to a staggering 49,015 in 2015.

These packages are widely considered to be massively overpriced compared to competing services but where Author Solutions really makes its money is in aggressively upselling a range of additional services to authors – not included in those expensive packages they first purchase. Most packages don’t even include editing, and this is the first area where sales consultants try and hit their internal targets (claimed in the class action to be $5,000 per customer).

When these sales consultants contact authors, they invariably claim they are calling from Bloomington, Indiana. I should note however that approximately 78% of its staff is actually based in Cebu, Philippines – including the sales and marketing departments. The actual location of Author Solutions staff is important for a number of reasons, not least ascertaining the English ability and editing qualifications of staff working on these books.

The class action goes into voluminous detail about numerous and repeated errors that were made at every stage with the plaintiffs’ manuscripts – and this tallies exactly with complaints I have received. I should also note that Author Solutions is currently looking for a copy editor for its office in the Philippines to edit customer manuscripts. It doesn’t require applicants to have an editing qualification of any sort, or even that English is their first language, merely a “strong background in English grammar” and “above-average reading comprehension skills.”

When customers come nearer to publication, sales consultants pivot to pushing various marketing packages. This is a small, but representative, sample:

If there is one thing that Author Solutions is actually competent at, it’s flogging these “services” to its customers. Again by its own figures, Author Solutions convinces its customers to spend an average of $5,000 each on publishing and marketing their book – several multiples of what it should cost.

I previously reported that Author Solutions made around $300,000 from selling book signing packages for the Toronto Word On The Street Festival in 2012, made over $500,000 from selling similar packages for the 2012 Miami Book Fair, and made over $900,000 from selling packages to sign copies at the 2012 LA Times Festival of Books.

I should note that these packages don’t include travel or accommodation costs. Authors receive some copies of their book to sign, and an hour signing slot. That’s it. To show how overpriced these packages are, an author could have purchased their own booth, for the entire duration of the Miami Book Fair, for just $1,000.

Author Solutions is constantly adding new marketing services, and is equally good at selling those. From its own figures released in 2012, Author Solutions generated $1.7m in 2011 by selling television advertising to its customers – a service only launched that year. Another new service that year was the launch of pitching services to “Hollywood executives.”

That brought in a whopping $3.5m from just 300 authors. According to Author Solutions, only 2 of those authors were actually successful in selling an option. In other words, Author Solutions convinced these writers to pay an average of $11,666 to pitch these “Hollywood executives” with a success rate of just 0.66%. How much those 2 authors made isn’t mentioned (nor are the “production companies” they sold rights to), but I should note that they could easily have earned less than they spent.

Author Solutions uses high-pressure tactics and emotional button-pushing to sell these wholly unsuitable, completely ineffective, and hugely overpriced marketing services to these inexperienced writers. The papers filed in the class action suit mirror the hundreds of complaints that I’ve received and read in this regard also.

The way it works is this. Just before Author Solutions publishes a customer’s book, it contacts them to tell them that they have been awarded a special designation by their editors, such as a “Rising Star” Award or “Editor’s Choice” Award.

As Author Solutions customers are generally inexperienced (it explicitly targets new writers), they don’t understand the meaninglessness of such an award, and it plays on their own doubts and fears about their work, and their desire for recognition. Which makes it easy for Author Solutions when it makes the receipt of such an award contingent on purchasing additional services.

The plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint in the class action goes into specific detail on this:

98. On June 2, 2011, Foster was informed that she had also received the Rising Star designation.

99. In a June 21, 2011 email, the Rising Star Board indicated that “[i]f you purchased marketing services or your marketing plan was based on services offered by iUniverse and you decide to cancel or do not purchase mentioned services indicated in your Rising Star Marketing Survey or to your Marketing Consultant, the Rising Star distinction will be removed from your title.” This email was the first time Foster was made aware of additional requirements to participate in the Rising Star program.

100. Foster’s Marketing Consultant confirmed that she was required to purchase a Marketing Package, and Foster purchased a marketing package for $3,999.00, since she did not wish to lose her Rising Star designation and she wanted to market her book aggressively.

I can also confirm that similar tactics were used by Author Solutions to push a whole range of overpriced and unsuitable marketing services on inexperienced authors in the complaints I have received.

Fleecing authors is an extremely lucrative business. Author Solutions generated revenue of $99.8m in 2011, and projected that would increase to $179.6m by 2015. A full 63% of this revenue – $62.87m – came from selling services to writers, pretty much an even split between publishing services and marketing services. By contrast, e-book sales only generated $1.3m. Let’s be very clear about what Author Solutions is: a very slick operation at squeezing money out of writers, and a terrible way to publish your book.

The numbers in the above paragraph come from a memorandum (reported here, first paragraph) circulated in early 2012 by its then owner Bertram Capital. That memorandum also contained all the reported information about the television advertising and Hollywood pitching packages.

And this was the information that must have convinced Penguin to purchase the company for $116m in July 2012. At the time, the writing community expressed shock at that move, given Author Solutions’ well-known history, and the long-standing warnings from watchdog bodies like Writer Beware.

Some expressed hope that Penguin would clean house, but all it has done is aggressively expand Author Solutions’ operations, with new imprints targeting Spain, Malaysia, India, and South Africa, as well as new white-label self-publishing services for huge companies like Simon & Schuster.

It was clear that Penguin knew exactly what it was purchasing. Companies don’t splash out $116m without doing a thorough check. John Makinson (Chairman and CEO of Penguin at the time), when announcing the purchase said, “We’re looking to upsize not downsize. There are no plans for layoffs, this is an opportunity for growth.”

Penguin’s name also lends credibility to Author Solutions, and its sales consultants have dangled the prospect of Penguin picking up customers’ books. One writer who published with Xlibris (an Author Solutions company) relayed the following:

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.

Needless to say, Penguin did no such thing.

The Penguin Random House connection has more recently been used to flog those terrible services described above. In this email from an AuthorHouse consultant (another Author Solutions company) to a customer, AuthorHouse is described as the “self-publishing wing” of Penguin Random House, and that this corporate relationship has enabled them to now offer YouTube advertising (at a price to this customer of $3,400).

Penguin Random House Author Solutions Email

In my next Author Solutions post – The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 2: The Partners – I will have new information on the various partnerships that it has built up with supposedly respectable companies in the publishing world, and I’ll share how the fight against Author Solutions is finally turning the tide.

But before I go, let me share some further quotes from John Makinson – now Chairman of Penguin Random House since the two companies merged in July 2013. Here’s more of what he had to say about Author Solutions when gleefully announcing the purchase:

“We spent time getting to know the people at Author Solutions and their sophisticated operation,” Makinson said. “They have skills that can help us at 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.

168 Replies to “The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers”

  1. Any complaints against Trafford Publishing and Author Solutions should be directed to the Indiana Attorney Generals Office Gov web site and file a consumer complaint.

  2. David, because of what authors (and myself) went through avoiding scams and struggling to find the right support, I and fellow writers set up BookGarage with having in mind the creation of a community of like-minded people where writers can find the support they need and be financially protected a well.

    We opened last September and have now about 200 authors registered and vetted in about 120 freelancers, most members of SfEP and other professional organizations (and from recommendations from authors).

    Would you mind visit us at bookgarage dot com and maybe advise us to do even better in terms of transparency and integrity? We have been discussed our model with Jane Friedman and I was on her “5 On:” interview series.

    All the best,

  3. I am so very lucky to have found your site. Just the other day I stumbled onto a pop-up ad for Patridge Publishing in Singapore looking to help authors publish. I’d never seen such an offer before, all my knowledge about the book industry is that you try and try to get published and get a million rejection letters from people who barely got past Page 1, and if you’re very lucky and catch a break you may just end up a famous author who was given a chance.

    I gave them my details expecting at most to register for a “Learn How To Publish In the 21st Century!” seminar as the best outcome, but instead I got a call from “Indiana” (although when I spoke to the consultant, he was very obviously Filipino) offering to sign me up to a publishing package. I was suspicious because these people were offering to get me on the shelves when they hadn’t even read a single word? Impossible to believe. I even told them I was only 50 pages into my book and reckoned it ought to be 300 pages to even be worthy of hitting the shelves (a lie since I am still at the research stage and haven’t even bothered putting pen to paper).

    The consultant proceeded to tell me some long complicated stories about how their plans work, but he tripped up a few times and told me things I don’t think he was meant to because they sounded contradictory to other statements. At one point he was telling me the publishing plan would be available for 4 months, which caused me alarm because the fee was broken down into 4 monthly installments as well, so does this mean it ends as soon as I finish paying??? He clarified later by saying I can publish whenever I want, even if it takes me 2 years to finish the book, but sidestepped my question about the 4 month availability when I brought it up again.

    I did consider paying for it when they mentioned that there would be content from published authors such as (get this!) Seth Godin and R.L. Stine … its ludicrous to think that they would ever bother talking to anyone for less than a few $100k, but they were promising a lot more authors than them! I figured it may be just quick little video recordings at most, but the most important thing would be to help me get on the shelves … So I told the consultant that I would think about it and get back to him, and immediately the pressure points started “This offer won’t be around long!” “After June 20th, we will no longer be featuring this package … it will be separated as a standalone that costs more … be sure to call by the 14th, because I will be going on vacation until the 21st!” What a load of crap!

    Thank you for shining a light on why a company would do this and go through all this effort.

    1. Hi Nick, I’m sorry to say that your experience is pretty typical – I’m just glad you were able to find some independent information to warn you away in time (many aren’t that fortunate).

      I’d appreciate more detail about their claims surrounding content from Seth Godin and R.L. Stine – if you could share here or privately by email that would be great:

  4. Giskan and Anderson ,, ???? deceptive lawyers ???? If you would be running a company engaging in deceptive practises, what would you do if you would face such a law firm ?? Anser is ,, you turn THEM IN TO YOUR FAVOR ,, it is better for the law firm to get immiedate payment the next day and higer amount also, compare they would get from the class act against AS ,, i just say ,, dont count on Giskan. Dont beleaive in them.

    1. Actually, it’s my understanding that the law firm is significantly out of pocket over this class action (which was ultimately settled). In such actions, law firms will run up a lot of costs – the discovery process alone can be very expensive – in the hope that they will eventually register a big win for their clients, and, yes, collect a nice fee for the work they did. That didn’t happen in this particular case. The lawyers only get a big win when the plaintiff does and most class actions don’t succeed. So the law firms take a risk in mounting such cases. The level of altruism/good intentions that form part of the mix in any such case may be a matter of debate, and there has been a range of opinions on how this particular case was handled, but I’ve seen no indication whatsoever of anything nefarious on the part of the law firm representing the plaintiffs. None at all.

  5. Kudos to you for offering this revealing article. It is so important that new authors recognize these scams for what they are, and that writers start confronting these companies and exposing them to sunlight for everyone to see.

  6. This is a warning to any aspiring authors, Do NOT buy any marketing plans from Author Solutions. They are make to believe marketing plans that do not exist. I was an employee before of this company but my conscience is killing me everyday! Do not buy any marketing plans in Author Solutions.

    1. Hi, this is my blog. If you have any information you wish to share, you can contact me here:

      I have had many employees share information and they have been able to do that safely and anonymously and their identities have been protected. If that is something you are interested in, click the link above to send me an email.

    2. Hello,
      I published 8 years ago with Author Solutions a book “Hades and Persephone” but unfortunately despite I cancelled the contract the book is still on sales internationally and I haven’t been paid
      even $1 yet.

      Please advise.

      Kind Regards,
      Mary Modirzadeh
      +61 422 352 433
      Skype:goldenfleece5 or golden.fleece5

      1. Your contract with Author Solutions should contain a standard provision for termination, which is usually something along the lines of Author Solutions has X days to remove your book from sale once it receives a termination notice (the form of which is normally outlined in the contract too, but can probably just be a simple letter indicating you wish to terminate your contract). Author Solutions has no legal right to continue selling your book once you have terminated your contract (and the time has elapsed which allows them to remove it from sale). Don’t worry if you can’t find your contract, or if your contract doesn’t mention this – you have basic legal rights here which still cover this scenario, regardless of the contract terms.

        I need a lot more information here before I can advise, such as what the relevant portion of your contract says, if you terminated the contract (and if so when), and links to where your book is still on sale (I can’t see it on Amazon, for example).

        Alternatively, you can write to the relevant imprint of Author Solutions, threaten legal action unless they remove your book from sale, and request a final statement with regard to your royalties. If you have evidence that you have sold books which they have not accounted for (and this is a very common complaint), then you can email that to me too and I can take a look. You can contact me here:

        On 9 March 2016 at 07:01, David Gaughran wrote:


      2. Maria,
        Our records show the cancellation was submitted in May 2015 and the book was pulled from distribution. If you find that a third party retailer is still selling new copies of the book, please send links to those pages immediately so we can take action to have those removed. Obviously, we can’t control secondary sales of used copies by those who purchased the book.
        We can happily share with you your lifetime sales records, and if you did not cash the royalties checks that were sent to you, reissue those. Please send me a note at kgray at authorhouse dot com.

        Kevin Gray
        Author Solutions

  7. Authors Solutions called me even when I told them not to! It’s an invasion of my privacy and I won’t stand for it!

  8. Luckily I’ve had the venture to do a lot of research in the publishing environment to be able to avoid scams and pitfalls, but…

    After years spent in publishing my novels, always aiming at the most professional and polished books for my readerships, I’ve dreamed of an environment where all caring actors around the creation and enjoyment of great books could be together, interact, and contribute to the realization of our dreams, for sure, but with a professional and committed attitude as well.

    So I’d like to share with you all a vision that is about to come true.
    BookGarage opens its doors to welcome authors, freelancers, and readers together.
    We talk about a vision, and a dream, and the importance of quality as the foremost goal in the long journey required for turning a manuscript into a book that readers will enjoy.

    I encourage you to explore our vision and our mission from BG website at, and subscribe to our mailing list in order to be kept up to date with our development and—soon—our start of the operations:

    Profit from this run-in period, while we finish developing the heuristics and advanced search capabilities, to share with us your expectations and wishes. 

    BookGarage will be as great as its members are.

    All the best,
    Massimo Marino

  9. May I suggest to every aspiring author looking to be published and see their work in print and as ebook a simple Occam Razor test? Follow the money: if money flows from your pocket to the so-called publisher’s you have two options:

    1) RUN


    If the money flows from the publisher’s pockets to yours, READ THE DARNED CONTRACT, and if you don’t understand it, seek legal advice. Don’t sign right away. You’ve NOT reached Nirvana because of that.

  10. I am a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month. I perma-linked this article to my regional forum so new writers can understand the scam market better and (hopefully) not get sucked down the drainpipe that is Author Solutions.

    Thank you, David. You do amazing work for the indie world.


  11. I really wanted to believe that what I was reading about Xlibris/Author Solutions was in the minority and that it wouldn’t happen to me, and that ‘I would be treated differently’. To all of you out there that are thinking the same as me – it won’t happen..! They have caused (and continue to cause) me untold stresses, they will say ‘anything’ to get the sale, but, fortunately I was wise enough to listen to some of what has been said here and have not purchased anything additional other than copies of my books which I can sell privately. Their ‘super-duper’ sales manger, was trying to convince me to list in the NY Times, telling me it was approximately $6,000 and that I can pay over 3 months, taking the comments on board here I asked him to send me the details so I could look into it. When I received it the cost was $24,000, he never once told me this amount, and only mentioned $6,000. I can see how some people could get duped as they may then feel obligated to go through with the sale once being put through to payments. Admittedly, this will not happen to everyone, but the small percentage that it does, would make it worthwhile from Xlibris/AS point of view.

    I told him I had heard ‘unsavoury’ things about Xlibris and that I was going to look into this and was not going to do anything with Xlibris/AS until I had done so. A month later I receive a call from him about our ‘agreed’ marketing plan which he then again expected me to pay for then and there. We had agreed absolutely nothing, and I reminded him of this. He tells me over and over how he really believes in my book and think it’s wonderful, worthy, inspirational etc., but, he’s not read it..!

    Luckily for me, I am a strong character and I managed to talk him down after about 20 minutes or so of his continuous persistence, but not everyone will be the same.

    Within this conversation I mentioned to him that I had heard about the law suits against Xlibris/AS, to which he asked boastfully asked ‘how many had been paid out’ and gloated his own reply ‘none’ citing that they were not valid cases, he also went onto say that many companies have complaints against them, but that’s the minority and to be expected and compared themselves with Microsoft saying you can’t dismiss a company just because it has a compliant against it! I was ‘gobsmacked’ at his response.!

    I have now listed my book on Amazon/Create Space myself, which was before Xlibris/Author Solutions listed it. They have, however, listed my e-book, without my authority so I have asked them to take this down, as I will be listing this myself via Smashwords. If they do not do this, then I will rename my book and re-list it, and although I may have a couple of copies out there, I will be promoting my own.

    I am still dealing with Xlibris/Author Solutions as my book, although printed, is going through the marketing stages. I spent almost 2.5 hours completing a questionnaire sent by them to compile a press release for me, only to find that they copied – verbatim – from my book and also misspelled my name. I rejected this and the two subsequent ones they provided and have now found someone to write this myself. I am just deciding whether to let them send it out to their mailing list or if I should find my own?

    On top of this, I have been to a children’s book writers conference in Australia (my side of the world) where I have met with main stream, traditional publishers, and from what I am hearing from that side, although not a scam in any sense, authors earn extremely little, anything from 0.05c per copy to $1 per copy, although there is no upfront outlay, the financial rewards are minimal and you receive approximately 6 weeks publicity, if it doesn’t take off in that time, it gets dropped for the next new publication.

    My thoughts after these enlightening experiences is that self publishing on Amazon, Create Space, Smashwords etc., is probably the way to go, but I’m still working through this.

    It’s been an exhausting and enlightening journey, and again for those that are considering Xlibris, Balboa Press or anyone else that uses Author Solutions – do yourself a favour, listen to what’s being said here and do it yourself.

    If you are interested, my book is a self-help book for children to help them overcome the emotional effects of bullying, called Discover the Magic of EFT for Bullying, and it is by overcoming bullying myself, that I am able to stand up to Author Solutions – and you can do the same.


    1. Yes I’m haven same problem with one of Xlibris’ marketing agent calling me every day for the last few days to shamming me into high prices for book fairs. This guy will not take no for an answer to where I’ve blocked his number. I told him I’ll accept e-mail correspondence only. I’ve already accused him of fraud. Furthermore I’ve already marketed my book myself thought social media; friends and other folks within the industry of my story story line. If he continues to bother me, I’ll show him this to, hopefully, leave me alone.

  12. Karl.

    I don’t think the giant 5/6 are any longer publishers in the traditional sense. They are conglomerates owned by “money men”. Which explains hardnosed decisions on “income streams”, rather than decisions based on love of books. [That is not a comment on the many employees who have more traditional attitudes.] I make this comment as a former financial journalist.

    Outstanding work David; great to see it.

    1. JCRHarris: the “money men” mentality is also very much alive and well among the putative experts who offer advice to indie writers. I call it the MBA approach to writing. These mentors/coaches/advisors are encouraging writers to tailor what they write for the consumption of people who want a paragraph here, a paragraph there, sandwiched in between texting about what they had for lunch, or how their significant other just turned out to be a jerk. This MBA mindset is perfectly consistent with seeing language strictly in terms of commerce: forget what the writer is moved to write, concern yourself exclusively with the marketplace. I suggested in one comment that such writers should stop speaking of themselves as writers, in favor of something better suited to business, like “language monetizer,” or prose capital liquidator.”

      1. I like your asperity Barry, and sympathize with that sardonic comment. I suspect the verbal monetisers are simply filling a gap widened by the indie innocents versus the jaded professionals. A gap waiting for the opportunists! Yet I know among them are genuinely helpful people (like David Gaughran) alerting them to the elephant traps their hopefulness and innocence fail to see in the headlong belief that the world is still an oyster.

        1. Philipparees–(if such a handle can be believed–Phillippa Rees?):
          David Gaughran is the mirror-opposite of an opportunist. He is a hero of mine. You could even call him a folk hero, a kind of legend-in-the-making, someone who is courageous, someone who speaks truth to power. I admire him a lot.

        2. Thanks for the query Barry…actually nearly right Philippa rather than Phillippa because I am possessive of the Philos as much as of the ‘hippos. The one thing to thank my mother for- a name I like. I agree about David and all who speak truth to power. That is one thing the internet ( and self publishing and blogging) has made possible–the erosion of power.

  13. Thanks, as always, for shining some light into the sewer that is Author Solutions. The really shocking thing about this for me is not that AS are thieves and con-artists — there will always be thieves and con-artists in the world — but that one of the world’s leading publishing houses would choose to take this pack of thieves under their corporate wing, and to support their ongoing thievery.

  14. Great work, David.

    Even though I frequently attack ASI on my, the company keeps trying to sell me publishing packages. On Friday a salesperson told me that “big changes are coming.” If there are changes, I’m sure they won’t help authors.

  15. WOW! Really good information here. Thanks for taking the time to not only do the research but share your findings, David. And, I must say thanks to your followers for sharing their experiences as well. I spent hours, days, weeks – nay, months if I’m truthful – on research for getting published as well as looking for an agent. I confess my head was spinning like a roulette wheel (Place your bets! Place your bets!). Then I decided to go the digital route and found a link to your site via Jane Friedman and I’ve been hooked ever since. Again, thanks for sharing your wealth of information about self publishing in the digital world and your words of support. I’m going to follow your advice to hire an editor (if I can find one) as well as someone to do the book cover and march forward.

  16. I once signed up for some free services at an Author Solution site… It was not until almost a year after I had asked them to stop listing my books, because I couldn’t change anything without going through customer service, that I found out that they were actually owned by AS.
    It’s just insanely hard to keep track of every new start-up site’s real ownership. I’m glad I only went with the free retailer listing!

  17. Thank you David, this is the most valuable information I read in a long time. As a Creativity Coach I need to know this in order to help my clients. Looking forward to Part !!.

  18. Reblogged this on Illuminite Caliginosus and commented:
    David Gaughran does yeoman’s work in this, the first in a series of articles exposing the fraud committed by Author Solutions and their ilk in scamming would-be authors. Read and heed.

  19. Authorhouse published my book as an e book without my permission. It took many e mails to get them to take it down from Amazon. They still ring me from time to time. When they were in England which is when I published with them I had a pleasant helpful consultant, these days they don’t even speak the language fluently and as for their e mails, the nine year olds I used to teach could do better.
    My books are now available on Kindle, which I did myself, at no cost, except to pay for the cover. They will be re-published later this year by a small independent press and I will finally be free of this malign corporation.
    I warn everyone who is thinking of publishing against them.

    1. Good to hear, I am also asking them to take my e-book down which they have put up without my permission.

  20. Oh dear… I’ve recently signed up to Xlibris and am about to have my first book published with them. I must admit, I have been less than impressed with how I have been treated so far, but I’m so far down the line now that I can’t back out. I purchased a 2 for 1 package so I have another book I am due to publish with them later this year.

    I have been ‘hounded’ by one of their sales people selling me a package where I get an ad in the New York Sunday Times magazine, with 9 other books published that week, along with the e-marketing services package. He called me every night until I told him to ‘stop pushing me’ and he hasn’t called me since.

    Now I’m not sure what to do about this, I trusted the fact that it was linked with Penguin and Random House and personally, I didn’t feel the need to look behind such high profile, ‘household name’ companies that have such a great reputations.

    1. I suggest you send them a notice of termination, DON’T give them the second book, and kiss the money you’ve already given them goodbye. You’ll never get it back.

      1. As a lawyer, I don’t think that solution will work. Yes, you can inform AS of your intent not to comply with the contract (called anticipatory repudiation) but they still have a right to sue you for damages.

    2. Hi Debbiie. Apologies for being slow getting back you you. I had a book launch and missed all these new comments. If you need any help, please feel free to contact me at david [dot] gaughran [at] gmail [dot] com

  21. Reblogged this on Rich Meyer's Reviews and Ramblings and commented:
    David Gaughran on AuthorSolutions again. I can’t believe even the low percentage of 5% of people propositioned by this evil fucktards take them up on their outrageous and usurious practices. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, PEOPLE: USE GOOGLE BEFORE YOU PAY OUT $5,000 TO SOMEONE TO PUBLISH A BOOK THAT SHOULD COST YOU $0!

  22. David, you are an investigative reporter of the highest order. Bravo. Two things: Why is the industry determined to destroy new authors instead of partnering with them? Second, two authors from Florida Writers Association did a really good seminar on self-publishing they charged $50 for half a day. Spoke very realistically about costs, their own journeys. Went over the Amazon process.

    For blog readers who are veterans of indie publishing you might think about reaching out in your writing groups or at libraries to hold educational events. I’m still new to the process and I do have David’s excellent book. Spend $50 and save $4k-15K makes a whole lot of sense.

    1. Virginiallorca, like I’m afraid of anyone on Goodreads. Very little about the site is positive. If I encounter a bully reviewer, I win. I’ll voice everything you won’t, and I won’t be nice about it…hehehehe.

    2. I review a lot on Goodreads, and not all of it good. Not because I’m a troll, but because I’m increasingly frustrated with the state of ‘literature’ today. I think though, that the frustration comes by the way the books are treated once the writer approaches an agent or publisher. These days, my reviews end up tagged with ‘who edited this?’ because all writers make mistakes, but it’s up to the editors, proof-readers and publishers to iron out the tiny issues, not make them worse. There are some horrendous books out there with long lists of people in the thank you who have put these books together. Reading through this, and other linked articles, I’m now wondering if these reviews are actually given to targets of AS and their affiliates. The whole thing makes me feel sick.

  23. As always Dave, awesome work. Thanks. This hole just keeps getting deeper.
    And I love the AS logo, I hadn’t noticed it before. It struck me as oddly appropriate; the green bands make me thing of authors money going off some waterfall at the end of Asgard, disappearing into a nether region, never to be seen again.

  24. I was stung for a few grand with my book back in 2009. And I should have known better but the salesman was very convincing. As it turned out the book was badly formatted and they’ve never stopped calling me since with all kinds of outrageous packages. The Hollywood offer is being pushed again. My next book was with Smashwords and I’m sticking with them and Amazon. Would join with the writer and those who commented in warning EVERYONE against Author Solutions and Authorhouse. At the time it was a case of why the he’ll not give them a chance. Big mistake but at least I learned. Would love to get the book back off them although I’ve heard that can be hard as well.

  25. David–
    As one who was duped, not by Author Solutions but by a well-known and respected “expert” in book marketing, I am positioned to appreciate just how valuable the information is in your posts. Thank you. I was going to raise a questions: just what kinds of books can we expect to be written by people who are taken in my Author Solutions–and then I remembered how quickly seduced I was in a related area. Thank you again.

    1. I know several writers who were, and who have managed to rebuild their careers since (often under new pen names). I think we all have to remember what it was like when we were starting out. The publishing world is quite strange and confusing for a beginner, and there are sharks everywhere.

    2. Barry, If you were duped, have you broadcast the information widely – with or without your name attached? If people speak up, at least these ‘companies’ are sometimes forced to close shop (and reopen under another name), and lose some time (where they should be losing something else – I’ll leave that to your imagination).


      1. Alicia–I’m replying very late in the game, but hope you get this. No, I haven’t broadcast the information at all, and here’s why: the company and its owner are so well known and “respected” that I would come off as an ungrateful naysayer. In addition, speaking truth to power sounds good, but can turn out to be very dangerous. But I was assured that my little book, a novel for adults about dogs, had what it took to do well. Just give us $4,500, and we’ll set up a plan that’s going to do great things for you. But this plan assumed a level of familiarity and sophistication on my part relative to the Internet, social networking, etc., that rendered the “plan” all but useless to me. See how it works? The marketer has fulfilled the terms of the original agreement: she has provided a plan as promised. Except that plan is worthless to the client who bought it. When I think of how much wise, gun-for-hire editorial advice my $4,500 would have bought, it makes me sick.

  26. Shameful, utterly shameful. This makes Publish America (or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves now) look like an afterthought.

    1. PublishAmerica is definitely worse in the lies it tells customers to publish with it (pretending to be a genuine publisher and so on). But I don’t think they ever had such a sophisticated operation for upselling such a vast array of (useless) services. And the sheer breathtaking scale of Author Solutions puts it in a league of its own.

      I often get emails about why I don’t blog about this scam, or that scam, etc. It’s pretty simple. Author Solutions is probably doing more damage than the rest of them put together. The scale is mind-blowing.

  27. Reblogged this on lambert nagle and commented:
    Brilliant investigation into Author Solutions and all the companies it uses to prey on emerging writers.

  28. Reblogged this on Jake's Blog and commented:
    When looking for book publishers on Google, an Author Solutions company is always one of the first results. If you see that result DO NOT CLICK. Don’t fall for the wonderful promises. These guys are scammers, and will take all your money… There are cheaper and better ways to self-publish.

  29. Great post. Thanks for taking the time and effort to lay this out so well, in all its damning detail. Isn’t it great that our “plucky” publshers (as you called them in an earlier blog) are watching out for us writers while the evil Amazon is destroying all life as we know it? 🙂

    1. This is the thing. I have no problem with Amazon being subjected to scrutiny. It should be subjected to scrutiny. But I can’t stand to see the news media writing page after page of fears about what Amazon *might* do in the future, while they spend ZERO time covering this story.

      1. Oh, I agree. As authors, we need to look hard at everyone involved in our business. It’s the total typecasting of Amazon=evil, publishers=good that drives me nuts. I can read screes against Amazon everywhere, pretty much all the time. But except here and a few other places, no one takes the publishers to task or even discusses how they are hurting writers.

  30. As one badly bitten by Trafford (in 2006) I add my pennyworth. I designed and formatted both book and cover and they ‘published’ a pretty professional book. Too ashamed to admit the vast fee required to ‘ provide a high res print ready file’.(I was very green and self publishing was then in its infancy) I was not paid for a single copy sold EVER, although twelve or more marketplace sellers offered ‘used’ copies. Amazon still lists their edition as available although I have withdrawn it and intend to republish myself. (Amazon says they cannot withdraw what others may have bought!) To try and ensure that Trafford would not continue to print and sell my book I had to pay £150 for the ‘high res’ file! Caveat emptor could never cover this, so your posts on AH companies ought to be widely circulated.

  31. WOW! All I can say is WOW! For YEARS the big publishing houses have fed off the dreams of authors to be published and make an income from their writing. Gone are the days of large advances and marketing. The royalties are still crap and the contracts have gotten worse. No book advance. No marketing. Crappy royalties. And we’re supposed to be happy about the tiny checks we get when we’re doing all the work. Digital self-publishing was the answer we were all looking for!

    But it’s a ton of work to publish your own book – I have three self-published novels where I did the covers, formatting, uploading and, of course, marketing. I’m blessed that my best friend is an editor, so with her, I’m a one-stop-shop for my novels. Not a lot of authors can do all that…so here come the vultures…Author Solutions…to feed on the dreams of those authors. AND THEN the king of the vultures swoops in, buys the little vulture up and gives him high-technology hunting weapons! GAWD it just sticks in my craw!

    Instead of finally offering authors what they want – a fair share of the profits and someone to believe in them – they stoop even lower in their devices. Think of how much further the publishers could go if they would spend that $116m to foster the authors’ hopes and dreams instead of take advantage of them. They would sell more books, not have to scramble for scams like these and put money into lawyers’ pockets, and actually save money on advertising if they learned about how to properly advertise on the internet. If they did, more authors would rather go with a publisher than self-publish and everyone would win. Bastards.

    Okay, that’s my vent! LOL Thanks for the post, David! Looking forward to Part 2.

    1. In the next post, I will explain how Author Solutions pitches itself to *publishers* – and the key selling point is basically “we will help you monetize the slushpile.” More to come.

      1. The same reason people fall for emails from apparent Nigerian princes, sadly. I can’t believe these scammers keep making that kind of money–and it’s only gettng worse, it seems.

      2. Sad to say, but there are a whole lotta people out there for whom “write a book” is a thing on their bucket list–they are the memoir writers, the family historians, or the Nana or Papaw with an incredible story to tell…but they are not looking to make a career of it. All they want is to have their story in their hands, maybe to pass out a few copies at the family reunion, or memorialize their experiences for friends and family.

        These folks don’t understand to look at the business end of things, and they don’t want to–they just want to tell their story. And they need a service or suite of services that can help them do that. Predators like AS step in and take their life savings in return for less-than-promised. But the “one book in ’em” crowd is out there, and they’re a segment of the indie population that needs attention. Right now, it seems like the only people who are giving them that attention are the predators. :/

        Had I the time and resources, I’d create a business with a handful of copy editors, printers, and formatters and put together basic, very reasonably-priced packages that would include editing, cover art, formatting/uploading, and print prep for createspace, for a flat fee under a thousand bucks, along with a little booklet to tell them exactly how to view their sales, buy print books for themselves, buy print books for their families/friends, buy their ebook from all the major distributors, and tell their local librarian that they wrote a book. In fact, the concept seems so simple that I bet there are more than a few businesses out there doing just that. If they can get past the noise of Author Solutions.

  32. I actually considered using I-Universe when they first appeared on the scene around the turn of the century. At that time, they had displays in Barnes & Noble stores, which seemed to lend them credibility, although the nature of the arrangement with B&N was hard to figure out exactly. It didn’t take me long to discern the nature of the company and others like it, and I decided to do everything myself. One of the major considerations, then as now, was that a book with one of those imprints would have little credibility with potential reviewers.
    It was quite hard to figure out the mechanics of genuine self-publishing in those days, and it was rarely done for fiction, but I managed pretty well, and it was certainly more rewarding in every sense than vanity publishing. I was able to get reputable reviews, got the book into mainstream distribution, achieved reasonable sales, had the book optioned for a movie and basked in the warm glow of satisfaction at what a clever boy I had been.
    In 2006 I wrote “Self-Publishing Fiction” in which I passed on what I had learned and specifically warned against companies like this. (This is not a plug for that book – it has not been updated since the original edition, buy one of David’s excellent works instead.)

    1. Going through the full history of Author Solutions would be a post in itself, but, in brief, it purchased iUniverse in 2007. Prior to the purchase iUniverse actually had a reasonable reputation, from what I can tell. As soon as AS purchased the company, however, complaints started to roll in to places like Writer Beware. The same pattern was witnessed after AS purchased Xlibris and Trafford (AuthorHouse was the original company). B&N purchased a 49% stake in iUniverse soon after it was founded in 1999, and didn’t retain a stake (AFAIK) after the sale to Author Solutions.

      1. Good point. Although I-Universe was even then not a good deal, I don’t remember it being quite as exploitative as AS appears to be, or should I say “as sophisticated”.

        1. What’s interesting is how quickly and spectacularly service levels degraded once AS took over. It happened every single time it took over a competitor.

  33. To the “caveat emptor” section, I’d like to add:

    4. Blaming the victim(s) is a callous reaction to those whom we should consider colleagues…and is often a dodge by those who cite it to keep from taking a moral stand.

    1. I would heartily agree, with the caveat that some are unaware of the full scale of the deceptive practices Author Solutions engages in. However, at some point that does become willful ignorance.

  34. Thanks once again David for an(other) excellent piece of investigative journalism. Looking forward to Part 2.

  35. I have heard rumors for several years now that Penguin actually pays stalker trolls to attack promising new self-published authors with the intent to drive them, out of fear, to the traditional publishers.

        1. Mind you when I state ‘I think it’s true on sites like LinkedIn and Goodreads’, it’s my opinion. Yes, trolls lurk under the Internet bridge, coming out to attack people for no reason. However, since the overwhelming number of attacks occur against self-published authors (based on reading the comments and information about the book on Amazon), I wouldn’t be surprised if the attacks were motivated by the likes of Author Solutions.

          David, thank you for posting the article. I look forward to reading part 2. If you learn anything about Penguin or Author solutions hiring “trolls” to attack self published writers, please let us know.

        2. David, once in a while I encounter people on LinkedIn who say nothing but positive things about Author Solutions. These people have profiles that indicate they are writers. I think they are paid mouthpieces to spread fake positive messages because there’s no proof they composed a book or if they did, earned profits after paying high Author Solutions fees. Personally I don’t believe any author scammed by Author Solutions earns a profit. I’ve challenged authors to prove it, but they refuse or ignore my request. Please give me your opinion on the subject when you have the chance. Thank you.

      1. Tannera, David, Virginia, and everyone else:

        A few words of caution:

        The above “Mary Shelly” is almost certainly one Rick J. Carufel, a self-publishing author who has established a reputation around the Internet for his belief that traditional publishers and the authors who write for them are systematically targeting “indie” writers for intimidation, harassment, and terror. “Stalker trolls” is one of his catchphrases, and he’s used the misspelled “Mary Shelly” moniker often enough before. Your search engine of choice may provide additional information.

        By the way, David, terrific article. Thank you!

        1. Linda, like I’m worried. I don’t spend much time on Goodreads due to arguments and debates and I use Amazon forums even less.

    1. I think there’s a large chance that many trolls in the publishing sector are someone’s paid employees rather than genuine trolls. The purpose of an internet troll is to elicit a response. It’s unlikely that one would troll a book for any reason because objects rarely respond. My books don’t even frown when someone trolls them. Their pages don’t even wilt under a tirade of violent insinuations. I’ve run tests on it by shouting at my books, and they really don’t care because they’re inanimate objects.

      Even if the trolls are trying to upset the author, authors are the least likely people to respond publicly. They have a reputation to maintain. An author and their book are not what you’d class as ‘high-risk targets’ for genuine trolls, and there is little benefit in trolling one, unless you have an agenda, a different motivation that doesn’t involve generating a response.

      Since trolls only do it for a response, it must be something other than genuine trolls that are behind it all.

      Which brings us to public image. Harming a book’s rating and claiming outrageous things about the author is damaging to an indie author’s reputation and their sales numbers. I’ve avoided many great authors because I’ve read that they committed some horrific crime. Then years later, I find out that it was all BS (sorry innocent authors). That’s black hat anti-marketing at its very best, doing what it’s intended to do, killing the competition.

      I worked as a white hat marketer for ten years, so black hat tactics are no surprise to me. I’ve seen enough to know that there’s always someone on the net playing dirty to manipulate the system for monetary gain. Although, comparing the two, publishing is far skankier than marketing. Seriously, marketing is the naive little brother in comparison to some of the crap that goes on in the publishing world.

      I’ve always found it strange that there are so many trolls in the publishing sector. Real trolls generally do it for their own amusement or to protest against something like a big corporation. I’d love to hear the grandfather of trolls take on trolling indie authors in the publishing industry. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have signed off on that.

      But then to me, it just seems natural to assume that the trolls in the publishing world are fake ones. I’ve seen con men publishers blame hackers for their loss of all the author’s royalties, so it comes as no surprise to me to see companies blaming trolls when they use abusive tactics to scare off new indie authors. And they have scared off new indie authors. There have been many who’ve quit writing because of trolls. Often they are younger, first time authors in their late teens or early twenties, prime targets for psychological warfare.

      Then you have sites like STGRB, a website that claims to take down bullies by publicly bulling people on their website in some kind of vigilante justice. They stalk people online and publicly post their personal details for anyone to see while persuading others to attack that person. I don’t rightly care about the person’s crimes, especially if that crime is writing some fiction about some fiction. It’s a book, an inanimate object. I’ll never agree with an eye for an eye, and I’m pretty sure that stalking is still a crime, and yet such a site exists. It’s odd that Anne Rice (a traditional author) is a strong vocal supporter of that website, a site that promotes bullying on its own pages, and from an outsiders view seems fully ingrained in the publishing troll culture to a point where you can’t tell who the bully is anymore.

      There have also been enough cases of big authors caught with their fingers in the troll reviews jar, most famously the John Locke case, so I think it’s fair to say that these vile elements in the industry are not coming from innocent readers or innocent indie authors. But that’s just my observation from the outside of it all. I’m sure there are many stories about trolls out there. The point is that harming a human being over a book is an act of the insane, but it happens all too often in massive flame wars that involve 30 fake people against one real one.

      There’s a lot of fake out there. I’m pretty certain that the trolls aren’t even genuine trolls. I can’t see a lot of young (12-25 year old), usually shy authors incurring the wrath of the troll community. So what other possible reason could there be for them to be receiving death threats in their inboxes? It all strikes me as one big fake way of manipulating the system. But when that manipulation rests on harming new authors, it classes as one of the most disgusting elements of publishing imo.

      Also, great post David, and sorry for going off topic. It’s not that far off topic. I rate vanity publishing as highly as I do publishing trolls. They probably are related, married cousins or something.

  36. I am routinely contacted by AS, most recently last week on a Saturday and 7 PM. As a mainstream author with many bestsellers, iUniverse (connected with them) has reprinted all my books as part of the Authors Guild back-in-print program. They are always trying to sell me ad services etc., even though this is supposedly against AG rules. I contacted them once 5 years ago on my own looking for someone to convert my print books to e-books, before almost anyone was doing this. They had a program to TYPE in the books at a huge expense. Within hours I found a superb service that converted my book cheaply and they have thrived in this independently published format. By the way, when the pushy salesman asked about my plans for my next book, I mentioned a major big 6 publisher who was publishing it, and they guy didn’t know the name!

    1. Can I ask everyone’s advice? To my (now seething) chagrin, I signed a “two book deal” with iUniverse. Basically, I’d “won” a writing contest and they contacted me. Long story short, I signed up for the 2600 dollar package, and was “guaranteed” two books…If the first one did well, as they assured me it would, the second would be under the Penguin banner…It has taken me less than a few weeks to see the ulterior motive.

      They cater to your ego and emotions, your joy at having been signed and having someone appreciate your work. Essentially, it comes down to : “Wow, this is awesome! Now, if you [buy this, buy this, buy this] you’re a guaranteed success!”

      The question is: Can I get out of the agreement? Is there grounds to have my money returned? Thanks in advance.

      1. Nathan,
        We’re here to help. Please send me a note at kgray at authorsolutions dot com with your full name and preferred contacts. I’ll see to it that a member of our team reaches out to you promptly to discuss your concerns. Thanks.

        Kevin Gray
        Author Solutions

        1. Ah, Kevin Gray. Where do I remember that name from?

          Maybe it’s from the comments of this Writer Beware post in 2009, where he makes the same offer to a bunch of disgruntled Trafford authors (Trafford is yet another Author Solutions subsidiary):

          Note that Kevin Gray’s comment there is from July 2009. In August 2009, a writer comments:

          “After reading the message from Kevin Gray I sent him an email stating my complaints about Trafford. This was over 2 weeks ago. I did not receive an answer! So much for Mr Gray!”

          Five years later, customers are reporting the exact same issues. And Kevin Gray still has a job!

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