Agrhhh! Another call from Author Solutions!
Writing in the November 28, 2012 edition of IndieReader.com, contributor David Gaughran points out, in considerable detail, why indie publishing authors should stay away from disingenuous, dishonest operations like Author Solutions.
Unfortunately, established, traditional publishers, apparently desperate to cling to some share of the burgeoning indie publishing phenomenon, have jumped in bed with these literary low-lifes with both feet.
We’re talking ridiculous amounts for “manuscript assessment,” unprofessional editing, yet charged in the range of what we charge — in the range most professional editors would charge — for a competent copy edit, outrageous royalty fees, harassing phone calls — the list goes on. This is why Authorcloud, and similar honest, professional providers of services to indie publishing authors, exists. And remember, we’re AuthorCLOUD, not Author Solutions!!
Here’s a excerpt from Gaughran’s blogpost:
Simon & Schuster has launched a self-publishing operation, 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).
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 world famous repository of editorial talent.
In fact, the whole operation has been outsourced by Simon & Schuster to Author Solutions. In case you aren’t familiar with them, let’s go over a little history.
Author Solutions is the umbrella for (and owner of) several seriously shady self-publishing service companies (or vanity presses, if you prefer) – such as Author House, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford.
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 have hired to run their self-publishing operation – a company which was purchased by Penguin in July for $116m.
If you are unfamiliar with the charges above, this post will give you a little more detail.
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 Author House 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).
Thank you, Author Solutions. The world really needed more spam bots…”
If you’d like to read the entire article, here it is.