Selling people a dream is easy if it’s their dream.
A lot of people dream of being an author, seeing their words printed in a book which flies off bookstore shelves and almost overwhelms Amazon’s buy button.
When the Author House website promised: “You set your book publishing goals. We’ll help you reach them,” or the Tafford Publishing website said, “Our publishing experts and production team are on hand with whatever your book needs,” the best seller took on the quality of Gatsby’s green light for the would-be authors, a dream clearly visible and sure to be realized.
160,000 of them flocked to Author Solutions, the parent company of Author House, Tafford, iUniverse, XLibris, Palibrio, and other imprints, which proclaimed itself “The leading indie publishing company in the world.”
Last July, Penguin Publishing, one of the Big Six publishing houses, no doubt with an eye on Author Solutions’ $100 million annual revenue, purchased the Bloomington, Indiana-based company.
Author Solutions is the biggest fish in the rising tide of self-publishing.
Last week the New York law firm Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Steward filed a complaint against Author Solutions suggesting that it is a shark. ( See Class Action Complaint)
For many people familiar with the self-publishing world, ourselves included, the assertions in the complaint were not surprising. We have heard the laments of many authors who felt that an Author Solutions imprint had failed to deliver what it promised. Nevertheless, it is good to see that these authors may get their day in court.
Among other things, the complaint asserts that:
“Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing authors with accurate sales statements.”
“Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors – errors made by the publisher not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors… Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.”
“Most of Author Solutions earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing services. These services, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and opportunities for authors.”
“…authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an ‘indie publisher’ at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors, but from them.”
The complaint goes on to specify a list of deceptive marketing practices, misrepresentations, or failures to deliver promised services.
The lawsuit should be a caution flag to all authors considering not only Author Solutions imprints, but other heavily advertised providers of turnkey solutions like Outskirts Press or Publish America. Know what you are paying for and know what your rights are before signing any agreement. Mark Levine’s book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is a great way to check.
At Stories To Tell we always advise authors to do as many things as they can themselves. Pay only for things you can or don’t want to do yourself. Doing so will minimize your cost.
As for high priced marketing packages like those offered by Author Solutions imprints, we agree with the marketing advice of best-selling author Guy Kawasaki, who said in his book, APE: How to Publish a Book, “For self-publishers, guerrilla tactics are the way to gorilla-size success. The cost for most of these ideas is $0, and the expensive ones are no more proven than the free ones. This is because the quality of your book and the quantity of your moxie are more important than the amount of money you’ve spent.”
Authors who want to contact Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Stewart can use this online form.
Have you published with an Author Solutions imprint? Leave a comment about your experiences.