Home » Big Publishing, Self-Publishing Warnings » Penguin Random House Merger Helps Author Solutions Exploit Writers

Penguin Random House Merger Helps Author Solutions Exploit Writers

18 July 2013

From David Gaughran:

Penguin and Random House officially merged on July 1 creating the largest trade publisher in the world. This merger has given fresh impetus to one of their subsidiaries to scam unsuspecting writers – Author Solutions, the largest vanity press in the world.

One of my blog readers, who will remain nameless, has forwarded me emails from an AuthorHouse sales rep touting that company as the “self-publishing wing” of Penguin Random House.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

I received some spam recently from Xlibris (yet another Author Solutions brand), touting a literary event – the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto this coming September.

For £299 (approx $450), I was offered the opportunity to place my book in a “new title showcase” at the event. I’ve seen these shelves at the London Book Fair – a tired assortment of books, usually in an out-of-the-way part of the hall. I walked passed on numerous occasions to see if I could catch anyone browsing the books. I never did.

But that wasn’t the worst deal on offer. For an astonishing £2,999 (approx $4,500), I was offered the chance to host a book signing at the same event. To avoid any confusion, flights, accommodation, and personal butler aren’t included in this price. Not even a free ticket to the event. All you get is an hour slot at the Author Solutions booth and some free copies to sign – if anyone shows up.

You might think that no-one is gullible enough to spring for this. But you would be wrong. At Word on the Street 2012, Author Solutions had over 300 client books in their “new title showcase” and 36 book signings.

By my reckoning, Author Solutions brought in $297,000 from this wheeze. That’s from one year. And one event.

. . . .

If a prospective Author Solutions customer attempts to dig a little further, the media is no help either.

Book trade publications provide uncritical (and sometimes glowing) coverage of Author Solutions, never mentioning that industry watchdogs such as Writer Beware have received more complaints about them than any other company.

But they don’t stop there.

As I noted in a previous post, some of those publications – such as The Bookseller and Digital Book World – go as far as censoring critical comments about Author Solutions or about (what seems to be) their editorial policy of whitewashing.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible

Big Publishing, Self-Publishing Warnings

6 Comments to “Penguin Random House Merger Helps Author Solutions Exploit Writers”

  1. That’s why is important to read blogs, like shown here on Passive Voice. Invest your time before you invest your money.

  2. This info can’t be shouted and re-shouted enough as this scum laden Sarnac pit is only getting deeper and wider with more tentacles to pull in the uninitiated.

  3. Excellent points all around, but one small correction: Word on the Street events don’t require tickets. They’re held in a large park downtown, and visitors just wander through as they please. Readings and panel discussions are held in large tents with seating, but with the sides of the tent open so people may stand outside and still hear.

  4. This article is fantastic. I feel like giving David a standing ovation for his investigative work and advocacy. I think I’ve said this before to describe what David is doing – he is lifting up rocks and looking at what is underneath.

    The e-book situation is rife with opportunities to exploit hopeful authors. It’s not surprising that people are flooding in to do that. We need watch-dogs, and David is starting that off with a bang!

    And, of course, there’s the fact that one of the biggest exploiters is the reputable Random Penguin. But, honestly, this is not a change. The Big Six have always exploited writers; it’s just out of the closet now.

    In some ways, they are showing as little shame in doing this as they did in colluding to price-fix. I hope the visibility that they get from David’s work puts pressure on them to stop.

    If there is anything I can do to help increase that pressure on them – letters, Twitter, etc., I’m definitely up for it.

  5. “For £299 (approx $450), I was offered the opportunity to place my book in a “new title showcase” at the event. I’ve seen these shelves at the London Book Fair – a tired assortment of books, usually in an out-of-the-way part of the hall. I walked passed on numerous occasions to see if I could catch anyone browsing the books. I never did.”

    Actually, Xlibris offered this long before they were even purchased by Author Solutions. I published my first book through them in 2008. It is not a new tactic due to the current “big” merger.

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