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Simon & Schuster Introduces Self-Publishing Service

27 November 2012

From The New York Times Media Decoder:

Simon & Schuster announced Tuesday that it would become the first of the big six publishing houses to dive deeply into the booming self-publishing market.

Self-publishing is a rapidly growing and lucrative sector of the publishing world; the number of self-published books has tripled since 2006, to about 235,000 titles annually, according to the research and consulting firm Bowker. But big publishers have been tentative about entering the market, partly for fear of tarnishing their brand by allowing content they have not reviewed to be published under their name.

But Simon & Schuster has gotten around that problem by teaming up with Author Solutions Inc., a company based in Bloomington, Ind., that already has a robust self-publishing business.

. . . .

The two companies have created a separate house called Archway Publishing, which will be available for authors looking to publish fiction, nonfiction, business or children’s books.

Simon & Schuster hopes to distinguish Archway from other self-publishing options as a premium service, at a premium cost to the authors.

. . . .

Authors can buy packages ranging from $1,599, for the least expensive children’s package, to $24,999, for the most expensive business book package.

Link to the rest at Media Decoder and thanks to SSM for the tip.

Big Publishing

100 Comments to “Simon & Schuster Introduces Self-Publishing Service”

  1. “Simon & Schuster announced Tuesday that it would become the first of the big six publishing houses to dive deeply” and “Authors can buy packages ranging from $1,599, for the least expensive children’s package, to $24,999, for the most expensive business book package.”

    The first??? Has S&S been in a coma for 2 years? Penguin already started up exactly such a scam, charging high fees for authors to “self-publish” through the shiny-new venture with a shiny-new name (Book Country, IIRC).

    And it can also be argued that is S&S the =third= big house to recently launch a program specifically designed to fleece aspiring writers. Harlequin announced the launch of a vanity press in 2009 which they initially called “Harlequin Horizons” and then changed to “Dell’Arte” after several national writers organizations condemned Harlequin for running this con.

  2. Yeesh, another publisher picking up a Vanity Press. I’m so steamed that people are still conflating self-publishing with rackets like Author Solutions!

    • I agree, Anthea. I hate it when people confuse vanity publishing with self-publishing! This is vanity publishing at its finest, and definitely most expensive.

      Felicity

  3. I thought Penguin bought Authorhouse. So how can S&S team up with Authorhouse? Does not compute.

    • I think Author House (Penguin) is different from Author Solutions Inc. (S&S).

      In name, at least. In function, I’m guessing they’re pretty similar.

    • The article brought up that same point at the end, Peter. I think that this is the kind of collateral damage that occurs when two far-reaching mega corporations merge.

      When two other mega-publishers (both of their names start with “H”) merged some years ago, I was part of a suddenly redundant team attached to one of their subsidiary companies. Even though we were nearing the publication date of a full-featured electronic product, our team was stopped and the product was put into mothballs. More than a year of work and millions of dollars were just wasted.

      In this case, I foresee either a spin-off new company, a complete buy out of Archway by S&S, or a slow death-by-starvation of Archway by S&S. In any case, lots of money will be thrown at this thing, to the detriment of the company’s bottom line.

      This is the reason that traditional publishers are in danger. As Romantic as it may be to think that indie authors are ushering its death by a billion paper cuts, the fact of the matter is that big publishing will be undone by its own bone-headed business moves.

  4. Interesting. Trade publishers aren’t going to have much of a leg to stand on when they assure us that they don’t, in fact, try to exploit writers. Prior to trade publishers partnering with vanity houses, people in the industry roundly condemned and warned people away from the vanity presses. Just because a big trade house owns and/or partners with them doesn’t make them suddenly respectable establishments.

    What it does is show exactly what the publishing house thinks of its writers.

  5. Back vanity press, are we?

    The price is the same as vanity presses always were. Don’t see how that makes it premium, except perhaps that it goes for premium suckers.

  6. I’ve started to comment twice now but I’m just speechless. I can’t get past the gall/spin of this…article.

    So in lew of comment I think I’ll just help out those of you who are thinking about doing so and provide this;

    bad  [bad]

    Part of Speech: adjective

    Definition: poor quality

    Synonyms:

    abominable, amiss, atrocious, awful, bad news, beastly, blah*, bottom out, bummer, careless, cheap, cheesy*, crappy*, cruddy, crummy, defective, deficient, diddly, dissatisfactory, downer, dreadful, erroneous, fallacious, faulty, garbage, godawful, grody, gross*, grungy, icky, imperfect, inadequate, incorrect, inferior, junky, lousy*, not good, off, poor, raunchy*, rough, sad, slipshod, stinking, substandard, synthetic, the pits, unacceptable, unsatisfactory

    Notes: badly is an adverb to describe an activity; bad is an adjective to describe a condition or state

  7. Author Solutions is owned by Pearson, who also owns Penguin.

    So Simon and Schuster are collabrating with Penguin to set up a vanity press. (They really should just admit they don’t compete and they are all one company.)

    So Archway will serve two functions:

    a. It gets money off the top, in exchange for incredibly valuable services like being part of a speaker’s bureau and having access to a video center to help with creating book trailers (maybe – and what do you want to bet there is an additional charge?)

    b. A fishing expedition for books that might hit it big.

    And I would make an educated guess that the contracts for this will include clauses covering the possibility that the self-published book is a success. Clauses that force the author to give this new company, Archway, all their print rights, and probably all the money, and possibly e-rights, too.

    And the contracts will probably be boiler-plate, and the authors probably won’t seek legal advice before signing.

    I agree with Danyelle, this is exploitation, pure and simple.

    My heart breaks for the authors who will be lured into this because a supposedly “reputable” company is doing it.

    • That’s what angers me so much–it’s the people just breaking into the business who’ll fall victim to this. Preying on the ignorant (I don’t mean this as a bad thing. I’m ignorant in a lot of things like organic chemistry or calculus or baking bread.) is despicable.

      And these are the companies who aren’t supposedly in it for the money. The ones who only want to preserve literature and culture. Right.

  8. $1599-24999 for the same thing you can get from CreateSpace for $25?

    Wow! Sign me up!

  9. What’s that bit about fools and their money?

    I actually doubt they’ll cover their expenses with this. It could’ve been a brilliant scam 2-3 years ago, but there’s so much more info about selfpub out there now. Yeah, some will fall for it but enough?

    • “t could’ve been a brilliant scam 2-3 years ago, but there’s so much more info about selfpub out there now.”

      And Harlequin did come up with it then, so S&S is indeed late to the game. Exactly three years ago, Harlequin was announcing its new venture (read: long con), which it called “Harlequin Horizons” at the time, which was a vanity press. One of the keys of this monkeymaking scheme was that rejects from Harlequin’s massive slushpiles would start receiving rejection letters which urged them to “start” their careers by dealing with Harlequin Horizons, i.e. spending thousand of dollars to have their books “published” by its vanity division (which, if you read te details of the program, was not publication at all, but just a standard, plain-old, conventional vanity scam–this one with Harlequin’s name stamped all over it, as well as letters from Harlequin to rejected aspiring writers urging them to spend their money on it).

      Numerous national writers’ orgs harshly criticized Hq for launching a vanity scam. The company’s solution to this was NOT to say, “Gosh, maybe fleecing writers is wrong; we’ll shut this down,” but rather just to change the scam’s name to “Dell’Arte,” once they realized (with apparent shock) that the professional writing community would NOT congratulate them for shaking down writers, go figure.

      I agree that S&S is coming into the con game rather late in the day. But, you know, there are so many idiots out there (an AMAZING number of ignorant aspiring writers angrily accused professionals and professional orgs which objected to Harlequin’s unconscionable scam of just not wanting aspiring writers to have an “opportunity to be published,” for chrissake), I’d say that, even so, S&S might make money out of this.

      • “Dell’Arte” Is that what that was? I remember the name on some books, but never knew (or cared) who it was. But then I’ve only gotten back into this horrible shell game again 2 years ago. I used to keep up with it back in my 20s when I gave a damn and was trying to get published (read collect reject letters) but dropped out for most of my 30s.
        Wow, sometimes ignorance is bliss when it’s not necessary to know.

        • I’d be surprised to see Dell’Arte books, since that was a vanity press, not a publishing program. (Vanity presses make their moeny off scamming writers, not selling books.)

          I wonder if what you saw was “DeLaCorte”? That’s a big, busy publishing program (owned by Random House) and an imprint name which many readers see often on their books.

          More than a few writers wondered if DeLaCorte knew (or cared) that Harlequin had chosen a very similar name for its vanity press after being (inexplicably) surprised that writers’ organizations objected to, rather than applauded, Harlequin getting into the business of scamming aspiring writers.

        • I don’t remember if that specific Harlequin line is the one I’m thinking of, but I thought a standard Harlequin line was changed into a self-publishing one. I remember reading some complaints about that, a while back.

      • I can’t prove it, but I think they changed the name to Dell’Arte because people were starting to throw around the term Harlequin Ho.

  10. If authors are able to pony up that kinda cash, I clearly need to raise my editorial rates and get a piece of that pie…

  11. Just another way to try and fleece writers. Sad, especially when all you need these days to self-publish is a computer, MS Word/Powerpoint and a few bucks for a cover image.

  12. Wow! Where do I sign up?
    Oh wait, my I.Q. is above 50, never mind.

    • Donald – you made me lol. :)

      • Thanks Mira, but really, anyone who signs up for this is either naive or just plain dumb. Simon & Shcuster should be ashamed of themselves.

        • Your typo is apt. Simon & Huckster.

          • Oh no, a typo. Maybe I do need their help.

            • They should change their name to Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.

              • LOL! Love Car Talk!

                • Marx Brothers, I think.

                  Simon & Schuster is gunning for Simon and Suckster.

                  • Bartholomew Thockmorton

                    Wasn’t it the Three Stooges?

                    • I can’t remember, lol! I grew up hearing it from my mom who was an exec. sect. I remember thinking it was real when I was a kid and she laughed as she explained it to me. Feels like a million years ago now.

                  • Speaking as a part owner of the venerable name of Simon, I respectfully request that you find an appropriate way to change both the names. Sharing a name with these troglodytes makes me want to wear a bag over my head when I go out in public.

                    Simian & Shyster, maybe?

                    • Sadists and Schyster? (With apologies to practicing sadists)

                    • Not Shyster. It’s borderline anti-Semitic. Let’s stick with Huckster. Slimin’ and Huckster. There you go.

                    • Ms. Yourish, you will not find many people more pro-semitic than I am. The etymology deriving ‘shyster’ from a Jewish surname is almost certainly bogus, and objecting to it on grounds of antisemitism is as stupid as objecting to ‘niggardly’ or ‘picnic’ because of supposed racism. It is, in fact, derived from the German word Scheisser, and I suppose if it is anti-anything, it is anti-German.

                      In any case, ‘huckster’ is not a strong enough word for what these people are doing, not by half; and it has the unfortunate property of not beginning with an S, which weakens the association.

                      (Incidentally, the Scheisser etymology was derived after extensive research by Gerald L. Cohen. I suppose you could accuse him of antisemitism if it made you feel better.)

        • I’ve said before that in terms of business savvy, the average writer just fell off the turnip truck. This scam is aimed at people who have never even been on the turnip truck. They’re still out in the turnip patch, buried in organic fertilizer right up to their greens.

  13. I want to know what Mike Shatzkin thinks about it.

    • Mike weighed in toward the bottom of the full article. To his credit he thinks its a stupid move also. (My words not his)

      “Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical, a publishing consulting firm, said: “If you change the branding you are not as attractive to the self-published author, because, obviously, they are looking for the branding.”

      So kudos to Mike.

      But I dont blame anyone for not reading the whole thing, I hit my head on my desk repeatedly about a quarter of the way through.

      Now I need some Rolaids

  14. So, another large publisher sets up a rip-off self-publishing service. Sigh. I don’t know where to start, so I’ll just stick to this:

    They are paying “50% royalties” which is net – i.e. after Amazon take their share. In other words, charging thousands of dollars to publish your book isn’t enough to sate S&S and Author Solutions, so they’ll pick your pocket a second time and take half your royalties.

    Assholes.

  15. Wow. They still don’t get it. I was hopeful for a split second that one of the big 6 were going to get smart and offer something grand for indie authors.

    “In return, authors will get a range of services, like having their books included in Edelweiss – an industry online catalog available to major retailers and wholesalers among others – or having access to a speaker’s bureau that will help find speaking opportunities. They might also benefit from a video production department that creates and distributes book trailers.”

    I’ll save my $24,999 and hire the best cover artist, editors, and marketing/PR person to promote my book. And still have over 20K left over. Thanks, but not thanks.

    • Just check out that language: “online catalog available to major retailers” — that means a website where the major wholesalers can click over and browse, right? Since they have so much time on their hands and nobody clamoring at their doors. “Having access to a speaker’s bureau…” Again, to me that says ‘online database nobody will ever see or use’ – but maybe I’m just cynical that way.

  16. Erm……

    Passive guy should really tag posts like this with blood pressure warnings.

    It aint healthy for me to get my blood pressure raised up so high.

  17. Ok, wait… $25,000?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!

    Ah. No.

    I’ll spend that on the new car I’ve been holding off on buying for two years since I’ve paid off my current one.

    $25,000?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!

    I just can’t get my head around how stupid they think writers are.

    Oh, wait, yes I can.

  18. So which of the houses is going to buy Publish America so that they can “compete” in this delightful new method for providing “validation” to hopeful writers?

  19. This is to prove the saying that “A sucker is born every minute.” I’m afraid they will be suckers who will buy this expensive service. The only advantage that a writer may get is paper book distribution to books stores, if that’s offered in a more aggressive fashion than CreateSpace already does. This service should be called “Pay more and get less.”

  20. Who cares about the 2K up front cost? Depending on the skillsets of the parties, an argument can certainly be made that it’s possible to bring 2 grand worth services to a book project. I only skimmed the artcile, however, they seem to have completely overloooked the 50% pepetual cut of net sales….

    • That’s my main beef. Although, it should be pointed out that $2k is the lowest price for the most basic fiction package. In figures released as part of Penguin’s purchase of Author Solutions, it was revealed that the average customer publishes one book and spends over $5,000.

      Author Solutions are notorious for plaguing customers with phone-calls, using high-pressure sales tactics to get them to sign up for crap like a $1,200 “web optimized” press release.

      But yeah, on top of all that, they pick your pocket a second time with 50% of your royalties.

      It’s a business model predicated on customer ignorance. And they should be ashamed of themselves.

  21. I understand the concept of needing money to make money, but this is just ridiculous. If I even had $1600 just lying around I’d take it and use it to advertise and publish on my own.

    What this really smells like is that they are fishing for those rare sucesfull folks who manage to make it semi-big via self publishing. In theory, if they have that kind of money making books already then ploping down thousands of dollars shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Problem is — as Mr. Wells pointed out above — most folks like that do have an I.Q. greater than 50.

    Yeah, sorry Big Six, but try again.

  22. Golly! For a measly $25,000 I can get my titles shipped to a store where they’ll probably sit in the back room for four weeks before someone pulls the covers off and sends them back for a refund?

    Seriously, if a case of books shows up at the local B&N with an ‘Archway’ logo, the staff will roll their eyes and put it on the next truck back.

    Aside from fleecing a few writers, this isn’t going to work. The only way this would actually sell books is if they put the Random House-Penguin name behind it to lend some ‘crediblity’.

    • +1

    • Right. It might be worth a few bucks (but not this much) to have the book come out as “Random House”, “Penguin”, “Simon & Schuster”, or whatever, but you don’t even get that.

    • Come to think of it, this may act kind of like a lightning rod. A service like this will attract all the ‘goldrush’ writers who are willing to pay whatever it takes to get ahead of the ‘suckers’ who work to build up a readership.

      Now that buying hundreds of reviews is pretty much off the table, they’ll dump their cash into Archway in the mistaken belief that it’ll give them instant crediblity.

      • Ohhh… I like the way you think, Andrew! While all the morons and impatient suckers rush to take advantage of this golden opportunity, the rest of us can plod along building up our solid reputations. Once they’re crying and disappointed, they’ll rush to the next lottery and we’ll continue plodding along. There’s no such thing as instant credibility. It has to be earned just everything else of value.

        • Yep. Kind of like the story of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise kept moving toward the finish line while the hare hung around, playing video games and mooching off his girlfriend or something like that…

          Maybe her dad was judging the race?

          OK – time for another pot of coffee, I’m starting to circle the drain here.

    • Golly! For a measly $25,000 I can get my titles shipped to a store

      Don’t be silly. No store will be stupid enough to buy in books from a known and notorious vanity press.

  23. Last night in the U.S. the news magazine Nightline had a feature on Amazon. One part showed a jewelry supply company that sells through Amazon, is doing well, and has — wait for it — 150,000 products listed on the site. 150,000 items listed from a single small business.

    In other words, Amazon has built a platform so efficient that it allows a unlimited numbers of people to sell unlimited numbers of things, and do it profitably.

    It’s what smart modern companies do.

    Dumb companies, on the other hand, buy labor-intensive boiler room operations that charge you $2500 for a press release.

  24. Talk about highway rip off! The prices are ridiculous. If people only knew what doing it themselves cost, they’d run the other way. All it takes is a little know-how and education. These services are thieves. Done ranting.

  25. Unbelievable. I would laugh, but I’m afraid the sad killed the funny on this one.

    For 25,000 I would hope they’d be sending a rep to my apt. to kneel down and paint my toenails as I write.

  26. “But big publishers have been tentative about entering the market, partly for fear of tarnishing their brand…”

    Uh…do they even have a clue how much they have tarnished their brand with this move? Even most self-publishers know those vanity presses are scams. Do they really want to be linked to scams? Apparently so. Maybe because they’ve been in scam mode with their contracts for some time now. Just a thought.

  27. Publishers worked up to this. Over the decades the bottom line has assumed ever increasing importance. They used to make excuses for it; publishing Katie Price and Jade Goody and the Duchess of York would enable them to publish talented new authors etc.. Gradually it became obvious they cared nothing about the writing and the reader, and instead gloried in their money-making skills. Then Amazon came along and demonstrated that they weren’t even very good at that.

    Now they think they have hit on a new money spinner, and they’re on it like a shark who smells blood. I doubt it will do them any good, short or long term.

  28. I read this article, in which Simon and Huckster (thank you, Barbara Morgenroth!) proposes to cheat writers to the tune of $25,000 for self-publishing, compared to the heavily-populated wave of affordable professional services out there these days for self-publishing (from cover preparations, to freelance editing, to formatting and conversion, POD, etc.), as well as all the affordable software to do much of this oneself (my formatting and conversion software cost me $50, which I have so far used to turn 20 of my backlist books into ebooks)…

    And then publishers wonder why writers and aspiring writers flock to Amazon and these other services, and wonder why they’re regularly being demonized by writers and various blogs and articles, and often ridiculed in the business press?

    I mean… S&S, your best shot at embracing the digital age is to set up a vanity scam? Come ON. And to do so NOW, when anyone who looks at those prices must have brain fever if they’re not wondering what makes your services worth 10X or =100X= more than the prices charged by a slew of legitimate services now available, as well as widespread information all over the internet about how to self-publish and how to find/evaluate legitimate epublishing services.

    S&S–were you dropped on your HEAD or something?

    • Perhaps their internet connections were down when they concocted this hair-brained business plan and were incapable of doing even a rudimentary Google search for the pertinent info. that would have informed them that their business plan smells like the back end of a rabid rhino.

  29. Huh. Well, I think S&S is going to do well with this.

    Go to any agent’s blog. No matter how idiotic their advice, how patronizing, out-dated or ridiculous, the comments fill with quivering little sycophants waving their hands and begging, “Pick me! Oh please pick me!”

    Barely a week passes when I don’t hear some otherwise reasonably intelligent person say, “Self-publish? Oh no. I won’t feel like a REAL writer unless I’m published by a REAL publisher.” Or worse, “I NEED an agent to take care of me and a publisher so I can focus on my writing and not have to worry about anything else.”

    The world is full of people who DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. As long as they are so desperate for gold star stickers and a bit of attention from a REAL INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL they’ll line up for the chance to be gobbled like a handful of Goldfish crackers.

    I’m tired of feeling sorry for the suckers. There are just too damned many of them. And I am truly tired of being vilified when I try to educate them.

    • In the wild, this is called Thinning Out the Herd.

    • Jaye is right, I’m sad to say.

      When Harlequin launched its vanity scam in 2009, RWA, SFWA, NINC and other writer advocacy orgs objected to a major house using its position to fleece ignorant aspiring writers of thousands of dollars. So did quite a few individual professional writers. There was a LOT of information made available on the web–specific, detailed, information in blogs and articles and also in official statements from writers’ orgs–about how and why vanity presses are just scams designed to separate someone from their cash, NOT publishing programs or a path to publication.

      And you know what happened? An AMAZING number of ignorant aspiring writers angrily accused professional writers and professional writers’ organizations which objected to Harlequin’s unconscionable scam of (wait for it!) just not wanting aspiring writers to have an “opportunity to be published.”

      So, yeah, there’s one born every minute. And Simon and Huckster will probably profit from them.

    • It will be a howling success if S&S offers a power lunch with an editor.

      • I might be tempted to pay four figures for a power lunch with an editor at a firm that runs this kind of scam; but I would be wise not to. I hear New York has this law against assault and battery.

  30. I don’t think S&S cares at all how this venture does. It’s totally staffed and run by Author Solutions. This is one of those items on the industry analyst checklist.

    Here’s how it works. In every industry, there are “independent industry analysts” who provide research to investors and others. In my experience, these people usually know very little beyond what I can find out with 30 minutes and an internet connection, but sometimes you find a good one…

    Anyway, bamboozling, er, informing industry analysts about your corporate strategy is an important function for any market leader. Every industry analyst for the publishing industry has a checklist of stuff that they think a company needs to address. Due to “50 Shades”, self-publishing just shot up the list and is now number 1. This deal allows S&S to cross that off the list.

  31. I created a little chart to explain how bad this new “venture” is for authors http://www.nadialee.net/blog/2012/11/why-simon-schusters-archway-publishing-is-bad-for-authors/

  32. I shouldnt be shocked, but I am… at the brazen sales pitch for authors to pay through the nose [again] for something they can do for free.

    I wonder, how can we get the word out to more authors that THIS travesty is not one they ought ever engage with no matter what freakin’ color of green frosting S&S and the so-called ‘experienced’ VANITY press they partnered with… slap on it.

    I revise my first comment. I’m not shocked. I’m f’n galled.

  33. Color me speechless. Why would a reputable publisher travel down this path? Or is the answer in the question – a publisher who travels this path by definition is not reputable?

  34. This is honestly what Big Publishing thinks self-publishing is? sigh…

  35. Um…yeah. $25,000 for what, exactly? Sure, you could do that. Or you could spend a week researching self-publishing, learn GIMP, spend $3-10 on stock photos to create your own cover, and upload it all for free…and keep the other $24,990 in the bank.

    If you really wanted to do it up right, spend $500 for a cover and $1000 on editing. There, I still saved you $23,500.

    Geez Louise.

    And I bet S&S still has the gall to keep a hefty chunk of the profits, too.

  36. I think this is pretty ridiculous to be honest, and it makes me feel a little sick. Is this really what the big publishers think self-publishing is? Or is it a kneejerk response and attempt to cash in, exploiting the uneducated and, well, rich? I suspect probably a combination of both.

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