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Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

22 September 2014

From David Gaughran:

There is something seriously askew with the supposed values of the publishing business.

The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.

As always, I’m conscious of whose agenda this serves and why writers allow themselves to be used as pawns in this game.

Exhibit A: Harlequin

Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using extremely common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company (and many other multinational corporations too).

You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree), but these actions are legal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the major publishers, and the global media conglomerates which own them, are doing the exact same thing.

Take Harlequin, for example. Harlequin doesn’t just use these corporate structures to minimize its tax bill. It has also used them to reduce the 50% digital royalty rate agreed in some of its contracts to a paltry 3%. Harlequin is facing a class action suit because of this, but you won’t find coverage of that in the news media or outrage about Harlequin’s actions among publishing professionals.

. . . .

Exhibit B: The New York Times

I have a fun game you can play! Well, it’s more of a thought experiment and it goes something like this: try and construct a hypothetical scenario where the New York Timeswrites an article that is critical of a major publisher. Seriously, give it a shot. It’s probably harder than you think, as it would need to be something worse than price-fixing or exploiting authors on an industrial scale, subjects which the New York Times routinely ignores, or whitewashes.

It would also have to be worse than a publisher pretending it was a victim of the Nazis when, in reality, it secretly donated to the SS, used Jewish slave labor to publish hits like The Christmas Book of the Hitler Youth, and then refused to apologize in 2002 when caught lying about it!

That publisher is Bertelsmann, 51% owner of Penguin Random House. I guess being a global media conglomerate keeps the right stories on the front page and helps the wrong ones disappear.

. . . .

Rotten To The Core

Publishing likes to think of itself as a “moral” business with strong “values” but I think that’s complete bullshit. No industry with the smallest amount of ethics would permit a giant scam like Author Solutions to happen under its nose.

No industry with the tiniest modicum of respect for writers would keep quiet about Penguin Random House owning the biggest vanity press in the world. No industry with any sense of decency would look the other way when Simon & Schuster partners with Author Solutions, or when Harlequin and HarperCollins happily profit from the exploitation of writers with their own white-label vanity imprints.

The moral compass of publishing is completely broken and we can’t look to the media to hold them to account, because the media is parroting talking points from the major publishers.

We are the only ones who can push back against this crap, so the next time The Guardian publishes an Amazon hit piece, ask them why they have never covered the Author Solutions story.

. . . .

The next time the New York Times acts as an uncritical mouthpiece for a pro-publisher organization which has just spent $104,000 on a full-page spread, ask them why they don’t direct similar moral outrage towards publishers who are cheating writers out of contractually agreed royalties.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

UPDATE: PG has posted about the Harlequin class-action suit here, here and here

Big Publishing, David Gaughran

117 Comments to “Publishing Is Rotten To The Core”

  1. It must be a very slow news day when the best you can come up with is this. how about the serious issues being discussed on the kindle boards about Kindle Unlimited eroding koll payments to their lowest in more than 30 months while Amazon pads the payouts to give Hugh Howey and other top 100 Kindle authors “All Stars” bonuses?

    Amazon is doing exactly as predicted: using authors as merchandising tools as dispensable as razor blades, in a manner that makes the treatment of authors in the traditional publishing system look like the crowning of a royal peerage. And yet you continue to drag your tired trad-publishing tropes around the race track, while ignoring the fact that the only pony you’ve hitched your star to, Amazon, is s******* on you.

    • I see you have no comments on the piece that is actually posted. Maybe it’s too accurate? Hit a little to close to home? Tell us, is Trade Publishing rotten to the core? What are your thoughts on that subject?

      • EXACTLY.

        Deb, what are you trying to accomplish here by demeaning (but not addressing) David’s article? He makes some very damning points about ethically dubious publisher practices that have gone on unquestioned for years, and the best you can do is poo-poo it? That alone tells me he’s on to something.

        • David seems to care about authors. The fact that a legacy publishing representative came here to bash authors instead of commiserate with their abuses just backs up everything David said.

          In fact, I think Deb is one of the best advocates for self-publishing out there. She just doesn’t know it.

          • “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.”

            – Voltaire

            “With friends like these, who needs enemas?”

            – Anon

    • Cool, a drive-by Deb sighting! I just finished going over a sad scene in my book, but now I can go back to bed with a smile on my face.

      Thanks, Debbie 😀

      • IMO she should immediately change her name to Hortense. I shudder with every drive-by.

        • Poor Deb. You’re in the same boat as Isis Books & Gifts. Trust me, your friends here know the difference, and we love and respect YOU.

        • Deb, just sign everything Deb (NOT DB) and change your handle to |Deb, Definitely NOT DBD|. We’ll know who you are.

          That said. DBD does not appear to be a troll in the current sense. I’ve been online since before there was an internet & have seen the evolution of the troll. DBD shows none of the symptoms.

          My diagnosis:
          Publicaris moronus

          Presentation : ADS
          Point and laugh.
          Causes hilarity so it is better to not medicate.
          Do not introduce to reality, may cause (negative)
          special snowflake pronouncements.


    • So, in your opinion, Amazon is screwing (mid-list) authors, from one facet(KU), for the first time in thirty months, and everyone should be up in arms.

      However, legacy publishing has been screwing authors for, what, six decades, and that’s simply “tired trad-publishing tropes around the race track”.

      Sounds like you have an agenda. Or maybe just ADS.


      • Objection: Legacy publishing has been screwing authors for more like sixteen decades, and that’s just the New York branch. A lot of those firms started in the grand old days when the U.S. did not recognize or respect foreign copyrights, and they built their fortunes by selling the pirated works of foreign authors.

        I don’t see much evidence that their ethical standards have improved since then. They just got out of the piracy business when the law compelled them to stop.

    • Is this the best YOU can do? “My cut from the lending library is down?”

      Much more important than the track record of Harlequin or aiding and abetting consumer fraud.

    • Drive-by-Deb’s comments is a great example why things have got so far and how publishers like to twist things to push their prerogatives. Thank you, Deb, I hope you’ll drop by more often and give us more examples of how behind the time and reality a CEO of small press can be.

    • In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

      • At this point I’m starting to think Deb is a *paid* troll. I don’t see how she can be this dense otherwise.

    • As soon as Amazon starts selling “Amazon supporter” special snowflake shaped buttons” I’ll be buying.

    • 70% is still more than 3%.


    • Lady, you’re so full of s***, a Port-a-Potty won’t stand next to you.

    • I’m making good money off KOLL/KU, plus they upped their pool to three million this month, so I’m not sure what the complaint is.

    • Damn, Lady, thems must be some sour grapes they done made yo’ whine wine from.

    • I just read this before coming by here and seeing the post by Deb, the Drive-by Troll.


      • Good one! I especially liked this quote:

        So next time you encounter a troll online, remember a few things. (1) These trolls are some truly messed up people and (2) it is your suffering that brings them pleasure, so the best thing you can do is ignore them.

        Maybe the best revenge we can get on Drive-By Deb is to just ignore her. Although laughing at her comes in a close second.

    • Gee, Deb, I guess you side with Author Solutions.

    • Someone needs to explain to me why Deb still reads TPV and comments here when she’s made it clear she thinks we’re all idiots? Hm.

      And last I checked, you have a blog, Deb. Blog about what YOU want and let David blog about what HE wants. It would have been more interesting if instead of deflection you had addressed what David actually talked about. I certainly would have enjoyed a publishing insider’s response to the actual points.

      • DBD has a hard life. Everything she thought she knew, everything she thought she would be entitled to if she just played the game and worked hard, is crashing down around her ears. Who are we to deny her her small moments of righteousness?

        As Scrooge’s nephew observed, she’s a comical lady, if not so pleasant as she might be: her offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against her.

    • Amazon, is s******* on you.

      Yeah, but they ars s******* dollars.

    • Drive-by Debbie!

      Every time you post, all I hear in my head is Homer Simpson yelling in doppler effect, your dopey howl going, errrruuuaaaaauuuuuggghhhhhAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRrrrr… as you whiz uselessly by.

      Until the next time TPV posts an article that cuts too close to your tender and inflamed bone… godspeed, Deborah Smith. Godspeed.

    • By the way, Deb, we already discussed the travesty of the All-Stars b.s. in previous articles. You missed it, and believe me, we were sad not to see your drive-bys there.

    • Well, Deb, I guessed you missed the post (last week, I think?) about how KU is affecting KOLL payments. Keep up. But that’s not what this post is about.

      I ask you again, if you so disdain this blog and the people who comment, why are you here? Is it to rabble-rouse? (Because we indies are SUCH rabble, aren’t we?) You never reply to anyone, you won’t convince anyone here of your point of view and you don’t come across as knowledgeable or reasonable.

      And please, the “razor blades” analogy, besides being insulting to those who actually work for a living, is getting tired. It’s Preston’s brainchild, so at least credit him for it.

  2. Deb, I dare you … no, I double-dog dare you … to actually stick around and engage in a public debate about this with PG or any number of other posters.

    Because I’d wipe the floor with you, and I’m the dumb one here.

    • Hold on there, Dan. I’m claiming the title of dumbest TPVer.


      • I’m afraid that I can, shamefully, claim that title.

        • I would like to point out I’m one of the few, the proud, the commenters that have been called dumb by deb.

        • And I may be the most naive TPVer, alas.

          ETA: Then again, TPV may be educating me out of it. 😀

          • I’m naive, too. I have had author and bookseller friends for decades–first as a bibliophile fan and then when I decided to do some editing/writing– and I’ve read agent and author blogs for years. I’ve heard the publisher’s side and the traditional author/agent side for a long time. Authors often had complaints about this or that, but subtly–because I do think they were afraid to lose their livelihood if they said their woes loudly or widely.

            I came here to read about the indie side of things.

            Then I notice more and more of my author friends feeling free to complain about contract terms or lousy advances or no-marketing/promo support. I think that’s because hybrid/indie is an option now. They can talk and not block the only road to publication.

            Because of TPV and formerly trad authors now speaking out, my eyes were opened to the vast array of abuses in trad publishing.

            Well, one can’t stay innocent forever.

      • Well, I still get to be the most pointlessly belligerent, right?

        • You’re too nice, Libbie. You’re the Jennifer Aniston of TPV.

          I’m the mega-b****. 😀

          • That’s only because I use my powers for good, now.

            I cut my teeth on warboards in the bad old BBS days. And I yield to no one my title “Master of Juvenile Scorn”(TM).

          • What?

            That can only be because you’re taking all the things I say as some sort of humorous irony.

            Take all my posts literally and you’ll be much closer to the mark. 😉

        • No, after I called Lee Child an a****** and stated that the NTY blogger Streitfeld had Patterson’s sexual organ stuffed so far down his throat that he nearly choked to death on it (even got some drive-by from Deb the dude (she’s a dude, btw)), I get to keep the title.

          Thanks for playing, though. Suzan Harden, tell Ms. Hawker what consolation prizes she’ll take home with her!

      • You may be the dumbest, Dan; I’ll let you have that distinction. (I could try to claim that title, but I’m not dumb enough to fight you for it, so evidently there is some limit to my stupidity.)

        But I am clearly the ugliest TPVer. And of that title I shall not be deprived, unless Zombie Winston Churchill rises out of the grave and haunts the combox here.

    • On video, please.

  3. And the lawsuit with Harlequin is still ongoing: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/05/2014/appeals-court-reinstates-lawsuit-against-harlequin/

    Should I ever get a Harlequin editor in front of me, I’d be very tempted to ask them about their contract terms.

    • The boilerplate terms of the contract at the center of the lawsuit were changed in early 2004. Those terms were changed again in, I believe, 2012 (I left Harlequin in 2011). Of course, they are still selling books under the pre-2004 terms (I have ten that they are still selling under these terms).

      But if you ask Harlequin, they will talk about the latest contract, which is 20% of net for ebooks. Mind that they use the wholesale model, so the royalty is actually 20% of 50% (which comes to 10%).

      And the wording they used in the pre 2004 contracts to justify reducing 50% to 3% is still present in the current contract. So if the court decides what Harlequin did in the past is okay, the door seems to be open for them to figure royalties that same way in the future (if they choose).

      • And the wording they used in the pre 2004 contracts to justify reducing 50% to 3% is still present in the current contract. So if the court decides what Harlequin did in the past is okay, the door seems to be open for them to figure royalties that same way in the future (if they choose).

        That’s awful.
        ETA: This is something that should be included in David’s article and shared with the world. Thank you for pointing that out.

        • Keep in mind that I’m not an attorney, which is why I say it -seems- that way to me. I might be missing something. The clauses that they used to justify this in the past occur in two different sections of the contract (then were used together). So it’s quite complicated.

          • It would be great to hear attorney’s interpretation of such contract. Does PG has any current Harlequin contracts? And is he willing to share his interpretation of it with the TPV crowd (especially the parts mentioned by Ann Voss Peterson)?

      • Well, looks like I’ll never sub to Harlequin then. Ever. (shudder)

    • I’m totally rooting for the authors to get a sane judge to trounce Harlequin. Disgusting practice and blatant disrespect of authors.

      • PG, doesn’t HQ’s carve-out to a subsidiary violate the “arm’s length” provision of the applicable laws?

        • The contract states that Harlequin has the right to license rights to a related licensee for an amount “reasonably obtainable” from an unrelated licensee, so I believe that covers what you’re talking about here, Deb. The main point in question is whether 6-8% can be considered a reasonable net amount for ebooks in a world where retailers pay 50 to 70% (and whether if H can say anything they want is reasonable, and that’s that).

          And as an aside, this paragraph relates to All Other Rights, since it largely predates the rise of ebooks.

  4. When a publisher “promises” an author something like “We’re 100% going to get behind this project, we see it as competition for fill-in-the-blank-most-popular-seller” and then pulls the project, that’s not moral. It’s called Theft of Expectation. The author expected the publisher to do what they said they would. That was part of the deal, that’s why the work was completed.

    It may be business as it’s done, but that’s why it’s rotten.

    • Get it in writing.

      Handwaving is not contractually enforceable.

      Even promises in writing may not be enforceable, but at least you have some standing to complain.

      Which tells you that nothing in a contract is worth the paper it’s written on if you can’t see yourself suing to enforce it – just because it is written doesn’t mean anything if you can’t afford the steps to get what you were promised.

      Makes you think a LOT before signing a contract, doesn’t it? Or it should.

      • Have you ever complained about what was not in a contract but was later “requested”? These people hold all the cards. And your agent is not on your side.

      • I remember taking some law-related course 2 decades ago where a verbal agreement actually had binding force. I thought that was stupid then. I don’t know how the law has changed since, but I wouldn’t trust anything that was just talk and a handshake.

        Get it in writing.

        • Get it in writing is correct if your contract is 1) for the term of more than a year; 2) for the sale of property; or 3) the consideration for the contract is over $1000.

          If any of these factors apply your verbal contract is not worth the paper it’s not written on in most states.

  5. Was that a sighting of Drive-By Debbie?

  6. *starts popping the popcorn* 😀

  7. Another great article by Gaughran.

  8. Dear Drive-by-Deb,

    If getting s**t on, as you term it, by Amazon means they are paying me six figures to self-publish my books on their website, which is a hell of a lot more than I would make with a traditional publisher, then by all means, Amazon. Load up on the bean dip, and drink some prune juice while you’re at it.

  9. Gaughran tells it like it is.

  10. Bravo, David. And thanks for spelling out why I don’t bother reading the NYT anymore.

  11. What a great start to my day!

    Another great article by David Gaughran and Drive By Deb shows up to sh** on us all!

    I feel blessed. 🙂

  12. Can it really be considered a drive-by if she’s shooting blanks?

    • And yet look at how she has nonetheless derailed the discussion, despite shooting blanks.

      PG has linked to a meaty, informative post by Gaughran with lots of fodder for substantive discussion…. and most of the posts here, instead of discussing it, are reacting to Deborah Smith’s usual drive-by trolling.

      • Agreed. I vote for TPG to just delete her comments unless they address something in the post. She’s succeeding in lowering the quality of discussion here. People should just ignore her if there won’t be any moderation.

        • Agree. She’s obviously just angry. If she wants to debate–fine. If she just wants to throw bombs–no sense worrying about it.

        • Ignoring her certainly gets my vote.

        • Actually I believe that with her comment here she had contributed to David’s article. She has given us a perfect example about what David was talking:

          The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.

          As you said it yourself:

          The fact that a legacy publishing representative came here to bash authors instead of commiserate with their abuses just backs up everything David said.

        • Actually I believe that with her comment here she had contributed to David’s article. She has given us a perfect example about what David was talking:

          The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.

          As you said it yourself:

          The fact that a legacy publishing representative came here to bash authors instead of commiserate with their abuses just backs up everything David said.

  13. PG: Thanks for giving us David Gaughran’s great article. I stopped submitting to Harlequin when I learned about the scam and I stopped submitting to the Big-5 when I heard about their vanity connections. Now I self-publish or look for small presses headed by authors who used to be burned by those criminals. Your comments are also appreciated.

  14. I 100% support David, whose career as a writer I began following three years ago. He is a man of principle, a great analyst and has decided to try to assist writers of all levels to avoid the many insidious scams which exploit them.
    His campaign to continually name and shame all the sycophants of Author Solutions is admirable and I believe the least we can do is retweet his tweets on this topic if not actively join in ourselves.
    Another way we can help is to continually report Author Solutions Google ads to Google to get them removed.
    Years ago I was saved from harm by Writer Beware and we need watchdogs like David and http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/ more than ever.
    Thank you David for your wonderful books on self-publishing and your campaign against fraudulent scams.
    It’s hard learning the hard way and I believe we have lost many wonderful books as a consequence of writers being scammed and quitting.

  15. I try and do my bit on twitter by sending David’s AS article link to those enquiring about Author Solutions and its other scammy forms. If I can save one person….

  16. *kneels beside bed, laces fingers together and rests forehead on knuckles*

    Dear Lord, I’ve never asked you for anything before. But please, in your infinite generosity, grant us all this one wish:

    An online debate between Deborah Smith and Joe Konrath, where Deb can’t run away.

    Oh, with video.

    See, even thinking about it has me laughing now, Lord…


    • I may write to Santa for this one.

    • Honestly, I don’t wish for this, because I don’t think it’s a good use of Joe’s time or energy. I think that when arguments appear on the main pages of Time, the NYT, on “news” networks, talk shows, and top-rated TV comedy shows, when 900 anti-change authors and SFWA spend $100K+ for an ad in a major newspaper to promote their agenda, when the AG and the AAR contact the DoJ and claim to be speaking for “authors” while advocating in favor of collusive price-fixing, etc., etc…

      I am VERY glad to see Konrath (and others) addressing such high-profile, widely-disseminated misinformation, and I will be very sorry if they get (understandably) weary and stop doing that.

      But given that Konrath and others are busy, successful writers with limited time and energy to spend dissecting such nonsense, I think that taking down one obscure and inarticulate hit-and-run troll is not a good use of their time or energy, and so I wouldn’t encourage it.

      • He would take DBD apart and put her back together inside out.

        • But given that debating publishing isn’t his full-time (writing novels is his full-time job), I’d MUCH rather see him do that with James Patterson, or Douglas Preston, or the president(s) of the Authors Guild–someone who has a megaphone, who keeps being quoted in major “news” publications as the fount of all publishing wisdom, who appears on TV to spout their views.

          Not to someone who ping-pongs around various publishing/writing blogs and chatgroups as a minor troll whom no one listens to or takes seriously.

          • What I really would love is a panel with authors with brains with experience in both worlds of publishing (Laura, JK, Barry, Hugh) where they can actually have time to properly debate (not for media slings or snapshots) with the Patterson/Preston/AU/AG people. A smart, properly moderated one that can go viral. That would make my year.

          • You’re right. Why should someone like Konrath go for the easy, low-hanging fruit?

      • You’re right, Laura.

        If we’re being dead serious here, I agree that engaging with Deborah Smith, while hilarious to watch, would be a colossal waste of Joe’s time which is better spent on counterpointing the nonsense from the NYT, the AG, Preston’s AU, and other sources which uninformed folks might deem somewhat credible or authoritative.

        Deborah Smith serves a useful purpose in all this, too, but it’s a limited one:

        She’s comic relief.

  17. David Gaughran is consistently writing some of the most important and informative writing commentary on publishing. He’s on my RSS feed, I often recommend his essays to others, and I bookmark a number of his pieces for future reference.

    • By contrast…. last year, I only knew of Deborah Smith by reputation as a bestselling romance writer and one of the publishing partners at a respected small press. Knew nothing else about her.

      This year, I still only know of Deborah Smith by reputation… but now it’s as a notorious online troll, a laughingstock who has turned her own name into the butt of dismissive jokes, and whose online behavior, based on comments I see about it, has damaged the reputation of the small press where she is a publisher.

      How we conduct ourselves in public makes a difference. At least if we’re in publishing rather than politics.

      • Well said, Laura. Applauds.

      • I have books by Deb. I have books by Belle Books. I can assure you, there will be no more. She’s left a really bad taste in my mouth with the trolling. I would never, ever, EVER expect the head of a press to behave this childishly and screechingly. Kinda shocked me, actually.

        Steve Zacharius engages and answers and discusses. I respect him for that. He doesn’t drive by or sound (sometimes) kinda unhinged.

        • Perhaps she believes she is standing on principle? If so, though, she is apparently unaware that standing up for what you believe in is not synonymous with sneering vitriolic insults at everyone who isn’t in lockstep with your own poorly-argued positions.

        • Thank you very much Mir. I had actually commented here but deleted it because sometimes I just don’t think it’s worth the trouble to get into a debate and start getting trashed for no reason. I’m always perfectly willing to have an intelligent discussion without name calling and such.

          However now that you got me started, I will remind everyone that there are more than just the Big 5 publishers. There are probably over 1000 publishers in this country and several that are even over $100,000,000 in revenue that aren’t part of the big 5.

          As for the Harlequin discussion, I agree with TPV. I don’t think it’s right. As for Author Solutions, they existed before Kindle and were a small company that gobbled up a bunch of other small companies and became the biggest vanity press. But I would also add that nobody forces any writer to go to them to use their services.

          • No one cares about the million other publishers, Steve Z, Publisher to the Stars. The indie/smaller publishers weren’t convicted of criminal action (or settled because the evidence against them was so overwhelming).

            The truth is, most of you smaller pubs are just as criminal as the Big 5, but since you aren’t a big, tasty treat for the DoJ to make an example of, you get ignored. I’ve seen contracts from more than a few of you ‘smaller’ publishers, and guess what? They mirror the Big 5 contracts almost to the letter.

            Oh, sure, yours might be slightly different. All these contracts I’ve looked at are ‘slightly different’ in how they are worded, but the gist is the same. Grab the rights to a book and hold on for dear life while paying the author almost nothing, and when anyone complains, talk about how authors get advances! Because $5k advance will give you some financial security for… wait. No, it won’t.

            Also, you are correct in that no one forces dumbass authors to sign terrible contracts like you and your kind push in front of them.

            But what you won’t admit is how you do the hard-sell on most noob authors, and even some experienced mid-listers. You guys are worse than car salesmen (and I had a car salesman as a roommate for a while, and they’ll screw over their own mothers, grandmothers, even Jesus, just to get that sale… it’s not an exaggeration that car salesman are worse than lawyers, no offense PG).

            Then you and your shill buddies go around the internet telling everyone and anyone that traditional publishing is validation, that only real authors, real PROFESSIONAL authors are traditionally published, the rest of us are heathens hawking swill and books written in crayon to ignorant readers.

            You tell everyone how publishers are so valuable, yet you don’t tell them the value of how editors get the final say, cover art isn’t consulted on with the author half the time (if not most of the time), how you own the rights to their stories for lifetime + 70, how books aren’t commodities but some kind of art that should be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

            Worse, you s*** all over Amazon when you all know that without Amazon, 3/4 of you would probably go bankrupt within months unless you could figure out how to prop up sales through other channels. Not only that, but you STILL have your products for sale at Amazon. If you cared so damn much about hurting Amazon and making a statement, you’d pull your company’s titles and go exclusive with Apple, or maybe B&N, or maybe everyone except Amazon.

            But again, you can’t, because you can’t afford to.

            So, no, you vanity publishers and small indie publishers… you’re no different than the Big 5 except for the difference in size. Be thankful you weren’t big enough to make it the Big 7 or such, because you’d be knee-deep in this pool of feces (that you publishers brought upon yourselves) too, and unlike the Big 5, you don’t have the multinational corporate safety net that they do.

          • But I would also add that nobody forces any writer to go to them to use their services.

            No. Nobody does. But their advertising and their interactions with the inexperienced writers are deliberately deceptive with the plan to part the writer from his or her money while providing little of value to the writer in return.


            Forced upon no one.

            But morally reprehensible, nonetheless. Those of us who care about treating others with respect and good intent should condemn the vanity publishers, speak out about them, not help them, and do what is possible to reduce their power, certainly not enable it.

            • Yep. Predatory. And ALL publishers and authors should warn folks away from predatory businesses. It’s part of being …decent.

          • Mr. Z, I actually have some writer pals who like working with much smaller publishers. Not all writers want to handle the business aspect of getting the book out (cover, formatting, distributing). They just want to write and reach out to readers, period. I think when the smaller publishers are more flexible with contract terms, reversal of rights after a certain time or if sales are under a certain number (or both), and editors are responsive–I can see where this might be a happy arrangement if the small press is stable, transparent, and has integrity.

          • But I would also add that nobody forces any writer to go to them [Author Solutions] to use their services.

            Ouch, Steve. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t mean this the way it sounds.

            These vanity presses are a scam. That’s not an opinion– they’re involved in a class action suit for deceptive business practices. Surely you don’t mean to say you think such practices are okay? That it’s okay to exploit desperate, hopeful people who don’t know any better? Because if you do, it says a lot about your ethics and the ethics of the publishing industry in general.

            You mention below that many indies think they’re “morally superior” to those in the publishing industry. See, the problem is that when we see comments like the one you made above, hear about the execrable, exploitative contract terms offered to writers, and experience the shameful way the publishing industry treats writers (without whom THE BUSINESS WOULDN’T EXIST), we have a hard time seeing that as just “business as usual.” The fact that the publishing industry does indeed seem to view this as accepted business practices is the basis for much of the vitriol you hear from indies.

  18. David is such an asset to the writing community. I wish his work were noticed more but we all know that criminals don’t like to be exposed.

    David’s especially right about how people in publishing seem to like to act morally superior. I think this is partly why Roxana Robinson reacted the way she did to being called a “special snowflake.” She surrounds herself with people who think they are doing the morally superior thing while they’re actually *actively* screwing over other authors. These people live in a bubble and that bubble is the only thing that protects them from substantive criticism that they so desperate need to hear in order to improve. Of course, first they would have to *want* to improve.

    • I think there are several people with blogs online that also think they are morally superior as well. Goes both ways. BTW, I also agree with the comments that the interview with Roxana Robinson was dreadful.

  19. “Nobody is forcing any author to use Author Solutions if they don’t want to. If writers didn’t use them, they wouldn’t exist.”

    Seriously? You’re going to blame the victim?

    “Aren’t these authors being paid already by selling more books?”

    As someone else said, there was a lot of discussion along those lines on the post on this subject, many agree with you. But surely you aren’t condemning a company because they would pay significantly more per book to bestselling authors than to mid-list authors.

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