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PRH sells Author Solutions

5 January 2016

From The Bookseller:

Penguin Random House has sold its controversial self-publishing division Author Solutions.

Author Solutions, acquired by Pearson in 2012 for $116m (£74m), for integration into Penguin, was sold to an affiliate of Najafi Companies, an Arizona-based private investment firm, on 31st December. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In a note to staff, PRH c.e.o. Markus Dohle said: “We thank the entire Author Solutions team for their hard work and dedication during their time as part of Penguin Random House, and we wish them all the best and much success under the new ownership. With this sale, we reaffirm our focus on consumer book publishing through our 250 imprints worldwide, and our commitment to connecting our authors and their works to readers everywhere.”

The acquisition of Author Solutions by Pearson/Penguin was always controversial, with then Penguin c.e.o. John Makinson having to defend the company against accusations that the buy would muddy its brand image.

Makinson said at the time: “This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

As PG and many others have observed, the decision to acquire Author Solutions in the first place disclosed a lot about Big Publishing and its attitude toward authors.

Big Publishing

25 Comments to “PRH sells Author Solutions”

  1. Where I come from, we call this applying deodorant. And high time, too.

  2. ” “We thank the entire Author Solutions team for their hard work and dedication during their time as part of Penguin Random House, and we wish them all the best and much success under the new ownership.”

    May the grift be with you.

  3. “… an affiliate of Najafi Companies …”

    So we need to learn and warn people of whatever new names ASI will be popping up as …

    The only thing that ‘might’ have helped Penguin Random House’s reputation would have been dismantling Author Solutions, not selling it off to let it fool still more writers.

    • So they sold Author Solutions.

      What I want to know: will they still maintain their vanity press imprint that goes through AS, even though they no longer own AS?

      If that’s the case… to continue with Deb’s metaphor from upthread: even the deodorant won’t contain the stink.

  4. Since unknown/newbie authors are, generally speaking, not the wealthiest people in the world, it seems odd that there was ever $116 m worth of business in ripping them off.

    • Many were coerced into getting loans, borrowing money, paying extremely high fees for bad services and buying lots of cheap books. ASI’s biggest assets are their sales force.

  5. PRH (heart) ASI. Well, that didn’t last long, did it? What, about a year?

    Now I’m wondering what the “private investment firm” who bought ASI will do with it. Oh, wait…

    Whatever they decide to do, I’m sure ASI will continue to bamboozle and scam clueless noobs and wannabes. Why else would anybody be interested in acquiring ASI?

  6. So big publishing learned what many of us independent authors already knew: books ain’t very profitable for most writers.

    Maybe they thought of Author Solutions as a farm team? Pick the best from your farm? That obviously didn’t work out either.

    • It’s pretty clear they thought of AS as a way to monetize the slush pile by including sales pitches with rejection slips. Apparently even that didn’t work.

  7. More information…

    Author Solutions has been run by Andrew Phillips, a former Penguin executive, since July 2013; he and his management team remain in place. Phillips told PW the day-to-day operations will not change following the sale. While he thanked PRH for their support in recent years, Phillips said he is excited to be part of a company where Author Solutions will be more of a focus.

    He noted that Najafi Companies head Jahm Najafi published a book using Author Solutions, as did a number of Najafi’s family members. Najafi “believes in our mission of pairing authors with their audience,” Phillps said. The company’s major initiatives for 2016, which include international expansion and increasing its number of publishing partnerships, will continue, Phillips said.


    • Sounds like Najafi saw what we all see when it comes to Author Solutions. An online vanity press puts all of the risk onto the author, so it makes more sense to jump to the profitable side of this publishing equation. Also by buying Author Solutions he gets the rights to his family’s works back.

    • “I liked it so much, I bought the company.”

  8. No cheers from me until ASI goes bankrupt. May that day be soon.

  9. I can understand the impulse to celebrate this news, but some quick thoughts first:

    1. Author Solutions isn’t closing down, merely transferring to new ownership. The current management team is remaining in place, and there are no signs whatsoever that the new owners intend reforming any of the bad practices.

    2. Traditional publishing isn’t getting out of the vanity press business. Simon & Schuster still has vanity imprint run by Author Solutions (Archway) as does HarperCollins (Westbow), Penguin (Patridge), Random House Spain (MeGustaEscribir) etc.

    3. There are still a whole host of companies in publishing with marketing partnerships with Author Solutions. This news doesn’t change that either.

    It’s business as usual at Author Solutions and its various imprints. Which means we need to be as vigilant as ever.

    • Keep up the good work, David. I know everyone here appreciates it, and the more new authors saved the less feeding the troll.

    • 2. Traditional publishing isn’t getting out of the vanity press business. Simon & Schuster still has vanity imprint run by Author Solutions (Archway) as does HarperCollins (Westbow), Penguin (Patridge), Random House Spain (MeGustaEscribir) etc.

      This^, exactly this^.

      :: boo hiss to AS ::

  10. Often, private equity firms are the buyers of last resort because they only buy when they know they can sell off the assets for more than the purchase price. They may try to run the company for a while to see if there is any life in it, usually with layoffs to trim costs and eliminating all but the most profitable product lines.

    Could be rough times for AS. If they weren’t before, they are radioactive now.

    • That’s a hopeful thought. I suspect, though, that this new owner will try to expand to the rest of the world.

  11. Jahm Najafi published a book using Author Solutions, as did a number of Najafi’s family members

    A fool and more of his money are soon parted.

    David, I don’t any of us were celebrating, just wondering what the future holds, though we pretty much know it’s more of the same. Look at the new boss, same as the old boss sort of thing.

  12. Random House didnt buy Author Solutions. They inherited it when they made the deal with Penguin to share socks. It was Penguin who brought the snake in through their own floorboards far prior.

    Dohle, the x who runs Randy Penguinness, tried to downplay the sale of AS. Trust that when Dohle the x mouth is subdued, there is a reason.

    From inside, one can see that Dohle is trying to make ‘corrections’ in business model that was laid down by previous powers in Penguin who insiders say Dohle wants to put in their place [under HIS thumb] to ‘show them who’s boss.’ Quite a few Penguins detest Dohle.

    One ought not, just my .02, ever ever underestimate that some near or at the top in ny and intern’l pubs –also carry, infect, and fan insane jealousies, dominance dreams for filthy lucre for themselves, payback peevishness, ‘oh there was a bullet in the chamber, I thought it was empty- sorry chap to have killed you’ and more of the lesser qualities in uman eings, as my Irish boys from the father forty might say.

    The saddest part is the authors who launched a law suit against the Snake. Their suit was dismissed.

    However AS is not the only snake. There is a televanglist old x in I think Tx or Fla who has an operation EXACTLY like AS, except for ‘religious’ writers. They take the money, put up a bunch of mirror site ads, give a thick email on how to sell a million books, and each author is out 1,600-20,000 bucks.

    • With all due respect USAF, the current chairman of Penguin Random House is John Makinson, who was the CEO of Penguin in 2012 when Author Solutions was purchased. He had this to say at the time:

      “We spent time getting to know the people at Author Solutions and their sophisticated operation,” Makinson said. “They have skills that can help us at Penguin.”

      I don’t buy the narrative being pushed that PRH accidentally inherited Author Solutions. PRH gladly took Author Solutions under its wing, made Andrew Phillips part of its executive management team, and happily poured resources into a global expansion – including embedding an Author Solutions imprint (MeGustaEscribir) into its Spanish offices.

      So, yeah.

      • I dont recall saying Dohle was Chairman of anything. I just receive many of Dohle’s inhouse letters, and have eyewitnessed the firing and flames he often brings onto his own including those in the Penguin diaspora across RH. I dont believe anyone “accidentally” anything.

        On another note, I agree with you that AS expansion into many markets is something to be concerned about as well as their domestic presence… and that of additional outfits similar. AS is either the Vantage Press of our time, apparently, or a publishing Venus Flytrap looking for tasty tender naive authors who think in ways that make them fall asleep and drop dead straight into the maw.

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