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Author Solutions: my experience

1 March 2016

From The Bookseller:

In 2014 I was asked by my editor to sign up for Author Solutions so The Bookseller could independently verify some of the many claims made about the service – most importantly whether it used duplicitous means to secure a signature and how far it pushed prospective customers into deals.

The intention was to use the piece either as a separate article, or as past of a wider interview the newly appointed chief executive Andrew Phillips. Both were delayed, as result of the court cases Author Solutions faced in the US. Phillips had agreed to the interview, with no-preconditions, but not until the court cases were ended. While Author Solutions was owned by Penguin Random House it made sense to wait: the bigger story here is not that Author Solutions has a bad reputation (that is plain from sites such as WriterBeware and The Passive Voice), but what an internationally respected trade publishing group (owned by the equally high profile German mega-corp Bertelsmann) would do about it.

. . . .

The initial sales pitch from Author Solutions is no worse, and no better, than any other company trying to sell you something, and that’s where the problem perhaps lies. It felt like my book was simply a business transaction for Author Solutions, whereas for most authors it’s a part of their heart and soul – there was little probing about what my book was about before it was straight into a sales pitch for Author Solutions’ services.

. . . .

The company does like to sell, sell, sell. My first conversation with them lasted an hour, and consisted of a quick trip through the various packages on offer, with each one getting gradually cheaper as I said no. There was a push to get me to sign up during a discount period in that initial phone call, and during subsequent emails (one of which urged me to take advantage of a “50% offer for the first two weeks” of a particular month).

Details aren’t particularly forthcoming. I wanted to know specifics about the editorial process – would I be able to pick an editor, would I see who editors had worked with before to ensure they were the best fit for me? Despite pushing for this information on a phone and in emails, I was told that “the details of our editors are kept confidential but you wouldn’t have to worry about this because by the time you submit your manuscript it will be assigned to an editor who specialises on the topic or genre that your book will be about”.

. . . .

I eventually got hold of a PDF titled “About our editors and evaluators”, which started by emphasising how Author Solutions outsourced editing to freelancers, in the way that publishers “typically” did. The document went on to emphasise how the editors and evaluators were experienced book-publishing professionals, who were “well informed about what’s needed to be successful in a competitive marketplace”, hinting that Author Solutions is aware that there are authors who come to it for commercial success. The PDF was accompanied by a note from my “senior publishing consultant”, who had not seen my book, but who recommended “we do content editing wherein the editor would not only look into the spelling, grammar and syntax of your book but would also look into the consistency of your book to make sure that the idea of the book is smoothly relayed to your readers”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller


13 Comments to “Author Solutions: my experience”

  1. A somewhat half-hearted piece of work:

    “I never signed a contract with Author Solutions: I did not actually have a book to publish, and I was conscious about not pushing my anonymity too far.”

    • Yeah. Almost like it was to be a wash piece to begin with.

      How hard would it have been to ‘create’ Jane Doe, a new hotmail/yahoo/gmail account tied to a new pay-as-you-go phone, and bash together a couple public domain short stories and turn the bullsh**ing meter up to eleven? I remember in the ‘old days’ of real investigative reporting they’d even have had a few thousand dollars earmarked to ‘sample’ the wares and report back on what they really got for their money.

      This would be like Data Guy sampling only ‘one’ indie and ‘one’ trad-pub ebook and declaring the winner …

      • Agreed, I am having a hard time buying this excuse. This is a business transaction, not an emotional one — it’s not as if she toyed with an innocent person’s affections in, say, a dating service expose, or got a small child attached to her in a nanny expose. No bystander is harmed by her going the extra mile to see what kind of contracts AS offers.

        And the book thing — c’mon, there’s gotta be a trunk story or two on the hard drive. Something she’d only publish with a pseudonym if she’d ever publish it at all. I could see it as amusing clickbait in an article about their “editing” services.

  2. I do wish there had been more to that article, but it also does nothing but raise red flags. I can’t imagine anyone who stumbles across that piece would ever want to use Author Solutions, at least as it is currently constituted.

  3. This is taking on a weird ‘Tom Sawyer’ vibe. In the comments, Philip is asking Nate where his investigation is and Nate said he’d do it if he gave him several grand to pay AS.
    The thing is, Philip already paid Sarah to whitewash this particular fence and now he’s goading Nate into doing it?

    Don’t fall for it, Nate. It’s not half as fun as it looks…

  4. The article is deliberately vague. It concentrates on the author’s feelings as affected by the vendor’s sales people. What I’d like to read about is the success or failure of a authors who have done business with this vendor.

  5. So… her editor asked her to sign up, but she didn’t actually get to the point of signing up. Then what was the purpose of the “investigation”?

    Anyway, you don’t need to actually work with AS to learn that it makes its money by charging authors, not selling books. All you have to do is look at the prices it charges authors and then, as Data Guy did, look at how many copies the books are selling.

  6. I didn’t see any dollar signs in the article.

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