A response to Author Solutions and Penguin Random House – The Real Deal? from the indispensable David Gaughran:
[Author Solutions uses] a multi-pronged strategy:
1. Author Solutions runs a multitude of faux-informational websites purporting to provide independent advice to inexperienced writers. After filling out a questionnaire, these sites then present a selection of publishing “options” – all subsidiaries owned by Author Solutions, all terrible. Author Solutions spends a lot of time and money to ensure that these sites appear at the top of Google’s search results for any generic terms that a publisher-hunting newbie would use (I’m not linking to these sites as that will help their SEO, but you can Google anything like “I need a publisher” to see what I mean. Running variations of those searches will bring up more than 20 different fake sites, all operated by Author Solutions).
2. Author Solutions operates fake social media profiles of “independent publishing consultants” which are manned by Author Solutions staff, target the most inexperienced writers, and only recommend Author Solutions companies.
3. Author Solutions pressures customers into writing positive testimonials before releasing their books for publication. I received one such complaint the last time I posted about Author Solutions, from an AuthorHouse UK customer who said that they wouldn’t publish the book she had already paid for until she wrote the testimonial here (second from top).
4. Author Solutions partners with supposedly legitimate and independent organizations to give a veneer of respectability to their scammy operations (like Hay House, Writers Digest, Simon & Schuster, Lulu, HarperCollins, the Authors Guild, Harlequin, and various writers conferences).
. . . .
While I regularly read both The Bookseller and FutureBook, I’ve had plenty of issues with their editorial line, particularly with regard to their policy of never printing anything critical about Author Solutions – or, at least, not since they were purchased by Penguin.
In the last few months, this policy has extended to censoring comments critical of Author Solutions on their blogs, a policy they now share with Digital Book World - whose parent company has its own Author Solutions-powered vanity press.
Both of these companies depend on income from advertising and running conferences, and it appears they don’t want to be critical of a huge player like Author Solutions’ owner Penguin – especially with their impending merger with Random House, which will create the largest (by far) trade publisher in the world.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to Geoff for the tip.
Passive Guy says the vanity press business is just another variation on the contract scams that the “legitimate” operations of some big publishers foist on unwary authors.
Without spending time blowing his own horn or claiming to be the smartest guy around, PG has negotiated a lot of contracts with a lot of large organizations – Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Citicorp, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Fidelity, Disney, etc., etc., etc. He’s currently negotiating contracts with companies that are household names for some of his non-literary clients. Suffice to say, PG has a sense of what’s generally considered reasonable in American business contracts.
When he first focused on a plain-vanilla publishing contract from a large New York publisher a few years ago, PG was astounded at how unfair some of the standard contract terms were for authors. As he saw other publishing contracts, he learned that publishers copied onerous terms from one another. The wording might be different, but the meaning was the same.
Additionally, it was not unusual to find what, to PG’s jaded eyes, were drafting techniques designed to disguise some of the more egregious contract provisions from authors who did not have experience dissecting contracts.
After having reviewed many, many agreements and proposed agreements between traditional publishers and authors, PG is prepared to say these contracts, as a group, stand apart from the general run of business agreements as conscience-shocking monstrosities.
No, they do not reflect the special snowflake nature of publishing. They’re simply designed to screw authors and give publishers control over authors and their work that is far beyond what is regarded as reasonable in the rest of American business.
So, when David justifiably rants about how Random Penguin’s Author Solutions and other vanity presses screw authors, PG suggests this is just the other side of the same coin as the non-vanity part of the business. Each side reflects the same attitude toward authors — geese to be plucked.
PG hasn’t written longer posts on specific publishing contract provisions for some time. You can find examples here, here, here, here, here, and here. If you use TPV’s blog search function to look for How to Read a Book Contract and cursor down, you’ll find more. You can also search on the Contracts category to pull up everything, but this category covers much more than contract problems for authors.