From David Gaughran:
Writing is a glamorous occupation – at least from the outside. Popular depictions of our profession tend to leave out all the other stuff that comes with the territory: carpal tunnel syndrome, liver failure, penury, and madness.
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Publishing is a screwed up business. The often labyrinthine path to success makes it much easier for those with nefarious intentions to scam the unsuspecting. But it doesn’t help that so many organizations who claim to help writers, to respect them, to assist them along the path to publication are actually screwing them over.
Before the digital revolution made self-publishing viable on a wide scale, the dividing lines were easier to spot. Traditional publishers paid you if they wanted to buy the rights to your novel. Self-publishers were people who filled their garages with books and tried to hawk them at events. And vanity presses were the scammers, luring the unsuspecting with false promises and roundly condemned by self-publishers and traditional publishers alike.
Today it’s very different. The scammy vanity presses are owned by traditional publishers who are marketing them as the “easy” way to self-publish – when it’s nothing more than a horrifically expensive and terribly ineffective way to publish your work, guaranteed to kill your book’s chance of success stone dead, while emptying your bank account in the process.
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I’m not surprised people get scammed. When you want something so badly, and you can’t seem to make progress towards that goal – no matter how hard you work – you start to go crazy. You get desperate.
And it’s much harder to tell the scammers from the legitimate organizations when they are owned by the same people.
Take Penguin-owned Author Solutions, one of the worst vanity presses out there. Here’s how they hoodwink inexperienced writers into using their horribly expensive service.
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[T]he only companies recommended are Trafford, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, and iUniverse – all of which are scammy vanity presses, all owned by Author Solutions. And, fitting with the rest of the pattern, FindYourPublisher.com is just one of many (many!) such sites owned and operated by Author Solutions, purporting to make independent recommendations, but only recommending Author Solutions companies.
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Penguin has been looking under the Author Solutions hood for 10 months now. Its conclusion was this: we can make this bigger. We can take this scam on the road and start exploiting writers all over the planet.
And Penguin is still getting a pass for this crap.
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The Publishers Weekly piece on Penguin’s aggressive expansion plans for Author Solutionsmakes no mention of the company being a universally reviled vanity press that has cheated 150,000 writers out of their savings.
This is something I’ve been noticing for a while, and Publishers Weekly isn’t alone. The pieces in The Bookseller, GalleyCat, and Digital Book World also make no mention of the widespread criticism that Author Solutions has attracted, nor do they mention that the company is currently the subject of a class action suit for their deceptive practices.
More disturbingly, my comment pointing this out appears to have been scrubbed from The Bookseller, is stuck in the moderation queue on Digital Book World’s piece.
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1. Simon & Schuster hired Author Solutions to run their own scammy vanity press – Archway Publishing. If that wasn’t enough, they then offered a bounty to bloggers to lie about the company.
2. Harper Collins-owned Thomas Nelson have their own crappy vanity operation called West Bow Press – also “powered” by Author Solutions.
3. Harlequin, never afraid to turn down a penny, jumped in the game a few years ago. Author Solutions provided the white-label vanity operation for them.
4. Showing that it’s not just the larger publishers, Hay House contracted Author Solutions to set up Balboa Press – another scammy, crappy, overpriced vanity press.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital
Some might wonder if there is really all that much difference between Big Publishing and Vanity Publishing with regard to how each treats authors.