Sunday, 3 March 2013


US Law Firm Investigates Author Solutions For Class Action Suit | UPDATED


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The office of US attorneys, Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP, have been carrying out an investigation into practices of the publishing industry’s largest self-publishing service, Author Solutions Inc. based in Bloomington, Indiana. Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP represent employees in employment and civil rights matters, consumers and small businesses in class actions, individuals and small businesses in commercial litigation, and individuals in white collar criminal defence matters.
 
While TIPM, as of today, is not aware of any class action lawsuit filed in the US courts by Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP on behalf of any of their clients, all the indications are that the firm intend pursuing a class action lawsuit against Author Solutions. In the past few days the office of the law firm has been requesting interested parties to contact them with details of any grievances against the self-publishing service provider or any of its many brands and imprints. In a communication on the website of Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP, the company states the following:
 
“Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP is currently investigating the practices of Author Solutions and all of its brands (AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, Inkubook, and Wordclay). Authors using Author Solutions have complained of deceptive practices, including enticing authors to purchase promotional services that are not provided or are worthless, failing to pay royalties, and spamming authors and publishing blogs/sites with promotional material.
 
“If you have self-published with Author Solutions or any of its brands and have been the victim of deceptive practices, please fill out the form below.”
 
Significantly, Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP operate many client cases taken on a contingency fee basis where the law permits. Many authors who experience disputes with self-publishing providers avoid pursuing a legal route due to the large fees charged up front by law firms. It is possible Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP contingency fee arrangement might entice more aggrieved authors to contact the firm. The firm discusses contingency fees on their website:
 
“We don't want to make money from our clients. We want to make money for our clients. For that reason, whenever possible, we enter into contingency fee arrangements. A contingency fee agreement, where our fee is based on how much we obtain for our client, reduces the downside for our clients and places a premium on achieving an optimal result quickly and efficiently. We will not accept a case unless we believe in it and believe that we can obtain a result that is worthwhile for both our clients and our firm.”
 
A Google of complaints on Author Solutions Inc. and many of its self-publishing brands will quickly reveal an extensive disenchantment with the company’s aggressive and misleading marketing and overpriced author services. TIPM regularly field negative comments and complaints about Author Solutions’ brands every week and Pearson’s purchase of the company last summer has not resulted in a let-up in those complaints.
 
Author Solutions recently entered into a partnership to run a self-publishing imprint for Simon & Schuster. The company already run similar imprints for Thomas Nelson, Harlequin, Hay House and Writers Digest. I suggested recently that Author Solutions also played a significant backend role in the redesign and restructuring of Penguin’s own self-publishing imprint, Book Country, and Penguin India’s launch of Partridge Publishing. Author Solutions own and run quite a number of their own self-publishing imprints, including AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Booktango (an e-publishing only platform), Xlibris and Trafford, as well as a host of e-book and print self-publishing brands for large and medium-sized traditional publishers.
 
Just last month, David Gaughran, an independent author and blogger who follows the developments in the publishing industry chronicled the deceptive self-publishing behemoth that is Author Solutions:
 
“The deceit starts with the web of brands they’ve established. With so many imprints, Author Solutions has tricked authors into thinking they have dozens of choices. In reality, however, the parent company is just slapping up half a dozen different logos, renaming packages, and selling the same grossly overpriced services to all of their customers no matter which brand ends up on the cover.
 
“On top of that, AS has been accused of launching supposedly unbiased, purely informational comparison websites to help customers pick the self-publishing company that’s right for them, except all clicks lead back to Author Solutions brands.
 
“With AS overbearing sales reps are the norms. They’ve talked writers into purchasing publishing packages over the phone without so much as a written explanation of charges, let alone a formal publishing contract. And they’re all too eager to offer instalment payments and accept credit card information over the phone.
 
They’ve pulled the ol’ price switcheroo on writers too. Jean Rikhoff, published Earth, Air, Fire and Water with iUniverse and was told by a sales rep that copyediting charges for her manuscript would run around $400. When she received her credit card bill, however, her charges totalled nearly $4,000.
 
Once you’ve signed on with one of their brands, it’s time for the upselling. They’ll sell review services marked up by nearly 160%, worthless book-to-screen marketing packages that cost over $15,000, and shoddy editing services that create more errors than they correct. They’ll even let customers buy their own recognition awards like Editor’s Choice (but they’ll tell them the money is to pay for the company’s superior editors to evaluate the work and ensure its worthy).”
 
Publishing industry watchdog and author, Victoria Strauss, has also followed the expanding story of Author Solutions and the experiences of authors using their services. She posed some questions when Pearson bought Author Solutions last year for $116 million like:
 
Will ASI manage to improve its customer service?
 
Will the payment glitches that currently seem to be plaguing the ASI "brands" be addressed?
 
Will ASI begin to advertise itself more transparently?
 
Will ASI continue to offer--and to aggressively promote--all those overpriced, dubiously useful marketing services and incentives?
 
Is this really a good investment for Pearson?
 
In short, like Victoria Strauss, after the Pearson acquisition, I also hoped things might improve with the Author Solutions’ brands, but, ultimately, Pearson didn’t buy ASI to clean up their practices or improve the image of self-publishing, and that’s where I believe so many people expressing a wish or an opinion are missing the point. Here is what I said about the Pearson acquisition last July:
 
“Wherever you personally place ASI and their stable of self-publishing imprints like iUniverse, AuthorHouse and Xlibris in the scheme of publishing - be it as vanity house in disguise or a slick corporate marketer with promises of self-publishing dreams made true - ASI has developed an engine room efficient and quick to turn manuscripts into print and ebook products for authors, whatever arguments you make about the literary quality of many of the books published. I've heard far too many within and outside of the industry take an easy swipe at ASI over the years - just as so many are quick to take easy pot-shots at Amazon - but both companies got where they are by seizing opportunity, providing services to customers willing to part with cash, and, crucially, had the resources to develop and deliver their services to a global market. In today's world - salesmen aren't paid to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They are paid to sell services and products. The buyer often says yay or nay dependent on how informed he or she is about what is needed. Both companies have also developed their fair share of innovative tools and services - Amazon with it's most recent move to deliver some products on the same day of ordering, and ASI has turned a lot of heads with it's ebook platform, Booktango, and even more recently, with BookStub, a loyalty card complete with a QR code for gifting books. But the real jewel in the crown for Penguin today is immediate access to the ASI production engine.
 
“Everyone directly connect with this decision will be happy. Bertram Capital has shifted a marque they needed to and trousered $116 million, ASI CEO, Kevin Weiss, makes the board of Penguin Group, and Penguin gets the keys to the ASI engine room and the resource of 1600 employees. That will help nicely with digitizing a lot more of the Penguin back catalogue, provide a further financial revenue stream, and who knows, maybe provide a very few new authors to the mothership which hitherto went under the radar of Penguin. Of course, we shouldn't forget that self-publishing is enjoying something of a vogue status however many stuffies we still hear throwing their toys out of the established publishing cot over the perceived watering down of traditional publishing brands. If anything, this purchase by Pearson is proof that even Penguin is not the brand it once represented and the average book buyer won't give an iota about this deal and future implications for the industry - that's if most will even be aware of it.”
 
The Pearson acquisition is and has always been about gaining access to that powerful resource called The ASI Engine Room. It is not about new publishing world reformation and the adoption and integration of the worst of self-publishing, but, rather, about harnessing a publishing system of the future built on content services and business to business partnerships. Monetising the slush pile is just one of the adopted and added perks of the game plan.
 
Though we have had a significant shift to DIY publishing and the rise of services and platforms like Amazon KDP, CreateSpace, Smashwords, Blurb and the like, thousands of authors are still attracted to Author Solutions’ brands with its ‘self-publishing is indie and easy’ and slick marketing. The rise of the e-book might soon challenge ASI’s print-centric approach, but the launch of Booktango already suggests this self-publishing behemoth might be preparing for the transition to e–centric publishing. Many of the core questions asked by Victoria Strauss remain unanswered and maybe even unaddressed by ASI, and even in light of any potential class action lawsuit taken by Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP on behalf of its clients, I suspect Pearson won’t be losing any more sleep than ASI over the coming months.


UPDATED 5th MARCH 2013

... and it seems The Bookseller has arrived late to the party. In something of a non-story to try and create an updated story, The Bookseller reports that ASI has stated to them that there is 'no legal action' against the company at the moment. Eh, hasn't every previous report on this story over the past few days, here, on Writer Beware and Shelf Awareness stated exactly that? The Bookseller also inaccurately states that 'Lawyers Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP posted a message on its website yesterday (5th March).' Maybe that's when The Bookseller's staff noticed it or heard about it, but the notice has been there several days! And what part of the word 'investigates' doesn't The Bookseller get even when it is stated by a law firm?     
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10 comments:

  1. How can I become part of this? my 21 year old daughter wrote and illustrated a children's book. she used to Trafford publishing and we have sold a lot of books through our own efforts in marketing. Trafford is telling her that there has been no books sold when we know that there has been books sold. What can we do what do I need to do how can I be a part of this lawsuit it's just not fair. she has another book shes done and is scared to get it published. Please contact me if you can help. Mmerino@primeres.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Michelle
      I'm from a-town Pa . and I publish a book with xlibiris on 2012, $20.000.00 later to find out all this allegations about this people, some call them; mail box business because is one small building with like 10 others publishers in it.TRAFFORD, XLIBIRIS, AUTHOR SOLUTIONS,AUTHOR HIVE,WORDCLAY,FIRST BOOK,BALBOA PRESS,UNIVERSE INC, ect....... I got just one question for you. Do you know if any of the authors out there trying to get together to have a lawsuit against this clown? if you have any ideas pls let me know or send me email at nrboricua68@yahoo.comI would appreciate your answer or any other ideas

      Delete
    2. I want to sue them too. They have access to my email since I provided them with my password. Please send me a message if you still want to take legal action on mickeydraca.blogspot.com. You can try my email I have changed the password however I would prefer it on my blog. My email is mdraca@hotmail.com

      Regards

      Delete
  2. Hi Michelle,

    The links in this post will take you to the GSAS law webpage where the class action suit applicants were invited to visit.
    http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com/2013/03/us-law-firm-investigates-author.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello; Rooney
    I'm from a-town Pa . and I publish a book with xlibiris on 2012, $20.000.00 later to find out all this allegations about this people, some call them; mail box business because is one small building with like 10 others publishers in it.TRAFFORD, XLIBIRIS, AUTHOR SOLUTIONS,AUTHOR HIVE,WORDCLAY,FIRST BOOK,BALBOA PRESS,UNIVERSE INC, ect.......
    I got just one question for you. Do you know if any of the authors out there trying to get together to have a lawsuit against this clown?
    if you have any ideas pls let me know or send me email at nrboricua68@yahoo.com
    I would appreciate your answer or any other ideas

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was contacted by Authorhouse (one of my friends thought my book would be so great), I told the people at Authorhouse from day one that it was my life story...so they knew up front that it was a true story. I bought the "Legacy" package, which included a copyright. I was told I could pick out my front cover...and that a pic of myself would be on the back cover of my book. I was also told that I would get ten free pics to put in my book and anything over 10 pics would cost $5.00 each. after they had suckered about $1,300.00 out of me, I was informed that absolutely no pics could be put in my book (because it was a true story). I was not allowed to use a pic of what I wanted on the front cover because they do business with another rip off company that charges a nice price for a pic to use as my front cover. On the back cover is a few words about me.

    Authorhouse employees start right off the bat telling you that your book could be made into a movie someday. They also tell you about famous authors like Stephen King and the author of "Harriett Potter" and how she lived in her car for years with her small child until she became famous. I was so confused at all the changes they were making and the things I had been told that wasn't thinking straight. If a woman actually lived in her car for years with a small child, wouldn't DEFACS step in? They give you tons of false hope, even though I kept telling them that I didn't want to be rich or famous...just wanted my book published in hopes of it helping someone else. I was told that I would need a special website for my book at the small price of $1,800.00. I kept telling those people that I had had horrible cancer 3 years earlier and couldn't spend every cent I had. I also reminded them that I am NOT Stephen King and that my book was not good enough to make a movie from it.
    By November 2013 the holidays were here, I was cooking, etc. I told them I had tons of things to do and needed to wait till after Christmas to finish what needed to be done before it was published. I am on Chemo, they stressed me out so bad sending me my manuscript back and forth to correct any mistakes in it. My friend helped me correct mistakes. The more mistakes I corrected and paid for, the more I found...and the more I found, the more money they got. Finally I got so stressed that I didn't care if the book was published or not. I got on the internet and found out that I was not the only one paying for mistakes I had already paid for. The book was published in November 2013, and it does have errors and mistakes in it...that I KNOW I had corrected time after time.The last stunt they pulled on me was telling me that I needed to buy 100 books, which I did.
    A few days ago I went into Barnes and Noble to see if my book was there. It was not there, not one single copy. I asked the clerk about it, and she looked on the computer and said she could order it for me if I paid for it in advance. I then called Authorhouse because I was confused. If the website I paid $1,800.00 could not be found, and the book that was published could not be found...how is anyone ever going to find out about it? Of course they figured out a way to explain everything to me. I now have around $5,000.00 invested. I would have been happy to just break even. These people at Authorhouse are very smart when it comes to suckering you in. I had never had a book published so I didn't know what to look for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. anonymous, I had a very similar experience to yours. I've had two books published with Trafford and people tell me they've bought them but I get no royalties. Like you, I've had health issues and the people are deaf to that and so aggressive! Got my eyes opened when they told me I have to change my pen name! No way! I'm done with them and looking into legal action.

      Delete
    2. Hang in there, as you can see you are not the only one engaging in legal action or considering it.

      It will be interesting to see how this case against ASI/Penguin pans out for these three authors this year.

      Delete
  5. I got ripped off for $8000 for two books so far just to receive the call last night to give them another $8000 for marketing. Earned no royalties by the way but they want to sell my books to the 'greatest resellers in the world'???!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is so sad. The publisher I went through, it took me a bit to recognize the smoke and mirrors, but I have fired her/her company. I started my own professional publishing company for all these reasons. There is just no way it should cost this kind of money to get a quality book printed. My first client's book is at the printer right now, and her website is up and running. No one can guarantee big sales, but it sure shouldn't cost an arm and a leg to get a good book.

    ReplyDelete

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