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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15 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

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    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

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    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

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  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

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  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.

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    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.

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  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'???!!

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  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.

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  7. I believed xlibris publishing and haven't seen any results from anything they promised. The only sales they made were from people I directed to their website. My son bought the first copy of my book from Barnes & Noble and I haven't seen it on my royalty page yet. That was in Oct. 2013. One sale showed up from Barnes & Noble, but it wasn't the hard cover my son bought. It is June 2014 and they still haven't composed the royalty reports for Jan, Feb, and March. The marketing package we bought said they would send out 200,000 marketing emails. So far, only about 200 have been sent. They claim none were opened. The agent said a certain percent usually sold from these emails. I requested a copy of the actual email the was supposed to have went out and only received a sample copy. I tried again and requested a copy of the actual emails that went out and just didn't get a response that time. I am so let down by xlibris.

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  8. Author House, Xibris, I.Universe and Partridge are all part of the Author Solutions stable and as a victim of their extortionist tactics and unethical business practices, I reserve the right to share my experience with authors on a global scale..
    I was assisted in publishing my first book by Author House. I was mega impressed by the speed and efficiency with which the whole process came together. I had paid them a fee, which I considered fair and believed that I had received value.
    It took some time for the dawn of reality to emerge and by then I had been suckered in like sheep to the slaughter. Reality being that a produced book is their access to your wallet.
    Firstly, the ink was barely dry and I got a call from the "marketing" department telling me what a wonderful book I had written and that it was destined for best seller status, but like any new product. it needed promoting. I was given a glowing resume' of how they had helped obscure authors out of obscurity and into the spotlight of publishing fame. Skeptical I was, but when presented with what they had in mind, I had to admit that it sounded pretty damn good. I invested $ 5,000.00 in the package they offered me and received in return about $ 200.00 in value. What they delivered was vastly different from the package I had paid for.... What surprised me was the speed with which they offered me a 50% refund when I finally got one of their directors on the phone. They still made a packet out of me without delivering anything that remotely resembled a marketing package. I guess the rapid refund was a gesture designed to shut me up.
    Before the dawning of reality, their "sales" department was onto me.."This book is best seller material" they said. "You just have to have it printed for distribution in the States. It will fly off the shelves and we will actively promote it"... Yeah right!!.... I paid $ 9,500.00 to have 3,000 books printed and immediately the money left my account they went into silent mode. It took me 3 months to get answers as to the status of the books and discovered that they were in a warehouse in Ohio awaiting orders from online booksellers .. No active promotion, no flying off shelves, no enthusiasm to honour their undertaking.
    ROYATY TIME!!.. I received my first royalty statement a month later than it was due, which understated sales that I was aware of by 52 books. When I queried that, I was told to provide evidence of the sales that I was claiming. But the account with online booksellers was in the name of Author House and I could not gain access to the records without the authority of the account holder... Author House. Would Author House provide me with the required access?. No chance!
    And the check for the royalties due against the understated sales?... "Oh thats in the post... We posted it on 30th May"... Well August is nearly over and I still don't have the check. The books that have been gathering dust in Ohio are now supposed to be shipped to me in South Africa, but they cannot find a carrier to handle the shipment. (30 boxes of books??,. C’mon!) only a half wit would believe that. I don't even know if the books were ever printed and I suspect not. After having demanded that they send them to me so that I could take control, one delay has followed another and after two months of wrangling I'm told they're on the way, but guess what?.. They can't find a copy of the waybill or any reference to the consignment. . They also keep ducking my request to provide evidence of their print run.. I wonder why?

    Oh YES!!!... I'm angry. I reserve the right to be. I can categorically state without fear of reprisal that the Author Solutions group are publishing predators. They prey on the vulnerability and inexperience of first time authors who are duped into believing their falsehoods.
    I would strongly recommend that anyone thinking about publishing their work, steer very clear of these institutions.
    I wish I had.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Contrary to IUniverse’s promise for publishing a book in just a couple of month, it took more than two years for IUniverse to publish my book in two languages – even though I had handed in everything ready, from cover design to interior design and all the related material and all that, not to mention they still charged me for designing all that for I had bought a publishing package. And that was because of the enormous number of mistakes they were all making at every step of the way – and sometimes taking a very long time to get back to me.
      First they’d printed my book in reverse order and because of that when they had posted 300 pages of my 320 pages books online for readers’ assessment, that was the last 300 pages of the book. I lost lots of sale because the book was practically posted on line for free. Then it took over 4 month to correct that mistake.
      Some of their employees especially those at the front services– to convince you to sign up with them, they lie and give lots of false promises; like one said the royalty will be 50% for print and digital books; so I signed up with them and paid in full in advance as it was required. Then when it came to document all that, they did not honor it. The employee did not take responsibility for her promises – and they reduced the royalty to 20; and that was if the reader bought it from IUniverse website – from elsewhere the royalty would be 10%. And later on she was no longer with the company. I can bring you lots of examples …
      I used IUniverse editing services. After over $4000 paid for that service, it was done so poorly with lots of mistakes left behind that I had to hire another editor to reedit my book. It was like whoever had edited my book at IUniverse English was not his/her first language or did not bother to read her/his own writing again to see if it flows properly.
      On top of all that, they were calling me almost every half an hour for at least two weeks to enforce me to place an ad in a magazine they were suggesting for $2300 for one week only. Even though I had told them in an email and on the phone that I do not want that ad, I was still receiving frequent calls for weeks.
      If I want to continue writing more about my experience with IUniverse, which has made me lose many sales especially at my book lunch, and causing me embarrassment for printing the books in wrong order or not delivering it in time, I should write a book about them.
      Now, just by fluke, I came to know there is a law suit against them and that make me quite nervous because after all that ordeal and nightmares I went through to get my books published and distributed on line properly, they may even go out of business and all that expenses and frustration and embarrassments I went through would be for nothing.

      Delete
    2. Where is the link to the application to join this law suit?

      Delete

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