It is flattering to receive a call from a company offering to help publish and market your latest book. I think that is partly the appeal and attraction leading many authors to search for a traditional or vanity publisher for their manuscript rather than pursuing a self-publishing path. It somehow validates an author to receive that call from a (seemingly) large publisher expressing interest in making the author an overnight success.
This article will shed some light on a company that is dogged by controversy involving the deceit of authors. The company at the centre of the on-going controversy is Author Solutions along with its US imprints, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse and Trafford and several more.
So you don’t recognise the names above? Author Solutions also has partnerships with well-known US publishers which include Archway Publishing (with Simon & Schuster), Balboa Press (with Hay House), LifeRich Publishing (with The Reader’s Digest Association), and WestBow Press (with Thomas Nelson & Zondervan).
If you reside outside the US, also be aware that Author Solutions has extended its international reach by forming partnerships abroad which have resulted in companies such Balboa Press AU, Partridge Africa, Partridge India, Partridge Singapore and megustaescribir (targeting Spanish authors).
Author Solutions, now owned by Penguin Random House, has a trail of well-documented complaints online. This has culminated in a well-publicized lawsuit started by a three unhappy author-customers. This lack of customer satisfaction is highlighted by a quote taken from the Author Solutions website:
180 000 authors have published 225 000 books
This means an average of 1.25 books per author which is indicative of very little repeat-business.
Looking at the sales figures released by Author Solutions whilst it was looking for a buyer in 2012, I noticed a growing list of authors paying large sums of money to a company that seems to invest most of its time on finely tuned sales pitches rather than value-for-money offerings for cash-strapped authors.
The arrival of e-books has made it so much easier for first-time authors to fall prey to a smooth-talking sales person promising guaranteed sales and success.
How they get your details
For an author, part of the (self) publishing process should mean you first research your options online. Often the companies responsible for questionable practises know this and have a well thought-out plan to capture these authors’ details whilst they are carrying out due-diligence online.
Here are some of the ways that an author’s details might be captured by Author Solutions without the authors actually knowing.
- Bloggers, websites and companies are paid a bounty to deliver your details to Author Solutions.
- Numerous websites are set up, supposedly offering independent self-publishing advice but only recommend Author Solutions companies.
- Lots of money is spent on advertising through Google Adwords, driving traffic towards its websites and also making it harder to find the customer complaints online.
- Fake social media profiles of independent publishing consultants, who only refer people towards Author Solutions.
It is fair to state that before e-books authors had less of choice as to the publishing route they might follow. This meant that companies like Author Solutions might have had more of a monopoly in self-publishing circles. Now the risk has shifted and authors should beware of paying any company for a complex-sounding service that cannot be easily explained or quantified. The author should always realise the final responsibility rests with themselves and they should never rely on a publisher to care as much for the work as they do.
When entering the world of e-books and the inherent mixing of technology with the traditional world of consuming written material, it becomes easier for some authors to shy away from the learning process, dismissing the process as too hard to learn. Mention virtual book tour or Book landing page and I can picture an author’s attention slowly drifting…. imagining his or her next cup of coffee rather than an exciting technology that could boost his e-book sales.
What does this mean to the authors?
The interesting thing about these deceptive practices, aimed at fleecing authors, is that they are fairly well documented. Googling “Author Solutions scams” and a multitude of results detailing these deceptive practises can be seen. This great article detailing the Author House scam written by self-publishing guru David Gaughran takes a very in-depth look into how Author Solutions has been operating over the years.
A quick look at the website for Partridge Africa (which targets African authors) and you will see a list of several vague services that could easily confuse even industry professionals. The self-publishing packages start at the Gold option for $399 and end up with the Platinum package costing a whopping $5999! Within the package offerings, vague sounding services like “Social Media Set-Up Guide”, “Fresco Illustration Service” and “Image Enhancement” are only some of the phrases that would have even Mark Zuckerberg on a double-take.
These services might sound impressive, but what do they actually mean and how are they measured as a success? Just bear in mind that 78% of the Author Solutions staff are based in the Philippines (including the sales and marketing departments). This should give you a good idea of the level of education and literacy levels you might expect from the staff that you would be asking for help from.
For many of the digitally-based services such as creating an author website, setting up a Google Adwords campaign or publicizing your new book; online platforms such as Fiverr.com and eLance.com will be perfectly suitable and will cost you a great deal less.
What you as the author should keep in the back of your mind — whilst choosing who will help you navigate through the eBook publishing and marketing processes — is that if they cannot explain each and every service in a way you can easily understand, treat them like the pesky call centre consultants they are.
Here is a great blog for authors looking to better protect themselves from these sorts of scams.
Added protection against being taken advantage of is to keep up to date on the technologies available to help authors publish and market online. Here is a great (and free!) e-book marketing course. Conducted fully online, it would help authors to better understand essential online tools available to the adventurous author.
Have you had a bad experience with someone promising you digital marketing services?
Let us know via the comments section below.
Born and raised in Durban, David moved to Johannesburg in 2007 to explore the opportunities in the growing technology sector. Having grown up with an author father, David’s passion for online based technology naturally drifted to online publishing and the potential wealth that was waiting for those authors brave enough to leap across the digital divide and publish into the online megastores such as Amazon.
In mid-2012 David founded what is now South Africa’s largest Digital Publishing Blog: My eBook.
My eBook was formed out of the need to give African authors the answers to some of the most important questions faced when self-publishing through a digital environment. Aiming to empower authors, giving them full control of their self-publishing potential rather than relying on others to publish and market the author’s work with the same level of passion as the author could.
David’s passion revolves around the education and empowerment of the local author community. He helps manage this local group on LinkedIn dedicated to local authors.