Penguin Random House (PRH) has sold its self-publishing division Author Solutions to an affiliate of private investment firm, Najafi Companies. PRH parent company Pearson purchased Author Solutions in 2012 for $116m from Bertram Capital. Following the merger of publishing goliaths Random House and Penguin, Author Solutions became a part of the Penguin Group. Over the past three years, Penguin overhauled its own self-publishing platform Book Country, and using the Author Solutions publishing engine, created a number of self-publishing partnerships and several service-driven imprints using the Penguin branding in the Far East.
Najafi Companies seeks to make strategic investments in undervalued assets. The firm makes equity investments in businesses across a variety of industries, often in areas undergoing rapid technological transformation. We typically acquire controlling ownership interest in established businesses across the globe with strong management teams generating positive cash flows. Transaction size is not a focus, but we do have the resources to acquire businesses up to $1 billion in transaction value.
The sale of Author Solutions was formally concluded on December 31st to Najafi Companies, based in the state of Arizona. USA. Unfortunately financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, so we have no way of knowing who holds the deeper pockets.
By the way, this wasn’t exactly surprising news. Some of us more eagle-eyed spotted this about three weeks ago on glassdoor.com …
I have been working at Author Solutions full-time (More than 8 years)
Behind closed door meetings, multiple unknown people walking around, etc. give the impression that an event will happen. Unfortunately this has been noticed across the company.
The current benefits with PRH are excellent and would be hard to lose. PRH has been good for us. If a sale happens, a reduction in force in always an option and usually happens. A new company causes a lot to change especially in operations.
Advice to Management
Focus on communication to the employees and not let them lead to unknown assumptions.
In a sense Author Solutions has now come full circle, back under private ownership, but with nothing like the foothold it once had in the self-publishing sector. In the past eighteen months Author Solutions has ended partnerships with Harlequin, Writer’s Digest, the Authors Guild and F&W Media. The rise of slicker and far cheaper self-publishing platforms has also weakened its market position, while it has continually persisted with expensive print-centric publishing packages.
It also escaped a couple of legal bullets in 2015 when a class action lawsuit against it was voluntarily dismissed in the state of Indiana, following on from a discontinuance without prejudice of a similar case filed by two authors in the Southern District Court in New York.
The Bookseller this evening quoted a note to staff by PRH CEO Markus Dohle:
We thank the entire Author Solutions team for their hard work and dedication during their time as part of Penguin Random House, and we wish them all the best and much success under the new ownership. With this sale, we reaffirm our focus on consumer book publishing through our 250 imprints worldwide, and our commitment to connecting our authors and their works to readers everywhere.
While former Penguin Group mogul Andrew Phillips will continue in his role as CEO of Author Solutions, Dohle’s parting words seem something of a sting in the tail — to reaffirm our focus on consumer book publishing. So Author Solutions was something of a short run distraction and never quite ‘consumer book publishing’?
But there are some ties here with new owners Najafi Companies. It has some pedigree in the publishing world, being a former owner of Bookspan and at one point tried to purchase several hundred Borders stores. It was also indirectly the employer of ex-Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss, when he left Penguin and headed up Najafi-owned SkyMall. That skyfaring venture went tits up after about a year. But there’s more. Najafi provided investment for Paula Deen Ventures and its cookbook activities. Publishers Weekly also informed us today that the Najafi family has previously published books using Author Solutions imprints.
He [Andrew Philips] noted that Najafi Companies head Jahm Najafi published a book using Author Solutions, as did a number of Najafi’s family members. Najafi “believes in our mission of pairing authors with their audience,” Phillps said. The company’s major initiatives for 2016, which include international expansion and increasing its number of publishing partnerships, will continue, Phillips said.”
Will Najafi change the fortunes and poor reputation of Author Solutions? I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, Najafi need to get to work stripping away the Penguin brand that appears on every Author Solutions logo.