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The Alliance of Independent Authors, Penguin & Author Solutions

How to ChooseAnother year, another update to our guide to author services, How To Choose A Self-Publishing Service.

And so another email to Author Solutions (ASI) Director, Andrew Philips.

If you haven’t been following this story, you can catch up on last year’s post here.

And the year before’s, here.

When Penguin first took over ASI, I didn’t assume, as the UK Society of Authors did, that it was automatically a bad thing. I actually welcomed the move, knowing that companies often make acquisitions in order to change the culture, just as Amazon acquired Booksurge, which had a poor reputation, and turned it into Createspace.

My firm belief was that Penguin would clean up the ASI vanity outfit, and the biggest assisted self-publishing company in the world would start offering reader- and writer-centred self-publishing packages.

After all they were Penguin, one of the most respected brands in the business, among authors as others. I had been published by them myself and was always — even through creative differences – proud to be a Penguin author.

Now they are Penguin Random House and still no evidence that they care, at all, that authors who know a good service from a bad one finds many of their business practices, and legal terms, troubling.

Here is the 2015 email, below, sent today.

Hello  Andrew, 

I hope you are well.  It’s that time of year again when we update our guide to self-publishing services, which will publish next month.  

I’m writing let you know that ALLi’s concerns about the Author Solutions group, as previously discussed with you in our telephone and personal conversations last year, and reinforced by many others in the author community, remain live and we would still like to hear more from you on that.

Our opinion/research of services in 2014/5 continues to raise many concerns.

To recap: the issues are those we discussed in detail in our phone meeting and at London Book Fair 2014:

  1.  selling a dream of widespread distribution and sales to writers whose skills make such an outcome unlikely or impossible
  2. indiscriminate selling of ineffective marketing and promotion services to those whose books do not warrant such — particularly the selling of expensive services that will not sell unknown and unsuitable books to readers e.g. advertising in review outlets and trade journals
  3. poor and expensive editorial services — copyediting, proofing
  4. poor and expensive design in covers and page layouts
  5. poor and expensive customer service
  6. refusal to refund when services have not delivered what was implied or promised
  7. energetic upselling of ineffective services, particularly marketing services. 

Essentially, vanity-press practices that fail to deliver real publication value to writers or readers. 

ALLi’s research, and reference to others in the author community, including David Gaughran, Mick Rooney, Helen Sedwick, Victoria Strauss and many others, is not witnessing the addressing of the above issues, particularly 1, 2 and 7.  

I wanted to once again extend the right to reply as a courtesy to you, in the wake of your personal assurances that you were committed to improving the services offered by ASI imprints, as you now have had time to implement such change. 

Also to ask if we have missed any developments or improvements that we should be aware of?

And whether we can assist in any way to bring about the sorts of improvements to service that would be welcomed by the author community?

Please let me know your thoughts. 

Once again, in the interests of transparency, we will be publishing the response. 

Yours sincerely

Orna Ross

Director

Alliance of Independent Authors

 

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15 Responses to The Alliance of Independent Authors, Penguin & Author Solutions

  1. Barbara Hughes January 23, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    Hello Orna,

    I’ve just discovered this website and am so glad I have! I’ve just had an article published at The Independent Publishing Magazine, detailing my poor experiences with one of the Author Solutions imprints. As an editor, I wrote about my experiences assisting an author client through what turned out to be very unprofessional services, getting her book printed and also put into ebook format.

    Funnily enough, I found this site because a representative from Author Solutions posted a comment on my article saying that my client could get in touch with him by email or at Twitter. I thought, “Um, yes, let’s rectify all the problems via tweets!” I decided to go look at his Twitter account. The very first tweet on his page says “Thanks for the shout out!” And he is THANKING someone who posted a link to YOUR article HERE! 🙂 No words….

    As you’ve probably heard, that class action suit has been dropped now, and this fellow tweets, “NY & Indiana class actions against Author Solutions resolved without any finding of wrongdoing.” Unless, of course, you consider “wrongdoing” to be shoddy workmanship, unprofessional publishing standards, etc. And I do.

    I’m going to tell people about your site and this page in particular. As others have said, we all simply MUST get THE REST OF THE STORY out about these charlatans!

    Thank you!

  2. Lutz Jacoby November 27, 2015 at 4:16 am #

    Thank you so much for all your helpful information, Orna.

    I have a question how to get listed with the Bookdepository in England?

    Thanks, Lutz.

  3. Dana Alexander October 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Orna,

    An excellent, fair, and pointed e-mail. I’m loving being part of ALLI.

    @Barry Knister,

    I couldn’t agree more. Well-said.

    • Orna Ross November 10, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Thank you Dana, so glad you’re enjoying your membership and finding it useful.

  4. Barry Knister October 19, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    Hello Orna. Thanks for your efforts to educate writers regarding the ongoing, shabby practices at Penguin/Random House/ASI. It will be interesting to see what defense the company offers for the indefensible. Assuming they bother. The money being made must make it worth throwing away the good name of a respected brand.

    • Orna Ross November 10, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      Thanks Barry, we live in hope….

  5. Warren Shuman October 19, 2015 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Orna: Why am I not shocked? I have been battling the ramparts of trade publishers for many years, have tested some vanity-pubbers, but have not fallen into their webs when I researched them thoroughly. The road of an Indie Author isn’t easy, but I am in control and responsible. The errors and the successes are mine. It has been a long and hard learning curve; I go to school at various sites everyday. Thank you for your courage and dedication and ALLI.

    Stay well… Warren.

    • Orna Ross November 10, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Thank you Warren and for your support of all our endeavours.

  6. Joel Friedlander October 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    This is an important communication and thanks for publishing it Orna. Whether PenguinRandomHouse responds or not, it’s vital to bring this information to the larger public because the only way we will make a dent in the number of authors getting caught up in the tentacles of this organization is through education. Thanks for leading on this.

    • Orna Ross November 10, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

      Thanks so much Joel and for your own good attention to this issue. Still waiting….

  7. Christopher Joyce October 19, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Tried to download the November revised edition and – not surprisingly I suppose as it’s still October – the old one from May is still there. Can you let us know when it’s available? Thanks

    • Orna Ross November 10, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      It’s with the formatter, Chris. So should be very soon now.

  8. Pete October 19, 2015 at 1:22 am #

    I agree with you Gordon, warn everybody. I joined the class action against them but the legal team seem a little slow to get things moving.

    Smashwords and Createspace are my alternatives and they do a great job for no cost.

    • Orna Ross November 10, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

      Yes Pete, keep on spreading the word. Amazon KDP, Createspace, ACX; Apple iBooks, Kobo Writing Life; Smashwords, Draft2Digital and PublishDrive — these are go-direct companies who do a great job of understanding and supporting authors.

  9. Gordon A. Long October 18, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    Great letter, but I doubt if a big conglomeration like PeguinRandomHouse is going to back off on lucrative practices like you list, even if the director of the service wants to. Bottom line and all that.

    I think that probably the best we can do is warn everyone, as ALLi seems to be doing.
    To be practical and perhaps a bit cruel, part of the writing/selling game is doing your research,and those new writers who connect up with organizations like ALLi and Indies Unlimited have a better chance of success.

    Thanks for the work on behalf of writers everywhere.

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