Another 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.
Here is the 2015 email, below, sent today.
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:
- selling a dream of widespread distribution and sales to writers whose skills make such an outcome unlikely or impossible
- 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
- poor and expensive editorial services — copyediting, proofing
- poor and expensive design in covers and page layouts
- poor and expensive customer service
- refusal to refund when services have not delivered what was implied or promised
- 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.