Showing posts with label Author Solutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Author Solutions. Show all posts

Monday, May 6

Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions

Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions

David Gaughran throws down the gauntlet in his excellent blog post The Author Exploitation Business. He writes:
[Being a writer is] a dream job, and like any profession with a horde of neophytes seeking to break in, there are plenty of sharks waiting to chew them to bits.

... [M]any organizations who claim to help writers, to respect them, to assist them along the path to publication are actually screwing them over.

Before the digital revolution made self-publishing viable on a wide scale, the dividing lines were easier to spot. Traditional publishers paid you if they wanted to buy the rights to your novel. Self-publishers were people who filled their garages with books and tried to hawk them at events. And vanity presses were the scammers, luring the unsuspecting with false promises and roundly condemned by self-publishers and traditional publishers alike.

Today it’s very different. The scammy vanity presses are owned by traditional publishers who are marketing them as the “easy” way to self-publish – when it’s nothing more than a horrifically expensive and terribly ineffective way to publish your work, guaranteed to kill your book’s chance of success stone dead, while emptying your bank account in the process.
The target for David's ire is Penguin, owners of the biggest shark out there: Author Solutions. His article is a must read for any writer.

Question: Have you ever had dealings with Author Solutions? If so, what was your experience?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Finding Your Voice
- Creating The Perfect Sleuth
- How Many Books Would You Have To Write To Quit Your Job?

Photo credit: "Robbery not allowed" by Arenamontanus under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, November 29

Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing: Is It Ethical?

Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing: Is It Ethical?

The Dream

When I was a kid I had a dream. I wanted to tell stories. Great stories. Stories other people would listen to with bated breath, leaning forward to hear whether the hero would escape the deadly clutches of the monster.

Or something like that. When I was a kid there probably would have been a fairy somewhere in the mix.

Penguin Publishing was part of that dream. (Yes, I was an odd child.)

To my young imagination, Penguin was special. It was like heaven, but for stories. It was where stories got to go if they were very, very, good. I didn't even think about getting paid for my stories, my goal was just to create something awesome enough that, one day, Penguin would want to publish it.

It never occurred to me writing was a business--but then I was eight and I hadn't yet grasped the whole need-money-to-live thing.

When I grew up--well, I don't think I've grown up, I just got taller and older--I understood about needing money, but I still thought the folks at Penguin--as well the rest of the Big 6 publishers--were special. I thought they did what they did for the love of books, of stories, of that great vague amorphous category called literature.

I no longer think that.

The Big-6 are BUSINESSES pure and simple and, as such, are tasked with making money.


Making money, not publishing stories (heaven-worthy or otherwise) is their bottom line.

So why does it shock and dishearten me when yet another publisher goes to the dark side of publishing?

(To my mind, a publisher goes to the dark side when it tries to make money, not from selling stories, but off of authors. Money should flow to the author, not the other way around.)

Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing

Here's what started my thoughts in this direction. Recently Simon & Schuster formed a partnership with Author House and created their own self-publishing portal, Archway Publishing. (See: Simon & Schuster Partners With Author House To Create Archway Publishing)

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday--we left friends, although barely--in which he shrugged and said, "Well, if Simon & Schuster thinks they can make money off authors, why shouldn't they?"

Thunderstruck at his defense of Simon & Schuster, I spluttered that publishers shouldn't make money from authors, they should make it from sales of books (something to do with the whole publisher thing).

But, once again, my friend shrugged and said, "As long as Simon & Schuster is making money, and it's legal, why should they care? Buyer beware."

I glared at him and wished I had a retort, but I didn't.

Is "ethical business" a contradiction in terms? And, even if it is, don't we want the people who publish our stories to CARE something about writers? I mean, it's not outrageous to suggest a business should treat its client base with respect.

Is it?

The Hook

One reason Simon & Schuster's creation of Archway Publishing bothers me is that new writers will take Simon & Schuster's close association with Archway as indicating endorsement. As in, "If you publish through Archway you'll have a better chance, one day, of being published by us."

It invites new writers to think of Archway as an (expensive) initiation experience, a testing ground to see if their story has what it takes. (By the way, publishing your story yourself on, say, Amazon would do the same thing; if you're shy, you could use a pen name and not tell anyone. If it doesn't sell, keep writing till one does. Show me a professional writer and I'll show you someone mule-stubborn.)

This perception is helped by statements such as this one, found in a FAQ on Archway's site:
[W]e will alert Simon & Schuster to Archway Publishing titles that perform well in the market. Simon & Schuster is always on the lookout for fresh, new voices and they recognize a wealth of talent in Archway authors.
But it doesn't stop there. Simon & Schuster will be referring any unsolicited manuscripts they receive to the Archway program. Writer Beware Blogs writes:
There's also this disturbing tidbit in PW's coverage of the launch: "S&S will refer authors who submit unsolicited manuscripts to the Archway program." I didn't find this in other news coverage, and I'm hoping it's not true--or if it is true, that S&S will re-think it. Such referrals are seriously questionable, since authors who receive them are likely to give them more weight because they come from a respected publisher. (Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division)
How is that not taking advantage of new writers? Imagine this:
You've finished your first manuscript, it's a 240,000 word paranormal novel set in the wild west. As you mail off your carefully worded query letter the butterflies in your stomach feel more like elephants doing the tango. Afterward, you joke with your friends and say things like, "Oh, well, I thought I'd start at the top".

Then, after obsessing about it for a month, you get a letter from Simon & Schuster. As you hold it you think: This could be it! Your hands shake so hard it takes a minute to get the envelope open. The white notepaper inside is a blur at first, then you read: Simon & Schuster has referred your manuscript to another publisher!
If that were me several years ago I would have started doing the (highly embarrassing) Scooby dance.

It sounds great, doesn't it? Simon & Schuster has referred your manuscript to another publisher. They believe in it. They believe in you!

That's quite the hook, especially for someone craving affirmation the way a drowning person craves air.

Money Should Always Flow Toward The Author

Archway Publishing doesn't just charge authors between $1,599 and $14,999 to  publish their manuscripts, they also take a hefty royalty. According to
Archway will pay an ebook royalty of 50 percent of net sales, so if an ebook is distributed to Kindle, for example, an Archway author would receive 50 percent of the sale minus Amazon’s 30 percent fee. (Simon & Schuster launches self-publishing arm with Author Solutions)
I wouldn't be as upset about Archway Publishing if it just charged outrageous sums for helping writers publish their work but gave them 100% of their royalties, at least for ebooks.

I know some writers don't want to do everything themselves, and that's perfectly fine. Many businesses help with things like line editing, cover art, formatting, uploading, and so on, and they charge a flat fee for services rendered. Bookbaby for instance. This is fine.

Imagine your neighbor is selling his house. Imagine he pays someone $30 to mow his lawn and then, on top of that, gives them 50% of the money from the sale of his house. Wouldn't you be flabbergasted? I would! Then why give royalties to the person who formats and uploads a manuscript?

Do Publishers See Writers As Marks?

What do you think? Am I overreacting? I can hold my opinions passionately, but I'm open to other points of view.

What do you think about Simon & Schuster's partnership with Author Solutions? What should the bottom line be for publishers? Making money? They're businesses so it's not unreasonable, but then where do writers fit in? Where do stories fit in? (For Dean Wesley Smith's perspective on Archway Publishing, click here: New Way For Uninformed Writers to Spend Money.)

Perhaps I'm looking at this the the wrong way. Even if making money is the bottom line for a publisher, shouldn't that mandate treating writers well? After all, no writers, no stories. I'd like to see publishers turn a profit then!

... hopefully self-aware androids are a long way off.

Other articles you might like:

- Jim Butcher's Advice For New Writers: Write Every Day
- Using Pinterest To Help Build Your Fictional Worlds
- How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio

Photo credit: "There is always a bigger fish" by floodllama under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, November 27

Simon & Schuster Partners With Author House To Create Archway Publishing

Simon & Schuster Creates A Self-Publishing Portal

Just today Simon & Schuster announced it's partnering with Author Solutions to create Archway Publishing.
[Archway Publishing] will focus on self-published fiction, nonfiction, business and children's books. Digital technology has helped lead to the proliferation of self-published books, with Sylvia Day and Amanda Hocking among those becoming bestselling authors.
Archway will offer a range of services to budding authors beginning at $1,599.
Archway will offer a range of services, from a basic $1,599 package that includes "editorial assessment" and "cover copy review" to a $24,999 "Outreach" program for business books that features an "author profile video" and a reception at BookExpo America, the industry's annual national convention.

Why this is NOT good news for authors

I wrote about 1,000 words on this subject and then came across Carla King's article on Penguin's purchase of Author Solutions earlier this year: Why Self-Publishers Should Care That Penguin Bought Author Solutions. Yes, the article is about Penguin rather than Simon & Schuster but the same objections apply. Carla writes:
Smashwords founder Mark Coker is a longtime critic of Author Solutions, pointing out in his blog that they make more money from selling services to authors than selling authors' books: "Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the 'V' in vanity.  Author Solutions earns two-thirds or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors' books to readers ..."
Add to that Jane Friedman's comments:
Jane Friedman, in her Writer Unboxed blog, notes that ASI's acquisitions are "appearing more and more like a huge scramble to squeeze a few more profitable dollars out of a service that is no longer needed, that is incredibly overpriced when compared to the new and growing competition, and has less to recommend it with each passing day ..."
In my view this isn't a win for self-publishers, this is just another shark in already crowded waters.

Writer beware.

Other articles you might like:

- Editing: Make Sure Your Story's Bones Are Strong
- 11 Steps To Edit Your Manuscript. Edit Ruthlessly & Kill Your Darlings
- NaNoWriMo: The Homestretch & Kindling The Will To Write

Reference links:

- Writer Beware: The Return Of The Vanity Press
- Indie Authors: Don't Give Anyone Ownership Of Your Work
- Snake Oil Salesmen And The Indie Author
- Why Self-Publishers Should Care That Penguin Bought Author Solutions
- How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career
- A Step-By-Step Guide to U.S. Copyright Registration for Self-Publishers
- Bookbaby: Get published Now! (Bookbaby does NOT take a royalty)

Photo credit: "Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)" by mikebaird under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.