Showing posts with label Penguin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Penguin. 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.

Tuesday, February 19

Author Solutions: The New Carnys?

I love carnivals and respect the hardworking folk who run them, but ever since I read Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz I've associated the word "carny" with "benign shyster". Like Vegas, no matter what you do, the house always wins.

We accept this if we gamble, but would feel quite differently if the guy who came to fix our refrigerator sold us parts we didn't need and inflated what would have been a $400 charge into a $4,000 one.

That's not cool.

Here's the definition of fraud, courtesy of Google:
  1. Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
  2. A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.
I'm not a lawyer, but I've often marveled that at a time when traditional publishing houses are closing their doors forever, Author Solutions isn't just surviving, it's thriving.

Author Solutions: Why It Should Be Called 'Author Problems'

Recall that Pearson, Penguin's parent company, bought Author Solutions in 2012 for $116 million. Why did Penguin buy Author Solutions? I'll let David Gaughran explain:
What does Author Solutions bring to the table? Well, for starters, around $100m in annual revenue. Roughly two-thirds of that money comes from the sale of services to writers, and only one-third from the royalties generated by the sale of their books.

Pause for a moment and consider that statistic. Penguin isn’t purchasing a company which provides real value to writers. They are purchasing an operation skilled at milking writers.
That's right. Author Solutions makes most of its money not from selling books but from selling services to authors.

Here's an example of what this means for authors.

Jean Rikhoff's Experiences With iUniverse, a subsidiary of Author Solutions

Jean Rikhoff is a celebrated writer (see Jean Rikhoff's Wikipedia entry).
Jean Rikhoff has written seven novels and two young adult biographies, collaborated on two anthologies, and founded "Quixote" an Anglo-American literary review. She also helped found The Loft Press, taught English, and served as an English department chair at Adirondack Community College. Rikhoff, now retired, lives in Upstate New York. (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: A Memoir)
 Here are a list of Jean's formal complains against iUniverse:
- iUniverse assured her they could embed the pictures she wanted included in her book. They gave her a contract and took her money, but later told her their machines were not able to print her books as she had requested.

- Once Jean was turned over to the editorial staff at iUniverse, she received numerous phone calls about services not covered under her initial package. They told her she would want to take them because she had been awarded Editor’s Choice, a tactic Jean charmingly refers to as a “buttering up for the skinning.”

- Jean was sold copy editing services from iUniverse that she was told would cost close to $400. She agreed, and her credit card was charged $3,794.33. She disputed the charges with her credit card company.

- She went over the “editing” iUniverse provided and found more than 100 errors.

- Jean attempted to get resolution for her issues, but iUniverse employees stopped responding to her. She emailed at least four different employees. Finally someone named Joseph said he couldn’t help, but he’d try to get someone who could. Her original contact was gone, there was a “reorganization” within the company.

- Jean eventually got a final proof that was riddled with formatting problems and copyediting errors, even though they’d charged her nearly $4,000 for editorial review. When she complained, the response from iUniverse was, “The designers do not go page by page looking at the formatting.”

- Jean got one softcover and one hardcover book; she never received the remaining author copies she paid for as part of her initial publishing package.

- They spelled her name wrong on the jacket, despite her correcting this on the proof numerous times.

- Royalties were never paid. (Jean Rikhoff Takes iUniverse & Author Solutions Complaints to Indiana Attorney General)
That's an impressive list! Jean was told editing would cost her $400 and then iUniverse charged her $4000, wow. That's incredible.

David Gaughran reminds us that over 150,000 writers have suffered at the hands of Author Solutions and that number is sure to grow now that Penguin has given them a patina of respectability.

DG points out, though, it's not just Penguin who seems comfortable with Author Solutions' business practises.
Presumably Random House has no issue with Author Solutions, given that they are merging with Penguin, and operations are expanding.

Simon & Schuster must feel the same way, given that they hired Author Solutions to run their own self-publishing operation, as did Harlequin, Hay House, and Harper Collins-owned Thomas Nelson.

That’s four of the “Big Six” involved with Author Solutions in some form or another – along with the biggest Romance publisher in the world.
And now Author Solutions is expanding into India (see: Penguin India Launches Partridge – a Self-Publishing Service for Suckers). 

Buyer--or in this case writer--beware.
Have you, or anyone you know, had business dealings with Author Solutions? If so, was the experience positive?

Other articles you might like:

- Structured Procrastination: Procrastinate And Get Things Done
- Joanna Penn's Tips For Writing Realisitic Fight Scenes
- Story Craft: Five Important Questions

Photo credit: "'Children's Carnival' - Paul Landacre - Wood Engraving - 1946" by Thomas Shahan 3 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, November 6

The Random House & Penguin Merger: Good For Indie Authors?

The Random House & Penguin Merger: Good For Indie Authors?

Here's a headline for you: After Penguin and Random House merge into Penguin Random House they will have created "the biggest publisher in the world' [1].

According to The Guardian, the reaction to this news has led some folks to despair for the future of traditional publishing. They point to three trends in the book market:

1) Falling book sales

Book sales are the lowest in living memory. "Print sales are falling--down 11% in 2011, the trend continuing in 2012--while bookshops, both specialist and chain, are closing. Borders has gone, Waterstones is in turmoil, and independent booksellers the length and breadth of the country are vanishing. [1]"

2) Self-publishers & Amazon

Self-publishers bypass traditional publishing. With Amazon becoming a publisher in its own right and encouraging authors to not stray beyond the Amazon fold (Amazon KDP Select; True Fans & Select) they hope to increase market share. The more market share Amazon has the less there is for traditional publishing and their profits will continue to fall.

I think the fear is that Amazon will take over the publishing world and then turn into a frankenmoster that looks like a mash-up of the Big Bad from The Ring and Godzilla.

3) The death of reading

Some fear that declining sales of print books will mean people will read less. [1]

Why Indie Authors Are Not At Risk

Yes, traditional book sales are falling

That is, sales of books from traditional publishers through traditional outlets such as brick-and-mortar (or whatever they're constructed from) bookstores.

Is this a bad thing for writers? Well, first, writers are readers so NO, this isn't a good thing. I think that the overwhelming majority of writers love bookstores and take every opportunity to bask in their dusty glow.

Is this a bad thing for independent writers? Not necessarily. It depends quite a lot on whether (3) is true.

There's no such thing as a frankenmoster

People warned that once Walmart crushed all its competition its prices would skyrocket and, since it had crushed all its competition, we wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

That didn't happen.

People warn that once Amazon crushes all its competition it will raise its prices. After all other bookstores are nothing but splinters and digital mist it'll be the only game in town so we'll have no choice but to pay high prices for books or stop reading.

That won't happen.

Why? First, I don't think Amazon is going to be able to crush all its competition. Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords are just a few of Amazon's competitors and I don't see them going away any time soon. And, even if they did, another company would spring up, phoenix-like, from its ashes.

Second, even in the unlikely event that Amazon does crush all its competition this wouldn't be the end for writers or readers. Walmart hasn't raised it's prices to punishing levels and I don't believe Amazon would either.

People are reading more than ever

Folks are consuming more digital content than ever before. People are reading. They're reading blogs, Reddit, digital books. They're watching movies on their smart phones. And we aren't just consuming content, we're creating it too. We blog, we tweet, we use Tumblr and Reddit and Wattpad. And that's for starters!

Far from people reading less we are going through what Amazon calls a Renaissance of reading.

Yes, I'm talking about digital media such as electronic books as opposed to print books, though I believe that print books will always exist.

My Point

My point is that as long as readers exist, as long as folks want to have stories told to them, there will be writers. And screenwriters and playwrights.

And you know what? Folks will always want to have stories told to them. The day that stops is the day we've joined the Dodo in peaceful extinction.

What do you think of the new Putnam & Random House merger? Do you think this just postpones the inevitable or do you think they'll be able to make a go of it? 

Other articles you might like:
- How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character
- More Writing Advice From Jim Butcher
- NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide

Articles referenced in this article:
1) Penguin merger minuses could be pluses for indies, The Guardian.

Photo credit: "Bambi vs. Godzilla (211/365)" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, July 22

Penquin's Purchase Of Author Solutions: Going To The Dark Side?

penguin goes to the dark side

When I was a child, I dreamt of becoming an author and being published by Penguin. (Yes, I was an odd child, but that's a post for another day!) Even after I was stripped of my illusions about the publishing industry the name "Penguin" stood out for me as the mark of something special.

No longer.

If you haven't read David Gaughran's article on Penguin's purchase of Author Solutions you should. It gives all the facts and in David's succinct and eminently readable style. Here's an excerpt:
Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, has announced the purchase of Author Solutions for $116m – news which has shocked writers, especially given Author Solutions’ long history of providing questionable services at staggering prices.

Author Solutions are the dominant player in the self-publishing services market – via their subsidiaries Author House, Xlibris, Trafford, and iUniverse – and had been looking for a buyer for several months. According to the press release, Author Solutions will be folded into Penguin, but will continue to operate as a separate company. Penguin’s CEO John Makinson stated:

“This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.”

What does Author Solutions bring to the table? Well, for starters, around $100m in annual revenue. Roughly two-thirds of that money comes from the sale of services to writers, and only one-third from the royalties generated by the sale of their books.

Pause for a moment and consider that statistic. Penguin isn’t purchasing a company which provides real value to writers. They are purchasing an operation skilled at milking writers.

This is not a new accusation against Author Solutions. Industry watchdogs such as Writer Beware have received a litany of complaints about Author Solutions and their subsidiaries over the last few years: misleading marketing, hard-selling of over-priced services, questionable value of products provided, awful customer service, and, after all that, problems with writers being paid. (Penguin’s New Business Model: Exploiting Writers)
David gives examples a-plenty to back up his claims. Author Solutions is well known on sites like Writer Beware and Predators and Editors. The news that Penguin purchased the company astonishes me. I can only hope that Penguin discontinues Author Solutions' bad business practices and works with authors instead of preying on them.

Related reading:
- Writers Sue Harlequin For Underpayment
- Publish America: Writer Beware
- Jen Talty: Amazon's CreateSpace Vs LIghtning Source (Not about a scam, just a comparison of two good companies)

Friday, June 22

Amazon Award-Winner Regina Sirois & The Problems Of Indie Distribution

I love success stories!
When author Regina Sirois decided to self-publish her young adult literary fiction, On Little Wings, she found the process satisfying but for one aspect: the gate to getting her book into bookstores was nearly impossible to open. While she was happy with her ebook and print sales online, it was the bookstore experience that was left out of the process.

“That is the one hurdle I couldn’t break,” said Sirois in an interview yesterday with GoodEReader. “I loved being a self-published author, but getting it in bookstores was the last gate I couldn’t get through.”

That will certainly change now that Sirois’ novel won the young adult category for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. The winner in each of the two categories will win a publishing contract with Penguin and a $15,000 advance, and Sirois will most definitely see her book gracing the shelves of her local bookstore.

“I said in my speech at ABNA that I am grateful for this opportunity but it wrecked my marriage,” Sirois laughed. “I wasn’t going to enter. My husband forced me to enter it in ABNA at the last second, right before the contest closed. I told him it sounded like a huge waste of time for me to even enter. He mentioned it to me several times and I told him no. He came back two days before it closed and said, ‘If you don’t enter it, I will enter it for you.’ It was about 11 o’clock at night and I was tired and more than a little irritated with him, but I did it. He’s right about everything now! I will not live this down.”
Read the rest of the article here: ABNA Winner Regina Sirois on Indie vs Traditional Publishing.

Distribution was something John Locke had trouble with as well, here are his comments from a recent interview with IndieReader:
Before entering into my distribution deal with Simon & Schuster, I knew that TV and print media was the exclusive domain of traditionally-published authors. I knew as an indie author it was unlikely I would ever be interviewed on TV, or have my paperback, Wish List, reviewed in print media. So I knew there was an exclusive club. But I thought my distribution deal made me a member, or at the very least, an honorary member. Boy, was I wrong! I hired a publicist and offered myself up…and quickly learned I was not part of the club! Not one media outlet would talk to me or review my book.  Even the little papers in the towns where I grew up and went to high school and college refused to do a story on me!
- John Locke on the Big Problem (Still) Facing Indies
Hopefully, one day, it will be possible for indie authors to strike distribution deals with bookstores. Who knows, perhaps one day Waterstones will carry certain indie books! Here's hoping.

The important thing is to keep writing. Cheers.