The Author Exploitation Business

11 May

Big publishers owning vanity presses turn to make money off writers rather than books. This article by David Gaughran is eye opening as it focuses mainly on the Penguin/Author Solutions exploitation while getting great press from Publisher’s Weekly, NYTimes, The Bookseller, GalleyCat and Digital Book World where every one of these trusted sites fail to mention the class action suit against Author Solutions. Gaughran notes that Penguin isn’t alone in bilking hopeful writers: Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Harlequin have jumped on the band wagon. Other vanity press divisions indicted include West Bow Press, Balboa Press and Abbot Press which is actually a division of Writers Digest. Lulu which has long been an outlet for indie authors has also made a deal with Author Solutions for “premium” services. Writer Beware! Trafford, AuthorHouse, Xlibris and iUniverse are all owned by Author Solutions.

Recently I helped a fellow author disentangle herself from Xlibris, so this all hits home for me. Providentially, this author began work with an arm of Author Solutions when their terms still included a no risk policy whereby she has applied for a refund of her first installment payment (apps $600).

Born in the same year as Anne Frank, this particular author is an 84 year old Iron Curtain survivor who is sitting on her personal memoir. I’m telling you, it’s an absolute historical treasure. Who is her publisher now? I am. Do I charge her for converting typed pages to digital files? No. Is it painstaking work? Yes.

So why am I doing for free what Xlibris charges another $2.50 per page to do? (337 page manuscript, BTW). I believe in the value of the work, the need for this story to be told. I also think this work will be a financial success given time, so I will do what traditional publishers used to do. At no cost to the author, I will apply my indie publishing expertise to the project and wait for my payment in terms of royalties.

I’ve gotten off track with my personal example, but I do highly recommend writers and readers check out David Gaughran’s article, The Author Exploitation Business which is full of supporting links.

Do you know someone who has been taken by a vanity press? Any vanity press success stories? Comments welcome.

David Gaughran

penguin (1)Writing is a glamorous occupation – at least from the outside. Popular depictions of our profession tend to leave out all the other stuff that comes with the territory: carpal tunnel syndrome, liver failure, penury, and madness.

Okay, okay, I jest. I love being a writer. Sharing stories with the world and getting paid for it is bloody brilliant. It’s 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.

Publishing is a screwed up business. The often labyrinthine path to success makes it much easier for those with nefarious intentions to scam the unsuspecting. But it doesn’t help that so many 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…

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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Indie Business


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