The Ugly

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

The Ugly Publisher not only treats authors badly, but does so with malice aforethought. The Granddaddy of ugly publishers is Author Solutions. Our August post Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, made it clear that discovering the underlying publisher is not always easy. Author Solutions has a gazillion imprints, and many of them are associated with otherwise legitimate publishers.

Dr Judith Briles, in her excellent blog The Book Shepherd, says the following: “Author Solutions has gotten into bed with Hay House (Balboa Press), Thomas Nelson (Westbow Press), Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing packages start at $1599 and can go up to $24,999), Guide Post/Writers Digest (Abbott Press) and others. With Penguin recently acquiring Author Solutions, who knows what Penguin will turn over from their slush/pass piles to Author House to ‘follow up’ on.” 

According to Publishers Weekly, the class action suit filed against Author Solutions in spring of 2013, “alleges that Author Solutions misrepresents itself as an independent publisher, luring authors in with claims of ‘greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors,’ and then profits from ‘fraudulent’ practices, including ‘delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate correction fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.’

In the initial complaint, three named plaintiffs (Kelvin James, Jodi Foster, and Terry Hardy) detail their experiences of paying thousands of dollars, and being upsold into ‘developmental’ packages for editing and marketing services which either “did not materialize, or provided subpar service, while generating fees for Author Solutions.’”

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, called Author Solutions one of the companies that put the “V” in vanity. Author Solutions earn 2/3 or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors’ books to readers. For anyone not familiar with Smashwords, Bowker named Smashwords the largest publisher for indie e-books in its latest report “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2007-2012,” after publishing about 90,000 e-books in 2012.

In conclusion: DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you choose a publisher.







Wolf as Sheep

Publishers often separate their books into different imprints. Amazon itself has over a dozen imprints, each with a specialized focus. See for the list and descriptions.

My previous post listed many of the imprints that are owned by the Big Six. Oops, the Big Five. Penguin and Random House are now Penguin Random House. Being published by a subsidiary imprint is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, most of the imprints are still very much a part of traditional publishing—but not all of them. What I am particularly interested in today is the relatively new phenomenon of self-publishing imprints owned by traditional publishers.

Just as you have to look to find the wolf in the picture, the down side of publication through these imprints is not apparent at first glance. Although these imprints tout their connection to their parent companies, according to Writer Beware, ( the parent company doesn’t even run the operations. Who runs them? Author Solutions—and who owns Author Solutions? Penguin Random House.

The evidence of this is not hard to find. A simple Google search of Author Solutions Imprints yields “Bloomsbury Seeks Deal With Author Solutions” and “Author Solutions Creates Imprint with Hay House” and a Huffington Post article “Author Solutions Creates Self-Publishing Imprints with Hay House, Harlequin and Nelson” (

If you type Author Solutions into the Google search bar, the first item that comes up in the autocomplete is Author Solutions Lawsuit, followed by Author Solutions Reviews. Looking through the reviews gives you an idea of why there is a lawsuit.

Author Solutions lists its “leading self-publishing imprints” as AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Palibrio, Trafford Publishing and Xlibris.,27.htm It neglects to mention the imprints that it operates for traditional publishers.

An article in Forbes, “Penguin and Author Solutions Sued for Deceptive Practices” is well worth reading. The article points out that Author Solutions has “dozens of self-publishing brands.” It also operates Archway, a self-publishing imprint that is actually owned by Simon & Schuster.

Photo by Pierre Tourigny Creative Commons Attribution License

Coming Soon: All Roads Lead to the Same Place, and it isn’t Rome

Traditional Publishers: Who are they, and why are the gates closed?

gate closedTraditional Publishers are considered the Gold Standard, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for any author. And they are usually just as elusive as the legendary pot of gold.
The short answer to why the gatekeepers are so fierce is that there are really only six of them and gazillions of us trying to get in through those gates. No, that can’t be right. There must be more than six, right?
Wrong. There are many, many more than six imprints, but many of them are just other faces of the big six. The following is taken from a list that I found in How to Get a Literary Agent by Michael Larsen. It was published in 2006 and is clearly outdated, but the concept remains that in spite of the many names of publishers, they all boil down to the basic few who dominate the industry and dictate their own terms. There are even more imprints since the book was written, and the Big Six is now the Big Five (Penguin Group and Random House are now Penguin Random House).

The big six:
1. Hatchette Livre USA – owns Bulfinch Press, Warner Books, and Little Brown & Co.
2. HarperCollins a subsidiary of News Corporation that includes Avon, Collins, HarperCollins, HarperSanFrancisco, ReganBooks, Smithsonian, and HarperMorrow. Controlled by Rupert Murdoch. (of 20th Century Fox, Fox TV, and UPN.
3. Holtzbrinck Publishers – includes Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Henry Hold, St. Martin’s Press, Picador, Palgrave Macmillan, and Tor Books.
4. Penguin Group – includes Berkley Books, Dorling Kindersley, Dutton, Gotham Books, Jeremy P. Tarcher, NAL, Penguin, Portfolio, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Riverhead Books, and Viking.
5. Random House – the largest English-language publisher in the world is a division of the German Bertelsmann Book Group. Imprints include Ballentine, Bantam Dell, Clarkson Potter, Crown Publishing Group, Delacorte Press, Doubleday Broadway, Fodor’s Travel Publications, Alfred Knopf, Nan A. Talese, Pantheon Books, Random House Information Group, Random House Trade Books (also called Little Random), Villard Books, and Vintage & Anchor Publishing.
6. Simon & Schuster is owned by Viacom. Its imprints include Atria, Fireside Books, Free Press, Pocket Books, Scribner, and Touchstone.

Many of these imprints are niche publishers, while others are less innocuous. Watch for our next post:

Not all imprints are created equal – A Cautionary Tale