Author Solutions' Rep: People Complaining About Our Scammy 'Services' Are Engaged In 'Racketeering'

from the i-can-count-the-facts-Eric-knows-on-one-stump dept

Before we get into this unintentionally hilarious response from an Author Solutions’ rep (via Nate Hoffelder), we’ll need a little background on the company itself.

Author Solutions Inc. is a “self-publishing” company currently doing business with several major publishers, while acting more like a severely abusive vanity press than an actual self-publishing service. Acquired by Pearson in 2012, ASI has assembled a stable of “self-publishing” and print-on-demand services, including Author House, xlibris, iUniverse and Trafford. Other publishers have outsourced self-publishing work to ASI under a variety of names.

Like the other self-publishing divisions of trade publishers (LifeWay’s Cross Books, Thomas Nelson’s West Bow Press, Harlequin’s Dell’Arte Press [which, unlike other ventures of this sort, produced a furore upon its introduction and had to change its name], Hay House’s Balboa Press, and Writer’s Digest’sAbbott Press), Archway Publishing is outsourced to Author Solutions Inc. [Simon & Schuster] is the biggest fish ASI has landed so far.

ASI’s main business, by far, is selling services (most of them useless) to authors. Selling books is almost an accidental byproduct.

[I]n 2011, ASI generated about 63% of its revenue from what it calls publishing and marketing services and 37% from distribution services.

Because of this, ASI doesn’t do much repeat business.

Since its launch, ASI has published 170,000 titles from 140,000 authors…

Compare those numbers with Smashwords, a well-respected self-publishing service.

The site, which has published about 127,000 titles by 44,000 writers, is projected to double its revenues this year.

Why doesn’t ASI have this sort of repeat business? Because it’s basically a scam. Hopeful authors sign up for the pricey services (the average author spends $5,000 — and sells only 150 books), only to realize too late that ASI is only interested in selling stuff to the author, rather than selling books to customers.

Despite the fact that a “starter” package runs about $1,200-$2,000, ASI doesn’t even provide copy editing. This is probably due to the fact that over three-quarters of its workforce is in the Philippines. Not that ASI hasn’t tried to make some corrections. It’s just that when it does, it only makes things worse.

Enjoy this quote from a class action lawsuit filed against ASI.

“Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors – errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.”

On the “plus” side, ASI will charge authors a premium to handle these “impossible” tasks.

But with Archway [outsourced to ASI] authors will be saved the strenuous effort of uploading the ebook to various ebookstores, hiring their own cover designer and layout expert, and they will also be saved the grueling efforts needed to create a POD book via CreateSpace or Lightning source.

In exchange for a measly 2 grand, Archway will also provide a novelist with services which are far too difficult for authors to do for themselves, like copyright registration and buying an ISBN, as well as desperately necessary services like registering for a LOC Control Number.

As is noted in the lawsuit, ASI screws around with royalties.

The complaint also alleges that Author Solutions’s royalty practices are either misleading or not properly paid out, with even some authors listed as bestsellers on Amazon, the complaint states, told they have no reported sales, and, that it is difficult if not impossible to get a correct sales accounting.

ASI also has problems handing out refunds. Shaming ASI publicly tends to shake loose the refund, but this often means a company rep will show up at the site of the public shaming to make sad noises about the author’s decision to discuss this publicly. (As though withholding a refund was the path of true gentility…)

Now that you know what ASI is up to, witness this beauty of a response to an author who turned down ASI’s (d/b/a iUniverse) unsolicited sales pitch.

An author [“Kevin”] received a marketing letter from iUniverse [You can read the whole thing in its self-promoting glory at this link.] Upon discovering the company behind the pitch, the author sent the following email back.

Ugh, I didn’t realize this was iUniverse under another name. I’ll pass thanks. I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about how little authors get and how you people upsell for next to nothing in return.

In response to his “Thanks, but I’d rather slice my own eyeballs” email, Kevin got this bizarre burst of defensiveness from Eric Emlinger, “Publishing Consultant” for Author Solutions.

Hello Kevin,

Such horror stories are from websites that are being sued for racketeering, their [sic] essentially hiring people to write bad reviews about big companies. I don’t expect you to believe me, all I can tell you is the facts. We’ve been in business for 15 years, published over 91,000 books, we have an A with the Better Business Bureau, we are regulated by the FCC, and our company is a part of the Penguin Random House group. Many of my authors have even returned in recent months to publish their second and third book. I hope we hear from you again.

Take a good look at the terminology tossed about carelessly in this word salad and ask yourself if this is the kind of person you’d trust with a manuscript. To start with, telling someone only the “facts” generally means you’ve brought a few with you. This response seems awfully light on those.

With all the (linked) background provided above, I can only assume Techdirt has moved into “racketeering” territory, something normally associated with New Jersey sanitation companies and frustrated g-men. ASI isn’t suing anyone, least of all for “racketeering.” It may be upset that sites like Ripoff Report and Writer Beware are loaded with bad reviews of its terrible service but, to date, it hasn’t sued anyone or any site over negative reviews. To do so would only make the situation worse.

An “A” with the Better Business Bureau only means ASI’s dues are paid up. Consumers would be thrilled to have an independent source for companies’ reputations, but the BBB isn’t up to the task. As author David Gaughran points out in the comments, the BBB system is so easily gamed that a consumer interest group managed to secure an “A” rating from the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau for terrorist organization Hamas.

As for being regulated by the FCC, I have no idea where Eric is going with this. He presumably means the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but even so, thousands of businesses are “regulated” by the Commission and dozens of them routinely abuse their customers.

And finally, ASI (iUniverse) may be part of the “Penguin Random House group,” but that indicates nothing more than Emilinger’s willingness to throw names around in order to give his company an air of legitimacy. No surprise there, but the real disappointment is so many respected publishers have outsourced their self-publishing efforts to borderline scam artists like ASI who farm out their authors’ work to cheap labor in the Philippines.

The large publishing houses should know better, but they’re still treating self-published writers as nothing more than an endless string of benchwarmers who should be happy to receive bottom of the barrel “service” from a company that makes more money from selling to authors than selling stuff from authors. The equation is completely backwards, but it handily reinforces the publishers’ view that authors need them more than they need authors. And as long as they hold that view, ASI will continue dragging the publishing houses’ reputations through the mud.

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Comments on “Author Solutions' Rep: People Complaining About Our Scammy 'Services' Are Engaged In 'Racketeering'”

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24 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

the whole practice of this ‘company’ seems extremely familiar to me. in fact, it could almost have come off the same hymn sheet as the one used by Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industries. as books is entertainment, i suppose you could expect it. what is so strange is that this companies practice is recognised as being akin to a Troll, yet the same practice performed by the other industries mentioned above haven’t, as far as i recall, ever been referred to in the ‘Troll’ way. getting people to sign contracts, taking the majority, if not all, the revenue earned, telling the artist after years of success at performances and album releases that no profit has been made, telling whoever else (including government, IRS etc) that there is no money in the kitty after paying out to all the shell companies owned by the same main player that there’s no money so no tax to pay. sound familiar to anyone else? nothing other than a scam that is costing the artists and the government a fortune year on year and yet the stupid fuckers in Congress still refuse to stop doing everything they get demands for from the industries! i wonder sometimes which is worse, the industries for lying and demanding or politicians for ignoring facts and giving in to demands!

JustMe (profile) says:

Oh oh Me me me!

So let me try. I’ve very recently heard that Author Solutions Inc. essentially scams participating authors by not providing an accurate accounting of the number of books sold and by providing highly technical services like ‘uploading’ and ‘registering’ at a grossly inflated price. In my opinion, this makes Author Solutions Inc. (and people who work for them like Eric Emlinger) a large group of asshats.

Phew, so now I’m engaged in racketeering now? Great! I’ve been needing to restring my racquetball racket for some time now.

Jenny says:

Re: Re: Re:

Do first time self publishing authors really believe they’re going to make money? Perhaps more of it is theemotional gratification of having their work published?? I dont know, but there are very few successful books each year published traditionally. Do self publishing authors just get a hall pass on common sense?

Alan (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I used to study and write fiction. A LOT. One thing I learned was, to write a GOOD novel, you have to first suck it up and write one or two — possibly three — BAD novels, to clear them out of your system. We all used to just keep ’em circulating, just in case an editor saw something and said yes…but usually they were just as likely to see light of day if they were sitting in a drawer somewhere. I imagine, for some fiction authors, the thought of getting out there sooner, seeing themselves in print and starting to build a “body of work” sooner is appealing, so they turn to these companies.

The problem of course, when they publish these first efforts, is that they weren’t ready. They set the wrong tone.

For the most part, I work with non-fiction authors and not authors at all…I specialize in working with busy entrepreneurs, professionals and executives who want to publish a book, to identify themselves to their market, to start building a relationship, to highlight their expert knowledge. We tell clients going in that they might never sell a single copy but if they start using the book like a business card they will never regret having published it.

Then I do everything in my power to create a book for them that COULD be a bestseller.

I hate seeing companies like Authorhouse burning otherwise good people.

Sebbie says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Because people think this way this is how Author Solutions covers their tracks and has people not believing the stories, but the fact is they are scam company doing bad things to people. They use the cheapest possible materials to produce the books so the covers fold back and are a horrible mess. The cheapest nastiest book covers done by their sales reps not artists.

Sebbie says:

They are trying to protect their scam

They are now telling all their potential victims er clients that everyone who posts negative comments about them on line are being paid to do so, it’s their new way of handling it when the people they are targeting for their scams come back to them and say they have read complaints online. As far as racketeering goes I have read rumors that it is actually Author Solutions that is involved in racketeering and that they use the books as a money laundering scheme for the Mafia. This does explain their rise to extraordinary wealth, and to people a massive multinational corporation while providing the scammiest and most awful of services. Their extravagant wealth protects them from the fraud charges they so desperately deserve. So it’s interesting that they choose “racketeering as a nonsense way of defending themselves from complaints. They are in fact the racketeers so they are knowledge about such things while the average person can’t even understand what they are talking about with this latest bogus defense regarding why they have so many complaints. The defense was merely concocted to try and fool new potential clients.

Sebbie says:

They are trying to protect their scam

Penguin/Random House have a sleeping stake in this scam they don’t involve themselves in it, they just made a deal with Author Solutions to profit from it. They consider self publishers idiots who aren’t good enough to be published so they don’t care about them, and are happy to profit from what they view as their stupidity.

Barbara Lee (profile) says:

Author Solutions Lawsuit Against 75 Year Old Author

Author Solutions, Inc. sued me for defamation on May 3,2012

in the Monroe Circuit Courthouse in Judge Hoff’s court room.

Case Number:53CO1-1205. The hearing was a fix. Judge Hoff

put a gag order on me which is only good in Indiana, since

Judge Hoff is a State Judge, instead of a Federal Judge. I

live in Henderson, Nevada. Author Solutions, Inc. sued me

incorrectly. The lawsuit is filed Author Solutions, Inc.

v. Barbara N. Lee. It should have been Author Solutions,

Inc. dba Bertram Capital Management. The reason Bertram

Capital Management located in San Mateo, California didn’t

want their name on this lawsuit, is because they were

selling Author Solutions, Inc. to Penguin Group.

I also know how Author Solutions, Inc. is stealing all

authors royalties. This is why Author Solutions sued me.

Stolen royalties are being funneled into Nigeria, Africa,

using the country code of 978 which belongs to Nigeria,

Africa and is also the first three letters of all authors

ISBN numbers in the US and UK. On line banking is used to

funnel stolen authors royalties.

The name of the law firm in New York that has filed a class

action lawsuit against Author Solutions and Penguin Group

is Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Stewart. Case Number:

13 CV 2801 to be heard by Judge Cote. This case was filed

in the United States District Court Southern District of

New York in April 26, 2013.

I wrote an original Las Vegas Love Story “The Chip Hustler.”

All of my royalties were stolen by Author Solutions, Inc.

Shay (profile) says:

Racketeering

The reason they use the word “racketeering” is because that is exactly what Author Solutions themselves are doing. Most people don’t even know what the word means but Author Solutions who are telling ALL of their sales reps to say this now about what they call “bad blogs” meaning all the places where people expose their fraud. Sales reps are instructed to say “bad blogs” are written by people “racketeering.” Author Solutions knows what racketeering is because it’s how they run the whole giant scam. Author Solutons is so big and so wealthy and powerful because it uses the books to launder money for the Mafia.

Too Late Smart (profile) says:

unpaid royalties/ Trafford Publishing

Surprise, Surprise!!! My ISBN’s are 978’s. I have a big amount in unpaid royalties. According to Amazon ( on my Author Central Page,) I have sold thousands of books. I called Amazon and they stand by that number. According to Trafford, I have only sold a few hundred. Hmm. I stayed on top of Trafford and I have two really attractive books which got very good reviews.
They are very hard sell on their marketing schemes which are a waste of money. I don’t invest any more money in them. Reading all these comments I feel very discouraged as to ever getting my money. I don’t know why they can’t be charged criminally.

luis says:

Follow me an d join

Hi i am filming a documentary about this company, and i have all the information about how they scam people, if you are a victim of this scammers, please contact me and join us, with your name and testimony, we are going to sue this company in the philippines, and we will do our best to shut it down, because they deserve that. i hope this message reach all of the victims.

Contact : luis_a_o_a@hotmail.com

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