Penguin Group’s self-publishing service, Author Solutions, is being sued, Courthouse News Service reported earlier this week. The complaint by three authors states that Author Solutions cheated them out of royalties and charged them for typos that were inserted by the company.

There was an interesting passage in the Courthouse News Service article that gave financial and statistical information about Author Solutions.

“Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year,” the complaint states. “Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or millions annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (‘services’).”

This type of information isn’t always available from the big publishing companies, and to see it broken down in such simple terms makes it easy to see how the self-publishing companies are making money.

At The Passive Voice blog, commenter Donald Wells did just that.

“So, one third of 100 million, or $33,333,333÷200,000 books comes out to about $208 per book, per year.

Meanwhile, the 160,000 writers they work with pay for “Services” valued at $66,666,666.
$66,666,666÷160,000 writers = about $416.

I see. You pay them $416 a year to earn $208 a year.”

Ouch. Is that really what’s going on with the self-publishing companies run by the big houses? It seems like a cheap (and I don’t mean financially cheap) way to make money off people’s dreams. Take a few hundred here and a few hundred there and suddenly these companies have millions of dollars.

Some authors who have gone this route probably enjoyed the idea that their work was looked at by companies that are under the umbrella of one of the larger publishing houses. But of course, they’re not getting anywhere near the same treatment as authors who have traditional contracts.

This is intriguing to say the least; it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here. Many of the other self-publishing companies are probably going to be watching this case very closely.

In addition, this isn’t the first bit of negative news to be disclosed about Author Solutions. A quick Web search on the company yields plenty—and I mean plenty—of customers complaining about the service.


  1. I used to work for a big self-publishing company that eventually got bought out for Author Solutions. I read almost 100 manuscripts to give them an editor’s opinion of its strengths and weaknesses. Of those 100, I would say 2 or 3 were books that were written for a specific audience–a person’s family or professional organization. 1 or 2 were well-written novels in which I respected the author.

    Every single other manuscript had no business being published. We’re talking people who write at a 4th grade level, writing a book and then getting it self-pubbed.

    If someone who had never taken a singing lesson in their life signed up with a company that had to auto-tune every note, re-write their songs because they literally made no sense to a native English speaker, and find professionals who were willing to work with people who have absolutely zero job skills in terms of the music industry, would you say that that company is being “cheap” and is taking advantage of people who want to make their dreams come true?

    Or how about looking at this way – I’d like to be professional chef even though I have no cooking training. I don’t even know how to boil pasta, but I have a great IDEA for a dinner!! So I pay a bunch of money to make it appear that I’m a professional chef by going into a restaurant and cooking for family and friends I’ve convinced to buy my product. But because I have never cooked an entire meal before and actually have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to cooking, I burn the meal. Then I pay a professional chef to re-make the food I burned so that everyone in the dining room won’t know what a total idiot I am.

    BUT, they charged me more than a restaurant who was hiring someone who had been to Le Cordon Bleu would have charged!! AND, when I stepped away from the stove to let the professional chef fix my food, it continued to burn, and they charged me for that part of the burned food that they had to fix! HOW DARE THEY?? IT WAS MY DREAM TO BE A PROFESSIONAL CHEF, EVERYONE! MY DREAM!!

  2. The lawsuit claims ASI charged to fix mistakes *they* introduced, not the author.
    It also claims their accounting was dodgy.
    (But then, dodgy accounting is a hallmark of the BPHs.)
    I suspect there are a few hidden landmines in the ASI boilerplate that will get them off.
    But, who knows? They might sweat a bit.
    At a minimum the legal staff at Random Penguin Solutions will earn their keep.

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