Author Solutions, Penguin’s self-publishing imprint, has been a bit controversial for a while. Last year an anonymous poster claiming to be an AS employee had some pretty damning things to say about the company’s business practices. Last July, Penguin bought the self-publishing firm, shocking some industry onlookers:
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 controversy didn’t stop The Bookseller from inviting a former AS executive to blog for FutureBook. (His first post, about the Author Solutions/Penguin merger, drew a lot of comments, most of them from people complaining about Author Solutions.)
In May of this year, we reported on the filing of a lawsuit against Author Solutions and Penguin, seeking class-action status on behalf of all writers done dirty by Author Solutions. Yesterday, Publishers Weekly reported, Penguin filed a move for dismissal on various legal technicalities.
The plaintiffs may pursue "individual claims," Penguin attorneys argue, noting that the issues are contract issues "and nothing more," based upon "supposed errors, delays, or underpayments.” The remainder of the complaint and any potential class action, the motion states, should be dismissed.
All this is pretty normal for the opening phases of would-be class-action suits—the defendant has every incentive to keep the plaintiffs from being able to bundle their claims together and take advantage of the additional efficiency gained therein. But the really interesting part is that the judge who will be hearing the case is not exactly inexperienced in publishing industry matters—it’s our old friend Denise Cote, who also heard the DoJ/publisher settlements and Apple lawsuit.
It should be interesting to see how all this develops. We’re pretty clearly not going to lack for schadenfreude for a while.