As already covered in TeleRead, David Gaughran has been delving into the twisted entanglements between self-publishing neo-vanity-press Author Solutions and the newly launched Writers’ & Artists’ Self-Publishing Comparison service from Britain’s venerable Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. And he contacted me with news of fresh developments in the story – a pending agreement between Author Solutions and Writers’ & Artists’ publisher Bloomsbury Publishing.
Gaughran warns that public opposition to an agreement of this kind might still derail it, so there’s time to actually do something about this. And you can read through all the ramifications of the story and additional comments here. I asked him for further comment, and his answers are below:
TeleRead: Are there any forums or specific channels beyond general tweets, complaints via the Alliance of Independent Authors and to Bloomsbury itself, etc, that can mobilize online (and offline) opposition to this kind of tieup?
David Gaughran: I think social media can be very powerful in situations like this. I think tweeting Bloomsbury and Writers’ & Artists’ and letting them know how you feel about this is important, as well as sharing the posts by me, Ben Galley, and Orna Ross on your social networks. I think Bloomsbury will find this embarrassing, or, at least, they should – but the point is I think there’s a possibility of getting them to change course with enough pressure. If writers are also the member of any writers’ organizations, they can register their displeasure via those channels, but given that most writers’ orgs have done little on the Author Solutions issue, I don’t expect much.
TeleRead: Given the volume of negative coverage, class actions by the SWFA and other institutions, etc, against Author Solutions, how credible is it for any publishing/book trade operation to either a) not have heard of these issues, or b) not think that it will suffer reputational damage from any Author Solutions partnership?
David Gaughran: It’s not credible at all that a book publishing professional would not have heard all these Author Solutions stories. And I know for a fact that Eela Devani and Bloomsbury are fully aware, as ALLi informed them of Author Solutions’ history, reptuation, and legal issues.
I think it’s perfectly possible that a publisher might think they would avoid reputational damage. After all, Penguin got an easy ride from pretty much everyone except for self-publishers when they bought Author Solutions. Those from the trad side expressed a hope that Penguin would clean up Author Solutions. Instead they aggressively expanded operations and gave Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss a seat on the board.
I think, however, that Bloomsbury (and Penguin) have underestimated the author community, and I sincerely hope they reconsider their actions. If not, their brands could be damaged permanently.
TeleRead: How pernicious is this general tendency to drive the “self” out of self-publishing, and push unneeded or overpriced services onto authors?
David Gaughran: The stories of people who have published with Author Solutions are horrifying. Everything from poor editing and covers ruining their chances of selling anything, to high-pressure sales tactics to purchase truly useless services for thousands of dollars, cleaning out their savings or putting them into debt. The tragic thing is that effective self-publishing costs a small fraction of what Author Solutions charges, but Bloomsbury provide little advice on that path – I guess the DIY route is harder for them to monetize, which seems to be all they care about.
TeleRead: Does the ratings scheme introduced by ALLi represent a fairer and more objective way of assessing the quality of self-publishing services providers?
David Gaughran: I haven’t seen the ratings scheme that was proposed by ALLi so I can’t be definitive, but I would have far more trust in them being objective on this front. In a short time, they have built up an impressive track record of fearless criticism of author scams.