I’ve often corresponded with David Gaughran, and share many of his views on publishing and self-publishing, so I’m trying my hardest to be at least a little impartial here (as well as to do some actual work instead of lazy journalmetooism). Because it’s hard not to jump on board with both feet when he announces: “A Victory Against Author Solutions.”

Author Solutions lobby in Cebu – in case you need a visual guide for some of those sub-brands…

In short, according to Gaughran, The Bookseller, house organ of the UK book business, will no longer carry advertising from Author Solutions. He quotes, with the source’s permission, Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, as saying: “The Bookseller is no longer taking advertising from Author Solutions or its subsidiary companies. We’ve previously asked them to update the information they display about us on their websites, and have now asked them to remove it entirely.”

In the context, of course, there’s only one reason for such an action. It comes at the end of a long dialog that Gaughran outlines, and the conclusion is: “The Bookseller took this decision because it felt it was the right thing to do.”

Less heartening is the long list of other publications that still remain to be convinced. In fact, Gaughran’s post makes fascinating, and very sobering, reading for the huge extent of the ad sales operation it details, with The Bookseller only one, albeit high-profile, target. Yes, notes Gaughran, with the help of Author Solutions subsidiary iUniverse, you can pay $72,499 for a full-page ad for your book in Reader’s Digest.

“In a hugely competitive literary world where books are a dime a dozen, standing out is a major challenge,” states the iUniverse blurb. ” iUniverse has tapped into the massive market of Reader’s Digest and gives authors the opportunity to place size- and circulation-dependent ads in this highly esteemed publication.”

Then there’s the book festivals supported by extortionate Author Solutions packages. And the publishers with their own vanity self-publishing operations outsourced to Author Solutions – including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Writer’s Digest. And the unrelated businesses that endorse their services. And so on. And On.

Incidentally, one other interesting angle to the whole Author Solutions farrago is that it apparently offshores heavily to Cebu in the Philippines. Here are some of the links. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, plenty of cheap, reasonably educated labor down there – and easily motivated and incentivized too, it seems. After all, here’s the Author Solutions pitch to its potential local employees: “Want to soar to new SALES heights and spread your wings towards GREAT COMMISSIONS? Allow us to lead the way!”

Gaughran recommends more concerted action against all of the beneficiary companies to encourage them to follow suit in a general boycott of Author Solutions. But this will be a hugely complex, multi-pronged endeavor. And let’s not overlook the value of going straight to the source. Penguin Random House is now big enough for some highly principled institutional investors and pension funds to be counted in their shareholder base, after all, who might just pressure the group that they part-own into more ethical action, if they’re made aware.

So, here’s an open question to Penguin Random House: If the UK’s Number One book trade journal is prepared to disown Author Solutions and all its subsidiaries, on principle, even at the cost of lost ad revenue, why do you still own it? After all, the legal bills from all those lawsuits must be stacking up …


  1. Well, we don’t have to speculate because we have the words of John Makinson (CEO of Penuin at the time and current Chairman of Penguin Random House).

    Here’s what he said when announcing the purchase of Author Solutions: “We spent time getting to know the people at Author Solutions and their sophisticated operation,” Makinson said. “They have skills that can help us at Penguin.” http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/53077-pearson-acquires-self-publishing-vendor-author-solutions-for-116-million.html

    Indeed. And 7 months later, in January 2013 after he got a good look under the hood, John Makinson said he was “proud of Author Solutions” http://www.thebookseller.com/news/profits-fall-penguin-momentous-year.html

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