Buyer Beware: Is Author Solutions a “Vanity Press”?

According to Publishers Weekly, a number of authors have brought a class-action suit against Author Solutions publishing, claiming that it is engaged in “deceitful, dubious business practices.” The authors claim that Author Solutions “have marketed themselves as an independent publisher with a reputation for outstanding quality and impressive book sales, … Instead, [Author Solutions is] not an independent publisher, but a print-on-demand vanity press.”

The core of the complaint is that AS exists mostly to get aspiring authors to pay big money for “developmental” services such as editing and marketing, but delivered “sub-par services,” according to the lawsuit. Perhaps more disturbing, the authors claim that AS’s “royalty practices are either misleading or not properly laid out,” so that authors can’t get accurate sales figures for their books. The charge is that publishing isn’t really what AS does; it exists solely to bilk authors out of money by selling them overpriced, unnecessary services.

Unfortunately, during my tenure as a reviewer for Kirkus, I saw a lot of self-published books that clearly weren’t really ready to be published. Some of these were from Author Services/Hay House imprint Balboa. I was always astounded that the author was paying close to $500 to be reviewed, when the book had so many problems that the author should have spent that money on a good editor. Now I have to wonder if they were sold one of these “sub-par” editing and marketing packages, and I was an unwitting part of that.

Self-publishing can be a great way to get your story out there without the big publishing houses, but it can also be a way for you to lose a lot of money and end up with a book that isn’t its best. Research any company you choose to work with, and shop around for developmental services. The take-away is, buyer beware!

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