Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Publishing In The Prehistoric Era

We used to do it that way. Long ago, when computer technology was not as advanced as it is today. Like some single cells organizing themselves in the primordial ooze, that's what it was. You wrote a book and you made the rounds of the literary agents, hoping to get published but getting nothing but rejections.

The chances were good that your book did not fit into the particular slot that publishers thought needed filling, so you put the manuscript away and wrote another one. You did that again and again, using your computer for its word processing capabilities because there wasn't much Internet back then. Things were still evolving, and the database of literary agents was in its infancy. You'd be hard-pressed to find a list of publishers willing to accept manuscripts not sent by literary agents.

There were rogue elements that arose back in those days. Some saw an opportunity to be tapped. All those manuscripts, written by all those authors who wanted to see their book in print. Sure there's a sucker born every minute and out of the morass came Author Solutions.

We'll publish your book, they said. And you'd have to buy boxes and boxes of your opus, to sell yourself. There was no getting the book on Amazon. Amazon was just a little thing back then, and most people bought their books in a store.

We'll help you get your books in those stores, they said. For a price. We'll help you market your book, and here is a list of paid services we offer that will lead to best-seller status. We're just like those major publishers who won't even glance at your manuscript. We'll help you. For a price.

While vanity publishers like Author Solutions expanded, so too did the Internet. Writers could search for publishers, and they could find information from those who knew about publishing and what constituted a scam. It was the end for some of those old dinosaur vanity presses. Authors were getting wise, and taking advantage of an evolving technology.

Information became readily available, and at the same time, the publishing industry shifted. A writer didn't need Author Solutions. Amazon was offering a platform to create a book from a manuscript, and the book would appear on sale at Amazon.com. The revolution of digital publishing altered the landscape yet again. If you wanted to publish your manuscript that fit a smaller niche ignored by the major publishers, you could do so at Amazon or BN.com or Smashwords.You could market your book on Facebook, Twitter, a blog or Internet advertising.

You could search for scams and complaints cited by authors who had tried Author Solutions and felt that they had been deceived. Warnings appeared, but those warnings came too late for some.

Even with all that available, there were those who did not have Google skills or did not think they could do it on their own. Those who believed the marketing and trusted that Author Solutions was a real publisher, not just some vanity press. They came to see that the services offered did not meet expectations. A law suit was filed against Author Solutions, citing deceptive practices and fraud.

The suit has worked its way through the American legal system, while Author Solutions has worked its way up the evolutionary ladder. It is now a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, a respectable publisher that picked up the vanity press as a way to get a toehold in the burgeoning self-publishing industry.

Penguin Random House wanted an evolved platform for self-publishing. They ended up with all the evolutionary detritus that clung to Author Solutions from its prehistoric past.

Attorneys for the Penguin are planning to show Judge Denise Cote that Author Solutions was not doing anything deceptive and it's just a bunch of disgruntled authors whose expectations were unrealistic and it wasn't Author Solutions' fault. There's no pattern, which is required to demonstrate deception as corporate policy.

The plaintiffs are seeking to make the suit a class-action undertaking, gathering a group of victims together under a single umbrella to show the pattern of misleading behavior.

The wheels of justice continue to turn slowly, while technology races ahead. Fewer authors will be ensnared by Author Solutions because there is so much information available about potential scams, dissatisfied customers, and other complaints about the expensive services. It's not all that difficult to develop an alternative plan based on advice that is readily available in countless forums dedicated to those who want to publish their words.

Authors can be forewarned these days. If they fall for the promises of Author Solutions, they have only themselves to blame. Which is what Penguin Random House's legal team would like the judge to consider before she decides if the plaintiffs have a legitimate case.

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