Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

Author Solutions had a rather shady reputation as a vanity press that charged unwitting writers for services that were either not delivered, or did not rise to expectations.

The firm has been the defendant in a few lawsuits filed by disgruntled clients who felt that they had been defrauded. They thought they were buying into a traditional publishing model, when in fact they were paying to get their words printed and bound. Sales and promotion were their chores to tackle, essentially, with Author Solutions doing little more than encouraging the writers to buy more product that was as ineffective as the previous product. It was not, the plaintiffs claim, a traditional publishing model at all at all.

For reasons never made clear, Penguin Random House took in Author Solutions in the course of the Penguin and Random House mergers. You would think they would have jettisoned the detritus from the start, but someone in the corner offices thought that something could be made of Author Solutions.

Look at how well Amazon has done with its Kindle publishing unit and its CreateSpace arm. Surely the random penguins could ride that particular self-publishing train and steal a bit of Amazon's steam. Let authors do it themselves, as they are increasingly doing these days, and maybe some golden nugget will shine without PRH having to do much of anything. Then it's time to pounce and promote that best-seller that otherwise would not have been discovered.

The chief penguin has just announced that PRH is selling off Author Solutions.

So clearly things did not work out as planned.

The vanity press was picked up by Najafi Companies, for undisclosed terms. The investment firm sees potential to make money with Author Solutions, despite the litany of complaints and reputation for deception. Such bad press does not directly impact a business that does not have a reputation as a traditional publisher to maintain, of course. Najafi is all about return on investment, and if that means misleading clients so that they pay thousands of dollars to see their book in print and can't understand why it isn't getting shelved in every brick and mortar store around, that's how money is made.

It is a different story entirely for Penguin Random House. CEO Markus Dohle does not want to besmirch the reputation of his well-regarded firm by having it linked in any way to PRH. It would not do, to have people in the industry whispering behind his back about the poorly edited product issuing forth from the Author Solutions wing and is PRH going down that road as well what a shame it used to be such a reputable house.

To provide authors with a platform to publish their work is one thing. To be actively involved in selling marketing plans and the like, programmes that are not much like the marketing campaigns for books acquired through standard channels is quite another.

Chances are, Author Solutions did not show as much promise as hoped. A Google search can readily reveal how unhappy Author Solutions clients are, and you don't attract many new customers when they can read all about the negative aspects of the vanity press.

Good riddance to bad rubbish for Penguin Random House. Let Mr. Najafi and his clan make a go of it.