Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

In March, I wrote about New York law firm Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP, which had opened an investigation of Author Solutions Inc. (ASI).

Well, now the other shoe has dropped. On April 26, Giskan Solotaroff filed a class action complaint on behalf of three plaintiffs against Author Solutions Inc. and Penguin Group USA (ASI is part of Penguin) in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Allegations include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, various violations of the California Business and Professional Code, and violation of New York General Business Law.

The full text of the complaint can be seen here.

The complaint highlights issues that will be familiar to anyone who has followed discussion of Author Solutions over the past few years: poor quality products, poor quality customer service, relentless up-selling pressure on authors, particularly for ASI's expensive "marketing" packages, and trouble with accurate payment and royalty reporting.
4. Author Solutions' revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services ("Services").

5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.

6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors' works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors -- errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.

7. Most of Author Solutions' earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.

8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as "[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world," authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an "indie publisher" at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.
In addition to asking the Court to approve class action status, the complaint requests release of publishing rights for the class, and payment by the plaintiffs of restitution, court costs, and compensatory damages in excess of $5 million.

Authors wishing to contact Giskan Solotaroff about the suit can use this online form.

I've blogged about ASI and its questionable practices a good deal over the past few years. For background, here's a selection of my posts:

Pearson Buys Author Solutions (but questions about ASI's business practices remain open--will Pearson address them?)

A Partridge in a Penguin Tree (ASI expands into India).

Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division (outsourced to ASI, and it's eye-poppingly expensive).

Fake Jared And His Friends: Author Solutions' Misleading PR Strategies

Democratization or Disinformation? (ASI's misleading "white paper" on independent" publishing).

Posts by others:

Writer and editor Emily Suess is a relentless critic of ASI, and has exposed many of its business practices and collected many complaints from unhappy authors who've used its services.

Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine has a long piece on the Giskan Solotaroff investigation and related matters.

Author and blogger David Gaughran deconstructs the ASI empire.

13 comments to Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc.

  • [...] Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc. [...]

  • Victoria Strauss

    Update on the class action suit: Not surprisingly, ASI and Penguin filed a motion to dismiss. On July 19, Giskan Solotaroff filed an Amended Complaint, which can be seen here.

    On August 23, Penguin moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety, and ASI moved to dismiss the claims of one of the three plaintiffs in their entirety, and all but the breach of contract claims of the other two plaintiffs. Penguin and ASI also informed the court that they intend to file a motion to either strike the class allegations included in the amended complaint, or to deny class certification altogether. In response, Giskan Solotaroff filed a Second Amended Complaint by September 27, adding another plaintiff to the complaint to bring the number of plaintiffs back to three.

    Another motion to dismiss followed, with opposition back and forth and no decision yet. As it looks now (per court documents, all of which can be accessed via PACER), even if the motion is successful, and/or Penguin/ASI gets the class allegations tossed, the breach of contract claim against ASI will go forward.

  • I signed a contract with 1stbooks in 2003. I was unable to finish it until 2012 and I had the piece of paper that said I get 50% of the royalties and they are trying to say that the paper has magically disappeared. I worked with some chick name Sidney and some F*&( named Eugene Hoskins that said my book was priced too high ($30 since I thought I was getting 50% of my royalties like it said in my contract I thought that people could get free shipping) but no… he ruined my contract and they sent me my first royalty check for a whopping $2.50 and magically the royalty paper has vanished. I’ve been screwed and am trying to do something about it.

  • I have a brain tumor you get to live with. I put my money for a book into 1stbooks and got too sick to participate in life until last year when I had a life saving brain surgery.

    I set the price of my book with Eugene Hopkins and the royalty was 1/2 since I signed that god damn contract back in 2003!!!! I set the price at $30. Since I had that piece of my contract conveniently disappear on their end when the Royalty not being half they want to quarter me down into a TODAY contract where I don’t make ANYTHING off Amazon.

    I hate this company. They make it so horrible for people with ADAs and not getting their rights.

  • I can wholeheartedly sympathize with the frustrations above. I published my first book with 1st Books (Author House, Author Solutions) in 2003 after having registered it as unpublished with the copyright office in 2002. The formatting and quality of their work was shameful with one sentence on several pages in the final publication release to the public. Their customer service was and continue to leave a lot to be desired with no responses to pertinent concerns and or inquiries regarding royalties or the work itself. I’ve had it after 10 years of with them ignoring me and unjustly enriching themselves. To add insult to injury, I recently learned that they have been promoting and selling my book as textbook. Most disturbing is the fact that as recent as January 2013, some company called Advanced Marketing Technologies re-released my book as new. Who in the hell is Advanced Marketing Technologies, and where are my royalties?

    My second book, Flippin The Script, was released recently by Friesenpress and the issues are as egregious, if not worst, than those at Author Solutions. The lying, conniving, manipulation, stealing, and unjust enrichment must stop! Intentionally injecting errors in an author’s work in order to financially benefit and/or sabotage a product is despicable. Shame on both Author House and Friesenpress!

  • It appears Mr. Eugene Hopkins is a jack of all trades and imprints. In the lawsuit, he is named under ASI’s “iUniverse.” I, myself, just published with Balboa Press, marketed ‘only’ as A Division of Hay House, now, also under Pearson-Penguin managed by ASI, and this little dity was undisclosed -denied many times over.

    Sadly, the book was just published last month with the incorrect title to benefit child advocacy. This pretty much trumps it.

    The entire experience appeared to be that of unprofessional indifference, ineptitude, misrepresentation, malfeasance, and fraud. It came to the point where I did not know exactly which company I was dealing with.

    Unfortunately, I recently had to interact with Mr. Eugene Hopkins, who managed the Resloutions Department for ‘Balboa Press’…et al?

    So, two and one-half-years of work-blown up. Please be careful.

    Thanks much.

    Jillie Ryan
    Children’s Rights Advocate

  • Anyone wishing to view the 100 paged Expose relating to the “Used” book rip-off’s being employed by hundreds of “Warehouse Co.’s.” please drop me a line at alficampbell@yahoo.com – with AuthorHouse Ripp-off in the SUBJECT LINE.
    Alfred Campbell – The Scottish Author & Poet.

  • Anyone wishing to view the 100 paged Expose relating to the “Used” book rip-off’s being employed by hundreds of “Warehouse Co.’s.” please drop me a line at alficampbell@yahoo.com – with AuthorHouse Ripp-off in the SUBJET LINE.
    Alfred Campbell – The Scottish Author & Poet.

  • Alfred Campbell

    Dear Suess’s Pieces, I don’t buy into the ‘used’ explanation being bandied by Co.’s. I have it in WRITING from Eugene Hopkins of Author Solutions that INGRAMS Printing Co. claim to have sold only 11 copies in 11 years – 5 copies of which I have, leaving just 6 copies in the entire World. In the last year alone there have been over 1,200 ads in 11 countries (all downloaded). This book business is now so screwed up that most people can’t see the forest for the trees. Amazon.com themselves declared in illustrated ads for my book ‘The Soul of a Poet’ OVER 1,000,000 COPIES SOLD (their Capitals). Also, in at least 10 individual Alibris.com ads they stated OVER 500,000 ORDERS FILLED. I now have a 400+ paged Doc.File of downloaded evidence, and intend to use that along with an Expose of the shenanigans of those, and another 125+ COMPANIES. Do you have an Email for the lawyers involved in the Class Action you reported on? I would like to send them a shortened version of my Expose (attached). Thanks for your feed-back, wishing you continued good blogging – Alfred Campbell – The Scottish Author & Poet.

  • Alfred Campbell

    My first book ‘The Soul of a Poet’ was stolen by ASI after I had cancelled our contract – that was eleven years ago. My job takes me around the world and on 8th August 2011 found that ASI had been not only selling it, but had given permission to Amazon.com, Biblio.com to Produce it in Japan for $88+. 125+ Co.’s in 11 countries are now involved in this world wide rip-off. I have generated an Expose over the last 18 months and would like to send it to as many writer/authors as possible. A.C.

  • [...] Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc. [...]

  • Parts of the complaint sound naïve and the term “vanity press” belongs to the previous century. But, even if the case is dismissed or if ASI wins, MAYBE the bad publicity will alert authors to potential trouble.

    Michael N. Marcus
    author of “How to not Get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company” http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BG6D2YS

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