The Bookseller Takes a Stand: No More Advertising From Author Solutions, Inc.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've written many hundreds of words on this blog about the problems with Author Solutions, Inc., the biggest of the self-publishing service providers and the one with (as far as I'm aware) the worst reputation. Misleading PR strategies, overpriced marketing services, customer service nightmares, payment issues, relentless upselling--the list goes on.

Author Solutions is currently the focus of a class action lawsuit for alleged deceptive business practices.

And yet, despite the huge and growing litany of complaints and problems, many reputable publications accept advertising from Author Solutions--advertising that doubly exploits AS authors, not only because they have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to be included, but because magazine and newspaper ads are arguably among the least effective book promotion methods. For instance, The Bookseller, the UK's equivalent to the USA's Publishers Weekly. As author and self-publishing expert David Gaughran wrote in 2013,
Author Solutions has a variety of (what they call) Bookseller Magazine packages – ranging from £2,199 (approx. $3,300) to a jaw dropping £6,999 (approx. $10,500). When you see how many books they squeeze into one page, it’s clear that this is quite lucrative for them. I don’t know what The Bookseller charges for ad space, but I’m sure Author Solutions are adding a significant mark-up (as they do with all their services).
But now--good news. Gaughran has announced on his blog that The Bookseller will no longer accept Author Solutions advertising.
Last week, [Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller] told me that The Bookseller is no longer accepting such ads. Here’s the money quote, reproduced with permission:

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.
This is wonderful, and kudos to The Bookseller for taking this action. However, as Gaughran points out:
Advertising packages with The Bookseller were just one of many such packages that Author Solutions re-sold to its customers at eye-watering prices. You can still buy packages to advertise with the London Review of Books, Guardian Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, New York Review of Books, Readers’ Digest, ForeWord, Clarion, Ingram, and the New York Times.
So there's much more that needs to be done. Writer Beware joins David Gaughran in calling for these publications to follow The Bookseller's example, and stop taking money from a company whose advertising is little more than an exercise in author exploitation.

In fact, I'll go further: I'll call on ALL publications to stop taking ANY ads from self-publishing services and pay-to-play publishers where authors must pay to be included. Whether the ads are from Author Solutions brands or Outskirts Press, Bookwhirl or New Generation Publishing, these are exploitive packages that do not benefit the writers who buy them.

How can you help? Gaughran offers several suggestions:
[A]sk Publishers Weekly when they are going to stop taking ads from vanity presses, ads which Author Solutions re-sell for $16,499 to authors. Email them and ask them. Even better, confront them publicly. Hound them on Twitter. Annoy them until you get a response. Post it on your Facebook Page. Post it on their Facebook Page.

Ask the LA Times Festival of Books what they think about Author Solutions scamming writers out of a million dollars at their event. Ask them on Facebook and Twitter what they are going to do to stop that happening again this year. Ask all the companies listed above about their links to Author Solutions.

Then ask the Authors Guild when they are going to break their silence on this issue, why the only advice they give on self-publishing is a package with iUniverse, and if they receive any financial benefit from such referrals.

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