Fraud Artists: Scamming Authors

We read every day about one company or another scamming novice authors, stealing their hard-earned money for a vague promise and delivering nothing in return except misery. Often the new author who pays the most to an alleged “publisher’ can least afford to lose that money. Yet, every day, hundreds, if not thousands of novice authors fall for these wolves in publisher clothing, leading to anger, resentment and depression.

Almost everyone has heard of the publisher Penguin. They are a traditional publisher with a lengthy track record of success. Fewer authors understand that Penguin has a self-publishing business, called “Author Solutions.” Chances are, however, that someone reading this right now has been a victim of illegal business practices with Author Solutions.

You see, Author Solutions has “dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango. Author Solutions also operates Archway, a self-publishing imprint that is actually owned by Simon & Schuster. Furthermore, Penguin’s Indian self-publishing brand, Partridge, is another imprint run by Author Solutions.”

Three authors, in cooperation with Publishers Weekly, have started a class action suit worth over $5 million against Author Solutions alleging that Author Solutions misrepresents itself, luring authors in with claims that its books can compete with “traditional publishers,” offering “greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors.” The company then profits from “fraudulent” practices, the complaint alleges, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.” The suit also alleges that Author Solutions fails to pay its authors the royalties they are due. Their attorneys are asking other writers who have “self-published with Author Solutions or any of its brands and have been the victim of deceptive practices” to come forward.

If this is not enough to give authors pause for thought before plunking down hundreds, or more likely thousands, of dollars, I don’t know what is. While a sucker is born every day, it’s hard to comprehend how someone who has never before won a writing award, who has never before been published for anything, could somehow come to believe that a “publisher” will suddenly bend over backwards to put their name on a book in print. But these sweet-talking fraudulent publishers do it successfully every day. Caveat Emptor! Such bad business practices presume that by flattering an unknown never-before-published author, a signed contract and check will soon be in the mail. And the are right!

By the tens of thousands, new authors are falling over each other to pay on average at least $1,000 to a publisher they have never before heard of, with the expectation that they will soon become the next Tom Clancy or Stephen King. Of course, they do not and they could have used their $1,000 for so many genuine projects and with real, not fraudulent companies.

With so many imprints, Author Solutions has tricked authors into thinking they have dozens of choices. In reality, however, the parent company is just slapping up half a dozen different logos, renaming packages, and selling the same grossly overpriced services to all of their customers no matter which brand ends up on the cover. They are accused of launching supposedly unbiased, purely informational comparison websites to help customers pick the self-publishing company that’s right for them, except all clicks lead back to Author Solutions brands. How many ways can you spell “despicable?”

As more and more of Author Solutions victims discover the class-action suit, there is little doubt that the litigation will rise dramatically in size and scope. Author Solutions claims to have worked with 170,000 authors. It won’t be long before scammed authors take their place in a long winding litigation queue of anger and resentment.

It is uncertain whether or if Penguin’s name as a publisher will be permanently tarnished by the devastation wrought by its subsidiary, Author Solutions. And it seems impossible that Penguin leadership was not aware of this fraud when they purchased Author Solutions. Had they nipped this fraud in the bud immediately, fewer authors would have had their money stolen in the name of “publishing” and that they could have much more easily contained the damage and the size of a likely award to the plaintiffs.

These scammers believe that they can easily get away with suckering people into believing that they can be a “real author.” And, sadly, they can most of the time. Here’s hoping that the Penguin/Author Solutions litigation will garner headlines for many years. Because otherwise how can we put an end to scam artists in the publishing industry? It’s now easy to understand why big business hates government regulation. Regulation and laws are the only way to prevent the wolf from eating the sheep with no fear of monetary loss and bad press. So, if you have been “published” by any of the Author House companies (see paragraph two), please contact the authors’ lawyers, Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Stewart here. And if you are thinking about being published by any of these “self-publishing companies,” please be careful with your investment.

Based upon an article on Forbes Magazine, “Penguin And Author Solutions Sued For Deceptive Practices,” 5/7/13.

7 thoughts on “Fraud Artists: Scamming Authors

  1. Sad to say… it’s true. Novice authors are victimized daily by a wide assortment of alleged publishers. That’s why I wanted to only use a traditional publisher or self-publish it on my own.

    Scam artists promise novice authors the sun, moon and the entire galaxy. They make you believe that they will spend thousands of dollars and countless hours on marketing and promotion. In reality, they don’t. All you get is a printed book with your name on the cover, suitable for a coffee table. But no one will read it or even know that it exists. You will never recoup your investment. All you get is heartache.

    But if you can find a traditional publisher, even a very small one, you won’t have to pay a penny, the publisher will pay you an advance and you can count on the publisher’s small team to edit, print, distribute, market and sell your book. After they earn back the advance, you’ll get royalty checks. And the best part, aside from not being ripped off, is that you can then tell people that you are a “published author,” instead of just a self-published author.

    Finally, if you write fiction, nothing is more important than enhancing your author profile. Really, nothing else should matter to a novice author than writing several traditionally published books and boosting your reputation as a writer. If you self-publish, no bookstore (where almost half of all books are still sold) will stock your book. No decent review organization will touch a SP book (I’ve been a reviewer for the NY Journal of Books for many years). And no decent literary agent will be impressed by a SP fiction book, unless it sold tens of thousands of copies. But if you are traditionally published, you’re safe from scam artists, your book will be reviewed by the best organizations and you will impress agents.

    Why do you need to impress agents? Because they are the gatekeepers of the biggest and best publishers in the world. Just recently, my agent managed to persuade Texas Tech University Press to republish one of my novels. Being published for fiction by a major American university is the star of my author profile. These successes turn heads internationally for your future books.

    I’m so sorry that you had a bad experience with publishing. Sometimes you can’t tell if they have scruples. You might wish to start working with the best web page for novice authors, called, “Writer Beware” There you’ll find many excellent resources pertaining to writing, publishing, agents, reviewers, editors and all kinds of services for writers. Another site that has recently been vastly reduced and looking for someone to take over, is “Predators & Editors”:

    Best wishes for all of your writing. Let me know if I can help.

  2. I was personally victimized by Xlibris as well. They could not care less about my book, and right after they got my money, customer service was slow and sloppy and unreliable. They’re liars and frauds.

    1. The most positive way to use your victimization might be to spread your your story far & wide. Use a fictitious name if you prefer. Just help other novice authors to avoid being victims of fraud and scam.

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