Monday, June 08, 2015

One Publishing Service In a Legal Mess

Over recent weeks, I’ve been reading a number of articles about Author Solutions (ASI), the now infamous publishing service that fooled many into thinking it was legitimate, especially after Penguin Random House quietly bought the company a while back. A class-action lawsuit citing a number of deceptive practices was brought against the company and Penguin. After months of legal wrangling, however, Penguin was dropped from the lawsuit, so an addendum had to be made.

While all of this has been going on, a number of organizations such as Bowkers, Writers Digest, and Crossbooks have cut ties with ASI. Now, the Authors Guild has done so as well, according to author and blogger, David Gaughran.

David’s blog and TheDigital Reader provide a pretty good overview (offering links to more info) of the situation that includes years of alleged inappropriate conduct that has cost a long list of authors thousands of dollars. Let’s be clear  that not authors set out to do business with this company in the first place. ASI bought iUniverse and several other publishing services. I don’t know whether authors had a choice of opting out once these companies were bought. If they did, do you think they were given a clear picture of what to expect with ASI?

You may also be interested in reading last month’s Publishers Weekly piece which states that the judge must now decide if the class action will proceed. As you can imagine, lawyers for Author Solutions insist that the case has no merit and falls short of the requirements for a class action.

It’s an interesting situation. Authors have complained for years about companies like Author Solutions, but how much of their disappointment was based on ASI’s deceptive practices or misunderstanding, or unrealistic expectations? As always, authors must do due diligence when signing a contract with anyone. It should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately things aren’t that simple. A number of authors who were sold alleged worthless marketing packages were seniors who wanted to tell their story before it was too late.

Twenty years ago, vanity presses were easily identifiable and quite avoidable. With improved technology and the arrival of publishing services, where you supposedly paid for a range of clearly specified services, one would have hoped that the vanity press would disappear. But they simply advanced with technology, developed sneakier marketing tactics and are still sucking people in the same way they were doing twenty-five years ago. It’s the dark side of publishing and unfortunately, it won’t be going anyway anytime soon.

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