Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Many others have written about this, but I’ll put my two cents in just in case my blog post reaches a new writer who hasn’t heard about it yet. What’s the scam? Last year PENGUIN BOOKS, now RANDOM PENGUIN or PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, paid $116 million to buy Author Solutions Inc, the worst vanity publisher in the country, which charges thousands of dollars for publishing services which ought to be free or very cheap.

The company, which includes iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, Trafford and others, targets inexperienced writers who want to self-publish but need help. The fees ASI charges are bad enough, but these authors get no promotion for their work, and therefore sell few, if any books. WRITER BEWARE, and other publishing watchdog groups, have warned about using ASI, but many beginners are still unaware of the risks. Now, with the (former) prestige of the Penguin name, these neophytes might think they’re getting published by a large company, when in fact, they are not.

Why did Penguin buy ASI when it could have used those millions to offer better royalties to their authors? Some think it was because ASI, which had been in business for years, had a mailing list of new writers that Penguin wanted to use.

Others say that Penguin saw the money ASI was making on the backs of the uninformed, and wanted to get a share of that. As Gail Ryan commented recently, “They’re happy to be unethical as long as they make a buck.” And another, “To hell with decency if there is money in dealing with the devil.”

Besides using the Penguin name, ASI has added more tricks to its arsenal, which are designed to further fool the unwary. 1. They use fake-informational websites to offer advice, which then only recommends Author Solutions companies. 2. They use social media to profile “publishing consultants,” who are actually ASI employees. 3. They require authors to provide testimonials about how great ASI is before they will publish their books, even when said authors have already paid the fees.

There are hundreds of horror stories by authors complaining about ASI publishing without permission, incorrect royalty statements, failure to pay royalties, harassing phone calls, and books with errors made by ASI, which the authors had to pay to correct.

“How do they get away with that?” you ask? Let’s hope they won’t for much longer. There is a class-action lawsuit against them for deceptive business practices already. Yet, public outcries are still necessary to halt the seemingly never-ending flow of uninformed writers who fall into their trap. So it’s up to us who are aware to spread the word. As for Penguin, why would anyone want to deal with them when they so blatantly allow this scam? I won’t. I don’t work with unethical people.


  1. Phyllis, I totally agree. Over the years I've met a lot of self-published authors deluded into believing they've written a wonderful book when in reality it's garbage. Not that there's anything wrong with self-publishing--I've done it myself--but there should be a law against those companies that prey on authors desperate to be published.

  2. Shirley; Thanks for the comment. Some people do write garbage, and get it self-published. That part's okay with me. I just hate when companies charge thousands of dollars to do it. Even back in the 80s, when POD arrived and publishers multiplied like weeds, you could get a book published for $100. I had friends who went with iUniverse and XLibris for a few hundred. That was before Amazon. But Author Solutions bought those little companies and now their prices are outrageous. BTW, I hope you latest book is doing well.

  3. I remember when Penguin was reliable for copies of classic literature. I'd wondered what happened to iUniverse and Xlibris. It's all about mergers and acquisitions these days. I remember when I started my nursing career there were at least 20 publishers specializing in medicine, nursing and health care. Now it's down to about 4 or 5 as the mega-publishers have bought out the smaller houses.

    1. Laura: You are so right. There once were over 100 publishers in New York. Now most are Imprints of what we called The Big Six, now the Big Five. And three of those are owned by foreign companies; France, Germany and Great Britain. Thanks for your input.

  4. Thank you for writing about this valuable information.

  5. Yog's law is, as ever relevant here - Money moves TOWARDS the author. You should never have to pay a publisher for anything including editing, cover design, distribution or marketing. Those expenses should be coming out of the publisher's cut.

    Now, self publishers can and should be considering hiring good freelance editors and cover designers to improve their output, especially if they do not have those skills themselves, but that should be done following a period of good research on those services to see what you should expect for your money and more importantly the author is making the choice themselves as to whether they need to pay for that service and how much to pay.

    1. lurkingmusings:
      You are so right. And writers are so generous and pass on names of good editors, artists, etc. Luckily I have a husband who's an artist and can also do formatting for e-books, so out-of-pocket expenses are small. The best thing of all is the control self-publishers have. Thanks for the comment.


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