David Gaughran reports that Writers Digest has cuts its partnership with Authors Solutions. This is highly significant as a bellwether of publishing industry attitudes to the controversial vanity publishing operations run by Author Solutions.
Author Solutions aggressively pursues strategic partnerships to lend credibility to its scammy practices. More importantly, these partners help keep the pipeline of email addresses and phone numbers flowing. As I detailed two weeks ago, Author Solutions needs huge numbers of leads because it only converts 5% of queries into customers.
Beyond the specific ethical questions surrounding Author Solutions is the wider question of industry attitudes to writers. Put simply, are emerging writers a valid income source for publishers? Are writers a part in the publishing process, or merely a part of the product? There is a burgeoning industry of experts and business’s aiming to serve the needs of writers seeking to publish their books. Especially debut authors who may lack industry knowledge. By and large these editorial, design and marketing services, often offered by freelance professionals, are entirely legitimate. But Author Solutions have faced intense criticism that their packages, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, do not return real value to the authors who purchase them, leading to a class action lawsuit against the business and its parent company Penguin (now Penguin Random House I believe).
The purchase of Author Solutions by one of the big international publishers gave their operations a vast credibility boost. But it has always begged the question, do publishers see vanity publishing and charging authors for sevices as part of their core business? If the news from Writers Digest is any indication, then industry opinion on that question may be swinging towards ‘No’.