UPDATE: This lawsuit, along with another brought later, was dismissed in late 2015.
In March, I wrote about New York law firm Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP, which had opened an investigation of Author Solutions Inc. (ASI).
Well, now the other shoe has dropped. On April 26, Giskan Solotaroff filed a class action complaint on behalf of three plaintiffs against Author Solutions Inc. and Penguin Group USA (ASI is part of Penguin) in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Allegations include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, various violations of the California Business and Professional Code, and violation of New York General Business Law.
The full text of the complaint can be seen here.
The complaint highlights issues that will be familiar to anyone who has followed discussion of Author Solutions over the past few years: poor quality products, poor quality customer service, relentless up-selling pressure on authors, particularly for ASI’s expensive “marketing” packages, and trouble with accurate payment and royalty reporting.
4. Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (“Services”).
5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.
6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors — errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.
7. Most of Author Solutions’ earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.
8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as “[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,” authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an “indie publisher” at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.
In addition to asking the Court to approve class action status, the complaint requests release of publishing rights for the class, and payment by the plaintiffs of restitution, court costs, and compensatory damages in excess of $5 million.
Authors wishing to contact Giskan Solotaroff about the suit can use this online form.
I’ve blogged about ASI and its questionable practices a good deal over the past few years. For background, here’s a selection of my posts:
Pearson Buys Author Solutions (but questions about ASI’s business practices remain open–will Pearson address them?)
A Partridge in a Penguin Tree (ASI expands into India).
Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division (outsourced to ASI, and it’s eye-poppingly expensive).
Democratization or Disinformation? (ASI’s misleading “white paper” on independent” publishing).
Posts by others:
Writer and editor Emily Suess is a relentless critic of ASI, and has exposed many of its business practices and collected many complaints from unhappy authors who’ve used its services.
Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine has a long piece on the Giskan Solotaroff investigation and related matters.
Author and blogger David Gaughran deconstructs the ASI empire.