UPDATE: These lawsuits were dismissed in August and September of 2015.
In April 2013, the law firm of Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart filed a class action lawsuit against Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI). The case survived various motions to dismiss, and this past February completed discovery and filed for class certification.
Now the same law firm has filed a second class action against ASI.
Dated March 23, 2015, the complaint was filed in District Court in the Southern District of Indiana (ASI’s headquarters are in Bloomington, Indiana) on behalf of two new plaintiffs, Patricia Wheeler and Helen Heightsman Gordon. It alleges fraud, unjust enrichment, and violation of various statutes and consumer protection acts, including the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the Indiana Senior Consumer Sales Act (Wheeler is over 60 years of age).
ASI’s parent company, Penguin Group (which was bounced from the first class action early on) is not named as a defendant.
The complaint, which can be seen in full here, focuses largely on ASI’s sales tactics and marketing services.
5. In truth, Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so by selling books back to its Authors, not to a general readership, and by selling its Authors expensive publishing, editing, and marketing services (“Services”) that are effectively worthless.
6. Author Solutions aggressively sells publishing and marketing services (“Services”) to its Authors through a large sales force of telemarketers, largely based in the Philippines, who introduce themselves as the Author’s personal “Publishing Consultant” or “Marketing Consultant.” This has the deceptive effect of leading Authors to believe that the “consultant” has a background in publishing or marketing and has the requisite skills to guide the Author through the publishing process. In fact, these “consultants” are simply commissioned sales people with aggressive quotas who are not required to have any publishing or marketing experience. Author Solutions never discloses this fact to Authors.
7. Similarly, the Company employs scores of “Book Consultants,” a sales team whose goal it is to sell hundreds of the Authors’ own books back to the Author. However, Author Solutions does not employ any sales force to sell an Author’s books to the general public – referred to as the retail channel – because, unlike with traditional publishers, an Author’s retail success is largely irrelevant to Author Solutions.
Both plaintiffs in this new lawsuit spent small fortunes with ASI: Ms Wheeler dropped nearly $25,000, and Ms. Gordon handed over more than $10,000. Details of their experiences are included in the complaint; even if, like me, you’ve seen a lot of ASI complaints, it makes for pretty awful reading.
If you’ve published with an ASI imprint and would like to share your experience, there’s a form on Giskan Solotaroff’s website where you can do so.
EDITED TO ADD: In a three-part series at The Independent Publishing Magazine, Mick Rooney has dug deep into the depositions from the first class action: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. There are some fascinating revelations about ASI’s practices and policies, especially in regard to the “partner imprints” it has established with major publishers.
For a wrapup, see David Gaughan’s post: Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story.