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.
Just read your blog about Author Solutions lawsuits. I recently used the assisted publishing services of AuthorHouse, which I understand is connected with Author Solutions or is one and the same. This was my first novel to have published. I was an innocent to the publishing field and they quoted me a reasonable price for publishing, but I had to do much work to format it the way they wanted unless I paid huge additional prices for them to do the work. I also had to use their offerings of book covers. I liked the one I ended up with, but it wasn't my first choice, which I thought would make the book more attractive. They also made a couple of errors in the printing, one pretty big one, but on the whole I was pretty satisfied. EXCEPT for the huge selling price. I thought $23.95 for a paperback was too much and tried to discuss this with them, but they insisted because it was over 400 pages it had to be priced that high, which I feel certain puts my novel at a disadvantage, as well as only giving me 30% off retail price if I purchase books for a book signing, etc., as well as not receiving royalties on any that I purchased. I was supposed to be given 3 copies of first printing in my contract and had to ask for them 3 times before getting them and also had to pay a high postage fee to get them mailed to me. When I inquired about lowering the price of the book to something more reasonable they informed me I would have to sell over 3,000 copies first before that would happen. Then all the marketing calls began. I had to fend them off almost daily, then weekly and finally about once a month or so until they finally got the message I had no intention of paying what started at $700 and eventually dropped to $500 for advertising. I have been unhappy with several of the things since involving myself with them and am finding out more and more that I am not the only one. Since I am still involved with them at this point, I would appreciate my name not being used. Thanks for allowing me to express myself on this matter.
Thanks, Victoria! I shared quotes from just a few of the disturbing elements of the filing yesterday:
Thanks very much Victoria. I will post my similar experiences also. Thanks for all you do.
Thanks for the info, Victoria. I'm posting a link at Indies Unlimited as we speak.
Great work thank you for this.