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Is Author Solutions really a Solution? And if so, a solution to what?

The other day on Twitter, I saw a tweet about Writer’s Digest partnering with Author Solutions to create Abbott Press. I sat back and waited for the shit storm to begin…but nothing happened. It seemed it went undetected, or perhaps no one cared? How could no one care? Writer’s Digest is one of the oldest and most respected media companies. They have always been an advocate of writers. They give us information about what is going on in the industry. WD has been known for their ability to help writers hone their craft, help them find an agent and get published…traditionally. Now they want writers to pay to get the WD Mark of Quality? What has the world come to?

We all remember when Harlequin partnered with Author Solutions and what a stir that caused. I did a series of articles on the subject at Examiner.com. At the time, my biggest peeve about the whole thing was how this wasn’t attracting readers to authors but taking money from writers. When this happens the writing world is turned upside down. RWA was going to pull Harlequin from the national conference. MWA sent a letter saying they would take away their recognized publishers status. There wasn’t a single person in the entire business of publishing that wasn’t shocked. So why aren’t we seeing the same mouths dropping with WD’s and their deal with Author Solutions? Is the writing world embracing Vanity Publishing?

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that Author Solutions does not see themselves as a Vanity Press, but they offer themselves up as leader in Self-Publishing. A lot of people interchange the terms self-publishing with vanity publishing. They are two very different beasts. In the world of publishing, a vanity press or subsidy press is considered unethical because it requires the author to pay for services that normally a traditional publisher would do and without any placement in physical bookstores. A vanity press parasitically copies traditional publishing. We will do all the things a traditional publisher does but you won’t have to deal with rejections! You just have to pay X and we’ll set you up so YOU can sell your book.

You ask how does vanity really differ from self-publishing? That maybe in today’s current publishing environment it’s doesn’t?

Personally, I think vanity publishers misinform the consumer. Authors are the producer and readers are the consumer and everything else is in the middle. Author Solutions is in the middle and can be cut out of the equation all together. In the vanity form of publishing the producer is the author and the consumer is the author. Why is that? Because the vanity press doesn’t make their profit off of readers. Their goal isn’t to sell your book to your readers but to take your money so that you can get your book to your readers. If you want help getting your book in front of potential readers, then you can buy their marketing package, otherwise thank you for your business and we wish you luck.

Regardless of my personal distaste for Author Solutions and Vanity Publishing in general, I had to ask myself is this form a publishing a solution to a dying business model?

Just a year ago or so self-publishing was considered a desperate act by a desperate writer. A published author doing so had to have been just dropped by their publisher. Or rejected. Or career was in the shitter, so they were selling their soul. Today, it’s almost sheik to be self-published or an indie author and it’s also considered very business savvy.

Enter J.A. Konrath. Certainly not the first published author to go solo, but the first one to get noticed, and he certainly didn’t sell his soul…just lots of books. Enter Who Dares Wins Publishing, which started as a platform to get Bob Mayer’s backlist on Kindle and other eBook stores. We are now five authors strong and doing very well in sales department, thank you. Konrath has overhead and so does WDWPUB, so what is the difference between that and Author Solutions?

The author is the producer and the reader is the consumer.

Back to a question I posed earlier: Why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Where is all the outrage over WD partnering with Author Solutions and why this is bad, bad, bad?

It could be because publishing has bigger problems to deal with. Bookstores are dying. A year ago we wouldn’t have really thought this would happen. We figured they would find a way to stay in business. However, today, we know the major bookstores closing is a reality. As this is happening, the mid-list author is getting scrunched out because very little mid-list is getting racked at Target.

Everyone is scrambling as traditional publishing searches for solutions to the economic problems and a broken business model. Publishers are hurting and Author Solutions does give them a stream of income they didn’t have before. If the book sells, great. Author Solutions helped the author. If it doesn’t the author still got what they paid for and Author Solutions earned a few dollars in the process.

But maybe there is still another reason there is no public outcry over this not so stellar move on WD part. Maybe it’s because the book business has already shifted from the traditional printed book in the major bookstores to the eBook with POD with the Amazon’s of the world. Maybe because authors like Bob Mayer, LJ Sellers, J.A. Konrath and even David Morrell skipped the publishers and went direct to the major distribution channels themselves. Today’s author doesn’t necessarily need a publisher…or a vanity publisher to get us their product in stores to sell to readers. Today’s author can do that on their own via true self-publishing without having to pay between 1k and 4k just for the possibility of having someone from WD read our work and give it their mark of quality.

We have our readers for that.

Write It Forward

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