Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

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).

Fake Jared And His Friends: Author Solutions' Misleading PR Strategies

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.

16 comments:

C.M. Albrecht said...

Sad to hear that a company like Penguin allows itself to become involved in this sort of scammy behavior.

Anonymous said...

just sent in my complaint, too. Have lost thousands to these criminals. Would love to see them brought to justice, or at least everyone notified. Thanks for the article. And yes, why on earth did Penguin buy them?

Anonymous said...

Penguin bought AUTHOR SOLUTIONS. .so they could do the same.."Rob people. .one day I looked at my royalty statement. .then seeing 60, 000$ in royalties...then the data corrupted with them putting in a fraudulent documents..showing a lot less..they have live operator monitors checking to see whos going on there royalty pages before they can get a chance to change, The document. .they changed my royalty statement right before my vary eyes...I called them saying ut oh..you crooked mother fuckers...and taped the phone conversation. .they even admitted to copyright infringement..and bad services; .and was supposed to stop others...and stop the free preview. .its still there today..the call was made last year...to" iuniverse"and you can bet mr.CEO..called..he got a piece of my mind..'fucking Crooked fucks!!..I was robbed big time to!! This class action suit. .should be worth a hellva lot more than 5 million dollars. ..some of us lost a hellva lot more than others...!!! AND I DONT WONT A FUCKING COUPON. ..I WANT.M.O.N.E.Y..fucking crooks! !

Outlaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

the reason why authors are having a hard time reaching their PSAs because they change people every now and then. That causes a lot of back logs. Truth of the matter their office in the Philippines is facing a lot of labor suits because on how they treat their employee, firing them w/o due process. Sales people are expected to hit their monthly quota, if they don't hit it for 3 months then they're fired. That's the reason why they are so aggressive in hitting their goals and one of the reason why every other month someone will call you and introduce as your new consultant.

Anonymous said...

This is the very reason many of us thought it strange when Penguin bought ASI. It made them vulnerable to just this kind of action.

Jodi Foster said...

Hello,
My name is Jodi Foster. I am one of the plaintiffs in the class action suit against Author Solutions. Please feel free to contact me or my lawyers.

http://www.gslawny.com/
http://jodifoster.net/

Anonymous said...

I just want to salute all the people who are standing up to the corruption and fighting it off. I appreciate the writers who are using their time and talents to expose and inform people. I am taking notes. I may never try to publish because of the swamp of deceit.

Jen said...

This is scarey business. It's hard enough to write a decent book, but then to have what little it makes stolen is unforgiveable. Thanks you guys for following this. It's just another betrayal of the author. Always the big guys screwing the little guys.

Thurston Roll said...

I've always hated penguins
Roll With It

Lexa Cain said...

Thanks for keeping us updated on what this greedy company is doing. I hope the class-action plaintiffs triumph.

Robin Levin said...

I published my first book with Trafford and have experienced all of the abuses associated with Author House including being cheated on royalties and constant aggressive promotion of worthless marketing schemes. I understand that Trafford is affiliated with Author House. If this is so, would it be possible for me to join this suit?

Victoria Strauss said...

Trafford is part of Author Solutions--so yes, it could be possible for you to join the suit. See my post for a link to the law firm's contact form.

mlouring said...

I always thought authors should stay far, far away from Author Solutions, and it doesn't seem like I'll have to revise my opinion...

H Thomas Gillis said...

Thank God I am finding out about all this now, I am with IUniverse today, but not tomorrow. Going to Telemachuspress, where John Locke publishes 19 books. Print and you keep all Royalties after Amazon cut (30%) Flat fee and rest is yours. Thank you Brave souls for putting forth this lawsuit. Let me know how I can help get it out in social media even more. Thomas Gillis Indie Author to be.

Gilbert Van Kerckhove said...

Yesterday I filled out the form at the law firm's website. I am one more very unhappy client of Authorhouse. Received 3 sales reports all with zero sales on Amazon, the main channel for my book.