Monday, July 28, 2014

A Marketing Pitch from Author Solutions

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've written before about Author Solutions' relentless efforts to get authors to buy the company's "marketing" services. Here's an example that was recently passed on to me (with the author's name and other identifying information redacted).

Note the poor quality of the English (a lot of AS's staff are in the Philippines; English is a second language), the implied specialness of the offer (50% management discount, just for you!), the "hurry up and buy" pressure (supposedly only eight books will be able to get in on the deal; first come, first served!), and the...um...optimistic way the service that's being sold is presented ("endorsement" implies something tailored to the product, but in fact all it means in this case is a listing in Ingram's print and online magazines). It's all directly out of the junk mail marketing handbook.

Note, finally, the tiny-print disclaimer at the very, very bottom, under "Paul's" signature: "This email is an advertisement."

Bottom line: the author is being asked to shell out over $2,000 for a couple of magazine advertisements and returnability for a book no brick-and-mortar establishment is ever likely to order.

_______________________

From: Paul Wellshyr 
To: [author's name redacted]
Sent: Sat, Jul 26, 2014 4:38 pm
Subject: [title redacted] - marketing it directly to owners of bookstores, retailers, and libraries

Mr. [author's name redacted],

Good day!

This is Paul Wellshyr, a Marketing Consultant from iUniverse.  As I had mentioned earlier, I would like to see where and how far this book of yours, [title redacted], can take you.  You may have published newer books than this one, but that doesn’t make this book any less than those newer ones.

And since I’m only asking you to give this book at least one chance to be promoted, then I want to make sure that I don’t get to waste such an opportunity by making sure that we would be able to penetrate the best market for this book… and that would be to get this book be carried and picked up by different bookstores, retailers, and libraries.

I had also been able to get the approval from my manager for an additional 1 year of the insurance/buy back program for this book.

Kindly review the information below.

Physical bookstores and retailers are the two establishments that had generated a good number of sales for those authors that had their books be carried by some establishments. Thus, we are aiming to have more retailers and bookstores to start investing on our books this year. To achieve this, we have made some changes that would make our books even more attractive and easy to invest on for bookstores and retailers.

Before, retailers and bookstores need to purchase around 500 to 1000 copies to be able to take advantage of a 40% retail discount from the distributor. The smaller the volume of copies they are purchasing, the smaller the retail discount gets. This had disabled most establishments, especially the smaller scale investors, to invest on the books. Now, while under the Ingram +BRP campaign, bookstores and retailers will be able to enjoy a 48% retail discount (instead of just 40%) and with NO minimum purchase required. This would allow even the smaller stores and retailers to be able to test the waters out with the book. Still, they would be able to return and get refunded for unsold copies.

With this opportunity I am offering you right now, we would be able to have your book be one (1) of the eight (8) books that would be endorsed directly to owners and decision makers of around 38,500 establishments across the globe. These establishments are composed of bookstores, retailers, public and school libraries.


Account Holder
:

[Author name redacted]
Pen Name/Pen Name
:

[Author pen name redacted]
Project/Book ID
:

[redacted
Book Title
:

[Title redacted]
Genre
:

Body, Mind & Spirit / Supernatural / Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs




Proposed Project/s
:

Ingram Endorsement Project
Components/services involved
:

Ingram Print and Online Marketing
:

Book Returnability Program (12 months)
Recipients
:

Subscription Based - Total of 38,500
• Bookstore Owners
• Retail store owners
• Library Directors
Total Investment required
:

$4,548
3 Payment Installment option
:

Initial Payment
$1,516 + $30 surcharge fee


2nd Payment
$1,516


3rd Payment
$1,516




Book US List Price
:

$10.95
Retailers, Bookstores, and Libraries Retail Sales Discount Rate
:

48%
Retailers, Bookstores, and Libraries Retail Sales Discounted Price


$5.69

Minimum Purchase


NONE. This would allow smaller stores to test the waters out with the book.
Store - Distributor contract required?
:

NONE. This would allow the stores to invest on the book without any hassle of being tied up to a contract and permits them to ask for refunds on any given day while the book is under the Buy Back Program.
Royalty
:

20% of net sales
Royalty Refund
:

NONE. Refunds in line with returned copies will not be charged against author's royalty.





Management Approved Offer for
[Author name redacted]
Assistance/Discount
:

$2,274.00
New Total Price
:

$2,274.00
3 Payment Installment option
:

Initial Payment
$758 + $30 installment fee
:

2nd Payment
$758.00
:

3rd Payment
$758.00

Ingram Endorsement Project:

Endorser: INGRAM – world largest and biggest Book Distributor. www.ingramcontent.com
- #1 Global Book Distributor

Services involved in the project :
- INGRAM Print and Online Marketing
  • Ingram has now given us the opportunity to have a set of 8 books this year to avail of their service wherein these books will be endorsed directly to decision makers and owners of bookstores and libraries across the globe.
  • Note: This will serve as highly recommended books along with other traditionally published books.
- Booksellers Return Program

  • - Bookstore Owners
  • - Library Directors
  • - Decision Makers of chain bookstores, multiple branched libraries, and resellers
  • · Note: These recipients are actually paying Ingram, the endorser, for them to receive this endorsement
Endorsement Format:
- Printed Form of the endorsement
  • The Advance Magazine has an established circulation of more than 13,500 chain bookstore owners, booksellers, and library directors across the globe over the past twenty years. It is a trusted and in-fact a paid reference for new books because of its comprehensive title listing. This is being paid for by these subscribers since this is where they get the information of which and what books to place on their shelves.
- Online Form of the endorsement
  • The Independent Voice Catalog (formerly The Fine Print) is an online catalog that allows over 25,000 subscribers to view titles, make selections, and place an order on iPage®—Ingram’s online search, order, and account management site. This is being paid by the subscribers who prefer to receive the endorsement using the internet especially those who are located in different countries
Additional Service:
- Single Slot Ad in ForeWord Magazine
  • ForeWord magazine is the premier review magazine for independent publishers. With a 23,000 bimonthly circulation, this publication and review services affect the choices of booksellers and librarians across the country who influence the buying decisions of millions of readers.
Pre-requisite:
- Booksellers Return Program (for at least a year)
  • This program will attract booksellers (bookstores, retailers, libraries) to stock your book by allowing them to return unsold titles. The Bookseller's Return Program increases your chances that a bookstore will be willing to stock your book. If a book does not sell well, bookstores want the ability to return unsold books to publishers for a complete refund. Because traditional publishers always take returns, iUniverse has developed the Booksellers Return Program so that bookstores are able to return unsold books to the wholesaler. The best part is, iUniverse authors receive their retail royalty for every book sold in the Booksellers Return Program, whether the book is returned or not. When a book is returnable, the bookstore has no risk of losing money on unsold inventory and will be more likely to stock the book than if you don’t enroll in the program.
- Benefits of Booksellers Return Program
  • Encourages bookstores to invest more copies of the book
  • Improves chances of scheduling book signings and appearances, especially with hometown bookstores
  • Allows book returns yet will NOT reduce author’s royalties
Note:
  • · Book Returnability Program Turn-around-time (TAT): 30-45 days after full payment
  • · Catalogs TAT: next available issue
  • · $30 installment surcharge fee is non-refundable
  • · This project goes under a set of eight books and will be a first come first serve basis.
Please feel free to call me at 877-820-5395 ext 8552 for any inquiries.

All the best,

Paul Wellshyr
Marketing Consultant
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Phone: 877-820-5395, ext 8552
Fax: 812-961-3133

Author Solutions, the parent company of iUniverse, is a member of the Penguin Group.
This email is an advertisement.

18 comments:

Mark Coker said...

Thanks for sharing, Victoria.

Blood sucking parasites. Please, indie authors, don't let your writer friends fall for these ripoffs. How can parent company Penguin Random House continue to support this? Boggles the mind. Does PRH not realize how this is damaging their reputation? How can other publishers and services continue to affiliate with ASI and their many sock puppet brands when this stuff is happening every day?

Ripley King said...

Any author hopes their marketing packages will put them over the top in sales, but it's a classic hope in one hand, and sh*t in the other, which hand actually has something in it.

Penguin Random House needs misguided literary souls to buy into this scam to pad their bottom lines. Keeping themselves in the black just keeps getting harder by the year.

Yes, spread the word far and wide. Don't let any fellow writer fall for this, or any other scam.

Mark said...

Same thing, different decade.

Vyrdolak said...

This makes no sense at all, except to double-talk authors who don't know how publishing works. There is no such thing as a "bookstore return program"! All you have to do is set your wholesale discount to industry-standard 55% and click the little radio button on LSI where it says "make book returnable". Then you can choose to have returns sent to you (costs money, ouch) or pulped (costs you nothing extra but you've still paid for the book to be printed and now can't sell it as a "hurt book" and maybe recoup your investment).

That's all there is to it! But the real hooey here is the implied promise your book will be in bookstores because it's "available" to them. They won't order it just because they can return it. They'll only order it if they think they won't have to return it.

When I started self-publishing, way back in the pre-ebook-revolution Eocene Era of 2007, you still got referred to books and resources that explained all this stuff. (For ex. the Rosses' Complete Guide to Self-Publishing) The attitude then was, "you're playing with the big boys, here are their rules, just do it." Now authors looking into self-pubbing never seem to learn this material. That's why they're vulnerable to the scammers. :-(

G. B. Miller said...

Reminds of a phone call I got today (twice) from ASI (yes, I did use them. twice. lesson learned). Before they spoke, I heard a lot of commotion in the background. And yes, English wasn't the person's first language.

Seriously.

Elissa M said...

The language in this pitch made my head hurt. Penguin actually approves of this? I want to get sick now...

Victoria Strauss said...

Author Solutions is a separate company under the Penguin umbrella, with separate staff and a separate location. AS's promotional strategies and materials are entirely its own. I'd be surprised if they were subject to any approval or oversight from Penguin.

That doesn't get Penguin off the hook ethically, of course, because not knowing what your left hand is doing is no excuse if your left hand is doing sleazy things. Plus, Penguin could have implemented changes at AS after Pearson bought AS in 2012, and has apparently chosen not to Logistically, though, Penguin and AS are separate entities.

Anne R. Allen said...

It's helpful to see their newest dose of bogusness. I will spread the word.

I like the new look of the blog, except for one thing: maybe I'm just not seeing it after a bleary-eyed morning of editing, but I'd love to see a share button at the end of the post. I used bit.ly to tweet it, but a share button makes it easier.

Thanks for all you do, Victoria!

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks, Anne--and thanks for calling my attention to the lack of a share button--I had that all set up in the old blog format, but it looks as if it didn't carry over to the new format, and I never noticed. I'm off to fix it.

A.G. Claymore said...

Wow, I never realised Ingram was the biggest AND largest distributor.
Once these parasites get a couple grand from you, they'll tell you the basic package doesn't do enough. You need to upgrade to the super platinum no-foam, decaf, package for the one-time discounted price of five grand. You don't want to think you wasted the first two grand, so...
Pull up your pants, Penguin, your true colors are showing.

Carla King said...

Let's mention a few other companies who use Author Solutions (ASI) to power their self-publishing solutions.

Hay House, whose charter is to publish "self help, inspirational and transformational books" uses Author Solutions to entice authors they reject to Balboa Press. When I read their web copy on "Why Balboa Press?" I was truly astonished. Liar liar pants on fire! Here's what it states: "By choosing Balboa Press as your book publishing company, you not only align yourself with a publisher that shares your values, but you also receive benefits you won't find with any other self-publishing companies..."

Of course I could be mistaken. If so, please enlighten me on exactly what benefits authors coming to ASI from Balboa enjoy that are unique from any other Author Solutions "benefit," that is, aside from being dubiously attached to the Hay House brand.

Equally as culpable is Thomas Nelson, whose stated mission is to "''inspire the world' by honoring God and serving others through content creation." On their ASI-run West Bow Press page they pledge to allow authors to "self-publish their books with Christian morals, inspirational themes and family values." Noted is that they don't pledge to provide a self-publishing solution that is aligned with Christian morals, family values.

Find all of ASI partnerships and services here http://www.authorsolutions.com/Our-Services/

Archway Publishing
Balboa Press, imprint of Hay House
Balboa Press Australia
LifeRich Publishing, imprint of The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan
AuthorHouse
Palibrio - Spanish-speaking authors
Xlibris
Partridge - Africa, India, Singapore
Booktango
Trafford
iUnivers
Xlibris

Not listed on these pages are:

Lulu.com

I know that ASI ran Harlequin's imprint Dellarte Press but I can't find any official recognition of that association anywhere on either of their sites barring the 2009 press release announcing it. They've either severed their relationship or, more likely, Harlequin/Dellarte i.e. ASI are hiding it.

Note that Writers Digest (F+W Media) had a deal with ASI to run Abbott Press but ended it this year (2014). There was a huge outcry about the ASI relationship from authors here, I'm guessing because they're more educated about publishing than the average would-be author and many publishing pros work for or contract with Writers Digest.

Victoria Strauss said...

Another AS-run "partnership" is CrossBooks, a division of B&H Publishing Group.

Lulu isn't part of the Author Solutions empire, and it's still a good option for self-publishers. However, it does offer Author Solutions-sourced "marketing" packages, which should be avoided.

Even though WD ended its association with Abbott Press, the Abbott Press website is still live. It looks like an independent company; there's nothing to indicate that it's run by Author Solutions, unless you really drill down into the fine print (the Privacy Policy).

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes. When I began researching self-publishing, I too had a phone conversation with an AS rep. DO NOT BUY into this quick fix for success! As with any career, there is rarely a short cut. Educate yourself about self-publishing with blogs such as this one (thank you!)

Anonymous said...

Ms. Strauss...I wonder how much $ all of your ridiculous babel on these blogs is making you. You are obviously not making a living through your books!

A blog should be written about you titled "A Writer to Beware"!....Actually not a bad idea!

Maybe Time to expose???

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Oh, yes. When I began researching self-publishing, I too had a phone conversation with an AS rep. DO NOT BUY into this quick fix for success! As with any career, there is rarely a short cut. Educate yourself about self-publishing with blogs such as this one (thank you

I am wondering why you are (Anonymous)? Is it because you have NO idea What you are talking about?


I've been thinking.....why am I on this blog? Maybe it's time to get advice from someone who has actually sold some books!

Crazy thinking I know.....

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous, your use of ellipses gives you away.

Folks, this blog is under a bit of a comment thread attack (not just here but in several other posts). I don't like deleting comments--and rarely do so--but silly stuff like the two comments above just clutters things up, so I'm going to be removing any other attack comments that appear.

Trevonna Parker said...

Just wanted to say, "Thanks."

I have spoken to someone from many of these 'self-publishing' marketing firms.

I am so thankful that my illustrations for my project weren't completed because I had more time to research.

To the credit of some of the people who actually work at these companies, I will say, there was a kind fellow at Archway who actually broke down the purposes of each option, and explained that their services are not the best option for all authors.

He then proceeded to tell me of scenarios where he felt that an author would do better without the Archway platform.

I really appreciated the conversation.

It was partly due to his candor/ coaching that I realized publishing packages were not an option for me.

I've since found other reasons to steer clear, but I truly did appreciate him at the time.

Howard said...

Wow, thanks so much for this Blog.

Contains a myriad of very useful information, especially for a new about to be self-published author, like me.