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March 6, 2015

Update: Lawsuit Against Author Solutions Inc.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Reported in Publishers Lunch last week (but apparently nowhere else): the lawsuit against Author Solutions launched in 2013 has completed the discovery stage, and has filed for class certification. 
A February 26 filing in New York's Southern District Court by Kelvin James, Jodi Foster, and Mary Simmons (added to the suit after Terry Hardy dropped out in the fall of 2013) asks Judge Denise Cote for certification of the class, covering 170,000 or more authors "who, during the period 2007 through the present, purchased a publishing package or service from Author Solutions."

The plaintiffs say their lawsuit is "a case about a publishing company that makes money from authors, not for them." They allege again that ASI "operates more like a telemarketing company, not a publisher, that employs a large, commissioned sales force to sell books and services to its target audience: the Authors themselves, not the general public." The filing quotes an Author Solutions executive saying in a deposition that the company "has no idea whether the services help authors sell books," which the plaintiffs call "struthious" and a pretense.

The plaintiffs believe the "evidence common to all class members will prove that Author Solutions deceptively sold Publishing Packages and other Services by making false, untrue, or misleading statements, and by concealing critical information from the Plaintiffs and Class" -- namely that its "consultants" are in fact telemarketers who do not need to have experience in publishing matters; that it lies about being "invested in Authors' success"; that its "Rising Star" program with Barnes & Noble is a fiction; that the company "does not know whether Authors succeed in the retail channel and makes no effort to find out"; and that services "are not reasonably designed to help Authors sell books or to accomplish their stated goal and are effectively worthless."
Memorandum of Law in support of plaintiffs' motion for class certification.

Excerpts from the depositions of plaintiffs and Author Solutions staff. A lengthy document that unpacks a lot of information about ASI's business model and internal operations, and makes for fascinating reading. For instance, if you wondered what the appeal of an ASI-run self-publishing division was for a traditional publishing house, here's how it worked for Thomas Nelson's WestBow Press (from the deposition of Don Seitz):


So the "partner" publisher earns a "royalty", a.k.a. a percentage of the fees authors pay (and ASI's salespeople earn a commission on sales, so they're highly motivated to sell as many services as possible). It would also appear that services like marketing are priced higher for partner publishers, to account for the "cost differential" of the royalty:


Author and ASI critic David Gaughran also offers some analysis, in his recent blog post about Barnes & Noble's partnership with ASI.

Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart, the firm that's conducting the lawsuit, has an update on the case on its website with a form that ASI authors can fill out.

2 comments :

Michael Capobianco said...

Struthious is defined as "resembling or related to the ostriches or other ratite birds."

Victoria Strauss said...

Thank you, Michael--erudite and appropriate.

 
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