Random Penguin Kicks Author Solutions to the Curb

ASI no longer Random PenguinWell, that didn’t take long. Just three years and change after buying Author Solutions (ASI) from venture capital firm Bertram Capital, Penguin Random House has sold the company to an affiliate of Najafi Companies, another venture capital firm. In 2012, Penguin’s then-owner, Pearson, paid $116 million for Author Solutions, not long before Penguin merged with Random House. Terms of the most recent deal were not disclosed. The sale was finalized December 31st and was announced earlier this week.

I hope we’re all familiar by now with Author Solutions’ schtick: the reassuring websites of its many, many imprints; the claims that you, too, can be a successful author by publishing your book with them; the high initial costs, the constant upselling, the disastrous “editing,” and the boxes and boxes of books in the garage that the hapless author will never be able to unload.

Penguin Random House not only bought Author Solutions, but it let the company run Book Country, its so-called hybrid publishing arm – and allowed Book Country’s sales representatives to entice would-be authors with a promise that really, really good manuscripts submitted there might be passed on to an actual Random House editor. Right.

Author Solutions has even less luster now than it did when Random Penguin first bought the place. Prior to the 2013 sale, ASI had begun to open new imprints overseas as its sales sagged in the States. It often brags about its 200,000 authors, who have published 250,000 books through their services – but even a cursory look at those numbers tells you that the vast majority of ASI’s authors publish just one book there.

Writer Beware reports that when Pearson bought Author Solutions, it had deals to run “publishing” operations for Harlequin (DellArte Press), LifeWay (Crossbooks), Writer’s Digest, and F&W Media (Abbott Press). All of those imprints went away in 2014. And in 2015, the Authors Guild cut ties with ASI, as well.

All that, and lawsuits, too. Unfortunately for authors, both of the class-action suits brought against ASI in 2015 – one in Indiana and another in the Southern District of New York – have been dismissed. But they were not the first legal challenges Author Solutions has ever faced, and they likely will not be the last.

The new owners, Najafi Companies, have some experience in publishing. They once owned Bookspan. You may think you’ve never heard of Bookspan, but if you’re a reader, you have probably been a member of one or more of their book clubs: the Book of the Month Club, the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Science Fiction Book Club, Mystery Guild, and others. (I admit that I’ve joined at least three of those, at one time or another.) In addition, Najafi backed Paula Deen Ventures in 2014. And Najafi CEO Jahn Najafi has reportedly used ASI to publish his own book – as have some of his family members. I wonder if any of them will publish any more books with Author Solutions, now that it’s part of the family and all.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “Random Penguin Kicks Author Solutions to the Curb”

  1. Lynne,

    One important point. PRH hasn’t kicked AS to the curb. It simple sold it. My understanding is that AS will continue to provide the publishing engine and operation of the Partridge imprints.

  2. Clever title – with the penguin wandering around, randomly kicking authors. LOL
    Anyway, I didn’t know a thing about all this going on. As always, IU informs!

  3. Thanks for this update. I’m sending it to my writer’s clubs so they are forewarned. I’m so happy I never got hooked into their awful, persistent sales pitches. They offered the earth!

  4. It is unfortunate that writers who don’t have the confidence or skills to publish themselves will probably not be successful in the business anyway. Which means that going to an outfit like Author Solutions is probably a recipe for failure.
    The independence to become an Indie is one of the main gatekeepers in the new publishing world.
    Of course, that’s no guarantee of good writing, but it does separate the sheep from the goats a bit.

    1. I’d agree with you, Gordon — except one of the things I learned during our #PublishingFoul coverage last year was how many indie authors began their careers falling for an outfit like Author Solutions, figured out they’d been had, and went on to self-publish successfully.

      I think the key thing is for us to spread the word, so no more authors get taken by these scammy operators.

  5. Great post, Lynne and I love the title as well. It conjures this image of a penguin laying a rotten egg and waddling off with an ‘it’s not mine’ look on its face.

    ASI may still be alive and kicking, but eventually it will run out of buyers prepared to taint their reputations with a quick, dirty buck. I’m sure of it. 🙁

    1. They do seem to be on the verge here in the States, Meeks, which is why they began setting up their business model in other countries. I know it’s fashionable in some circles to complain about Amazon, but in this case, I hope KDP gets to these countries ahead of outfits like Author Solutions.

  6. Umm, not exactly.

    From Gaughran’s post on the matter:

    “Penguin Random House announced the sale of Author Solutions on Tuesday, leading to headlines stating it has exited the self-publishing business and various commentators congratulating it for cleaning house. Unfortunately, neither of those things are true.”

    “Four Penguin Random House-owned vanity presses will remain in operation – Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa, and MeGustaEscribir – and will be run as Partner Imprints. You can read more about how Partner Imprints work here, but the short version is that Author Solutions will operate these four vanity presses on behalf of Penguin Random House, and PRH’s job will be to provide leads (aka newbie writers), lend its name and brand to the effort, and then sit back and collect its commissions.”


    1. Thanks, David. I don’t know whether you noticed it, but I’d already posted a link to David G.’s article above.

      I do think we’re talking apples and oranges here, a little bit. Yes, Penguin Random House has “partner imprint” agreements with Author Solutions to run these overseas vanity press operations. So they’re not getting out of the vanity-press business entirely — and I’m pretty sure I didn’t assert that in my post. What I did say was that Penguin Random House has sold Author Solutions, which is true.

      It’s likely Author Solutions operates those overseas vanity presses for Penguin Random House in a side agreement or side agreements, possibly with a fixed end date or dates, and PRH didn’t see any point in pulling out of those contracts. ASI has a whole bunch of these “partner imprint” deals with various companies, and David G. explains how they work here: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/author-solutions-and-friends-the-inside-story-2/

      Hope that helps clear things up for everybody. 🙂

  7. I must be the oddball in this group. iUniverse is currently producing my second self-published book, as Abbott Press published the first. I had one issue with Abbott, (printing) that was resolved to my satisfaction. I received my royalty payments in a timely manner along with a complete sales report. My experience with iUniverse has been not only been professional, but enjoyable. The customer service I have received has been excellent. Whenever I call with a question, if I have to leave a message, they get back with me quickly. They have not tried to persuade me to purchase pricey ‘extras’. Everything they have offered has been patiently explained to me and I get to choose. I have retained all rights, and quite frankly, have been very comfortable in working with them. No problems whatsoever, and yes, I made considerable money with my first book.

      1. Lynne, I certainly will. As stated, my experience with them has been nothing but extremely positive, and I am NOT one who is bashful about expressing my opinion on anything. Anyone who knows me will certainly attest to that… lol ‘Dead Water’, my second work, will be released in Feb. Originally scheduled for Jan., I’m doing one more ‘manuscript revision’ to make it as good as it possibly can be. My first work, ‘The President’s Weapon’, broke records for Kindle downloads at Amazon, for a first time/self published author in the Thriller genre. Due to the sales numbers, I got bumped up from Abbott to iUniverse who offered me their second from the top ‘Publishing Package.’ Cheers !!!!

    1. Don’t need to, but thanks. I’ve read the comments and gotten ‘the feeling’ toward Author Solutions. I just wanted to share that, I guess luckily, or whatever, my experience with them has been excellent. No complaints whatsoever. Hopefully, this trend will continue for others as well… 🙂

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