Well, 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.