What Author Learning Center Is Teaching: Buyer Beware

#PublishingFoul Logo Indies UnlimitedLet’s say you’re brand-new to writing. You’re in the process of writing your Great (Insert Nationality Here) Novel and you’re looking around online for help. One website – Author Learning Center – stands out for you. The presentation is slick – friendly and reassuring. It features videos from authors you’ve heard of (Catherine Coulter! R.L. Stine!) and promises to provide you with lots of helpful information. And it’s free! For the first thirty days, that is. After that, it’s $9.99 a month. But you can cancel at any time!

Here’s what Author Learning Center won’t tell you anywhere on its website (I checked): It’s owned and operated by Author Solutions, one of the most notorious names in vanity publishing.

Although if you look around a little, you can figure out what’s going on. The introductory video gives a glimpse of “your” Author Page, which is hidden behind the paywall. Among the features is an interactive timeline for publishing your novel, and there’s a button for submitting your novel for publication. Oh, really? To whom exactly would you be submitting it?

That’s not hard to figure out, either. ALC’s landing page currently features two authors who sing the praises of the place, so I looked them up on Amazon.

·         Charlene Sponsel’s fantasy novel is published by iUniverse, one of ASI’s imprints. It was released in October and has four reviews, all five stars, one of which says only that she’s a nice person. Her paperback is listed at $21.

·         David Applegate said he appreciates the help he’s received from ALC with putting together a marketing plan for his speculative-fiction novel. His book was released in October by Balboa Press, which ASI operates for inspirational publisher Hay House. He has zero reviews and he doesn’t even have an Author Central page. His paperback is listed at $30. One wonders what sort of marketing advice he received.

You guys know by now that this is standard ASI operating procedure: Lure in newbies with friendly, reassuring words and promises to do everything for them that they don’t know how to do, and then charge through the nose for publishing packages that don’t deliver on their promises.

Like other divisions of ASI, Author Learning Center has notched some complaints. Two were filed with the Indiana state attorney general’s office in 2017. I also noticed several complaints online from folks who signed up for a publishing package with one of ASI’s imprints and the imprint threw in an Author Learning Center subscription for free – for a set period of time. The complaints allege ASI didn’t notify these authors of the expiration date of the free subscription and charged them subscription fees without warning.

Author Learning Center does feature videos from bestselling authors, but I believe they’re there only to add a veneer of respectability. Just as being published by Archway Publishing won’t ever nail you a contract with Simon & Schuster, or being published by WestBow Press won’t ever get you on Thomas Nelson’s book list, signing up for Author Learning Center is not going to garner the sort of financial return you’re looking for.

This close association with reputable publishing houses does something for the traditional publishers, too: It reinforces the idea that being trad-pubbed is still the brass ring we should all be grabbing for – when in fact authors can make more money by going indie.

To be fair, there are some services aimed at authors that are worth the money; hiring an editor and buying cover art spring immediately to mind. But going with a vanity press is never a good idea. Instead, do a deep-dive here at IU. We offer writing, publishing, and marketing advice for authors at every level of their publishing journey (to borrow a little reassuring ad copy from somewhere), and it won’t cost you a dime.

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.

22 thoughts on “What Author Learning Center Is Teaching: Buyer Beware”

  1. Excellent post Lynn. A few years ago I got succored by Author Solutions for listings in their magazines that were to be distributed at US trade fairs. I was in the States at the Miami book fair and I saw two young ladies handing out badly printed booklets to passersby. No sign of a smartly decorated stand, no salespeople. I took one and leafed through. No mention of my book at all. I questioned it to be told they had a different one to hand out the next day and my book would be in that one. I never paid them a cent after that – total con.

      1. I could have gone on believing them and paying out more if I’d not seen for myself. You’ve done a real service naming them and people like them Lynn. We think everyone knows about Author House, but lots haven’t. I replied to one email from them and they hassled me for months – texts, phone, emails. I had to get quite rude to get rid of them – I corrected their spelling and grammar on their last email and returned it to them with the comment,”Do you really think I want this level of expertise publishing my book?” I’m not normally aggressive and unpleasant but they drove me to it 🙂

  2. Gah…this company is like a hydra, chop off one head and it regrows ten more. I wish we could direct every new author to our knowledgebase. It’s all there and it’s all free. -sigh-

  3. I suppose, then, that Amazon’s Create Space and Book Baby should also be considered “vanity presses”, as they each demanded more than a thousand dollars from me to publish my book. And that’s without any editing or artwork, which would push the cost closer to $2,000. I’m a cautious person anyway, but I don’t know who to trust now in the publishing industry! Unless you have an inside source for a traditional publisher, it must be a matter of just pure luck for a writer to get their work published and find any measure of success.

      1. Yes, I thought Create Space offered free publishing. But the last time I contacted them they had given me a quote of around $1,800. That apparently included editing and artwork. I already had hired a professional editor to work on it and told them that. But they never said whether or not they could remove that item from the package. It seemed like they were more determined just to get my money than work with me. So, unless I was communicating with a fraudulent web site, what is it that’s free with Create Space?

  4. You are so right. This company does hide behind promises and vague information. Anyone new to the “Indie” publishing business would be easily lured into their advertisement. They are not customer oriented and do practice on the thin line of legal. I am surprised that the company is still in business but obviously they are “good” at what they do. I appreciate you spreading the word about this questionable company.

  5. Everything is free, look carefully to see which buttons to press. Amazon is now encouraging writers to upload their paperbacks through KDP so have a look for that too. Why not try uploading as an ebook first?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: