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Simon & Schuster Launches New Imprint to Fleece Self-Published Authors

November 27th, 2012 by · 9 Comments · Self-Pub

Times are tough in the publishing industry, so much so that major publishers have sunk to a new low: fleecing self-published authors.

Simon & Schuster announced today that they are going to get down in the gutter and muck about. They’re launching a new subsidiary called Archway Publishing, and they are going to run  it in partnership with the scamtastic Author Solutions.

Like the other self-publishing divisions of trade publishers (LifeWay’s Cross Books, Thomas Nelson’s West Bow Press, Harlequin’s Dell’Arte Press [which, unlike other ventures of this sort, produced a furore upon its introduction and had to change its name], Hay House’s Balboa Press, and Writer’s Digest’s Abbott Press), Archway Publishing is outsourced to Author Solutions Inc. S&S is the biggest fish ASI has landed so far. (via Writers Beware)

With prices starting at $1600,Archway promises to do for authors everything they could already have done for themselves: publish a book in digital and paper form. But with Archway authors will be saved the strenuous effort of uploading the ebook to various ebookstores, hiring their own cover designer and layout expert, and they will also be saved the grueling efforts needed to create a POD book via CreateSpace or Lightening source.

In exchange for a measly 2 grand, Archway will also provide a novelist with services which are far too difficult for authors to do for themselves, like copyright registration and buying an ISBN, as well as desperately necessary services like registering for a LOC Control Number.

But don’t worry; Archway is going to save money by skipping the unimportant steps involving editing the manuscript to produce a professional quality ebook.

And to top it all off, not only does Archway fleece authors out of money at the beginning; they also demand a cut of any sales. Like Penguin’s BookCountry self-publishing scam effort, Archway takes a sizable chunk of any net sales – 50%.

Do you want to know why I am so hostile to this idea? It’s because S&S won’t be hiring any new staff to fill roles at Archway. No, all these services will be provided by  Author Solutions, a company which is widely regarded as a scam.

Author Solutions might be currently owned by Penguin, a detail which does not speak well for Penguin’s business ethics, but there is no sign that they have cleaned up their act. All we are seeing today is that Author Solutions is merely offering the same scammy deals they always have, only this time they get to do so under the formerly good name of Simon & Schuster.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • KarlB

    This really is a creepy development.

    The $1600 price for the services they’re providing is high, though (depending on the quality of their work) perhaps not outright theft. But 50% of net sales on top of that? That’s outright theft.

    Clearly Penguin and S&S have decided that in the changing world of publishing, the only way for them to go on making money is to start stealing it.

  • the rodent

    Wow. It never costs me anywhere near $1600 to do it myself… But cover design is a major expense. So maybe they’re paying the artists really well? Somehow I don’t think so…

  • Nicola Valentine

    It’s clear that the landscape is changing and that publishers need to change their business model. I think that providing services for self-published writers is a good idea, in principle. But this is not the way to go about it. The prices need to be fair and reasonable and any right minded publishers needs to steer clear of the old vanity presses.

    It’s interesting because it doesn’t take much research to work out that the vanity route is way more expensive than it should be, and completely unnecessary in this day and age. But I still see people getting convinced by it. The lure of a book with your name on it is still so strong that it’s far easier than it should be to exploit people.

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  • Richard Fitt

    The only thing that surprises me about all this is the fact that anyone is surprised. But at least the bubble has burst on the myth that mainstream publishers are the guardians of literature and the only people who can publish quality manuscripts. The only thing they have ever been is the guardians of their own wallets, i.e. exactly the same as any other company on the planet. And there is nothing wrong with that.
    Anybody who saw the recent ‘Image’ programme on the BBC about the future of the book will know that the prophesy the programme gave is within 20 years there will only be three publishers left, Amazon, Apple and Google. Why? Because they have three major advantages over any of the current giants such as Penguin, they are iconic companies offering free, direct access to a market place used daily by hundreds of millions of shoppers. As part of their rearguard action the current trade publishers need to grab a slice of the ‘self-published’ market. It’s just a pity from their point of view they chose such a contentious organisation as Author Solutions as the initial company to get into bed with. One does wonder about their ‘due diligence’ process.
    As for the way self-publishing companies operate, there are really only two ways to attract business: Offer an upfront, honest business which points out the pitfalls and lets the author proceed at their own pace and with the full knowledge that recouping their investment is unlikely for the vast majority, or use high turnover, commission based salesmen to go out and get it, with all the problems we all know that will create. The former company will probably remain small and never get rich, but will sleep well at night; the later will get rich and undoubtedly leave a bad taste in the mouth, as seems to have happened here. I know which I prefer to be.
    Richard Fitt. Editor of Authors On Line Ltd

  • Richard Fitt

    Sorry – ‘Image’ should be ‘Imagine’

  • DC Reid

    For a reading in Victoria, we put out a perfect bound book, that I put together and which was designed by one of our members for free. It is a terrific book, as it combines the work of a dozen writers, that cost us $5.43 per copy – and we sold every one.

    50% in royalties? I can’t see anyone but a complete non-writer agreeing to this.

    Oh, and cover design for an e-book is simple. Just find an image in your files, do a little enhancement, and put the name, and ISBN number on it, and put it on Amazon.ca, costing you $0. After having done one – it takes awhile to understand the contract – the next one took me about five minutes.

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  • stephanie cataliotti

    Penguin Random, Simon Schuster, Harper, Author Solutions, LLC, AuthorHouse, IUniverse, Trafford etc. etc…. a laundry list? Who owns who? Who recently purchased who?
    I have a rep who told me that HE was the contact for everything from design to editorial. Yeah, OK, lol. I’ve read practically every blog on the industry and have become terribly disillusioned. An AH rep said they published ‘Legally Blonde’ handled screenplay sale, as well.
    Also told that people blog negatives because their beloved manuscripts don’t sell. OK, so not everyone is Hemingway. So, not all books are super terrific. But whose point of view is that? Someone who sits in a cubicle reading ‘stuff’ all day long? Or maybe it’s the AH rep who told me he politely declined when I asked for one person to lead me through the process. I can’t stand anymore rhetoric, lawsuits, bad mouthing. While working in cable media for one of the founding fathers of that industry he said, “There’s only one dollar in the world and everyone wants it.” Seems he’s right.
    Should I self pub or not? That’s the rub.
    And Archway is extremely expensive and furthermore, out of the blue comes the a la carte menu. If everyone wants to freely give their hard earned money away, we should just have a game of poker. No books, just cards. Happy Thanksgiving.

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