May 29, 2013

Complaints about AuthorHouse, Complaints about Xlibris, Complaints about iUniverse, Complaints about Trafford, etc., etc. - Angela Hoy | printable version

BookLocker.com, a firm that competes with Author Solutions (the parent company of AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, and more), is the parent company of this publication. However, many unhappy Authors Solutions' authors have submitted their manuscripts to BookLocker for consideration after becoming unhappy with AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, etc. When BookLocker.com must reject a manuscript (we vet manuscripts for quality and salability), we refer those authors to reputable P.O.D. firms. NONE of the Author Solutions' firms are on that list (and never have been!). We have received far too many complaints about them over the years to refer any hopeful author to those outfits (which we glumly call the "author meat markets" of the industry).

Earlier this month, Author Solutions was (finally) sued by a group of writers who are unhappy with their services. Author Solutions is the parent company of AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, WordClay, and other properties. The suit is seeking class-action status. At WritersWeekly, we have received numerous complaints from unhappy Author Solutions authors over the years. Each year, it seems to get worse!

I've been telling authors for over a decade to avoid firms that use marketing verbiage that plays on an author's vanity. Whenever a firm makes you think using their service is going to help you "win money and gain recognition", or earn "fame and fortune", or says you "deserve to be immortalized", you should run FAST in the opposite direction. The fact is it's not illegal to preen an author's feathers in the hopes they'll pour the contents of their wallet into the P.O.D. publisher's coffers. It's also not illegal to upsell authors on services that may cost more than many authors will ever see in resulting book sales. Unfortunately, too many authors fall prey to these marketing tactics.

While I believe the "you talked me into spending too much money!" parts of the lawsuit aren't going to be successful (any judge is going to wonder why the authors fell for such nonsense), there are some parts of the suit that, in my opinion, do indeed have merit.

I think Author Solutions is going to have a problem with the websites they set up to help unsuspecting authors "find your publisher" and "choose your publisher". These sites appear to be non-biased, and draw hopeful authors in with the promise of helping them find a publisher. What authors don't know is, after they fill in the blanks on the website form (they even ask you for your date of birth!), the only options they'll receive are, of course, sites owned by Author Solutions! I'm not a lawyer but, in my opinion, that is fraud. They should be stating right up front, in bold print, that the ONLY options the website visitor will receive are a list of firms OWNED by the company that also OWNS that website.

As for the upselling part of the lawsuit, the angry authors are correct (but I'm not sure any law was broken there). Trying to convince an author to buy a tiny ad in the New York Times Review of Books for $4,000-$5,000+ (an ad that also, by the way, promotes whichever Author Solutions firm sold it to the author) is just wrong. I've never heard from any author who sold enough books to pay for that ad. On the flipside, I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who chose to use AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, or their other properties when there are numerous complaints posted about them online. Simply google one of the company names and the word "complaint" or "scam" and you'll have plenty of reading material to get you through your lunch hour and more. I'm not saying Author Solutions is a "scam" but I am saying I don't agree with the way they run their business and some of their past authors have used that word to describe them. They seem to care a lot more about how much money they can get out of an author's wallet than they do about how many books the author sells.

I found it pretty laughable that Author Solutions' response to the lawsuit, in part, was that they have an "A" rating with the Better Business Bureau. It looks like they managed to wrap all the old complaints up into the Author Solutions BBB account in 2010 so the old company names in the BBB database no longer have a rating, nor any complaints listed. Ah, well-played, Author Solutions, well-played! Perhaps Author Solutions only takes steps to satisfy authors who complain to the BBB since there are plenty of authors who are still unhappy who have not complained to the BBB themselves...hence the lawsuit and the numerous complaints appearing on other websites.

Of course, if you believe a company with a A rating at the BBB has a spotless record, somebody might have a bridge to sell you... You also need to remember that most consumers contact the company first to try to resolve a problem before resorting to contacting the Better Business Bureau. Only when that fails do some contact the BBB.

If you type in the Author Solutions' company names into RipOffReport.com, PissedConsumer.com, and other consumer sites online, there are some pretty eye-opening complaints about them so, again, that "A" rating at the Better Business Bureau is, in my opinion, "B.S."

After all the complaints we've received about them over the years, we're shocked it's taken this long for somebody to file a class-action lawsuit against them. We wish the authors well!

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."

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