I own BookLocker.com, which used to compete with Infinity Publishing / Fast Pencil, before they announced they would no longer be publishing, printing, and distributing their authors’ books. This article is my opinion, based on publicly available information, numerous complaints posted about them online, and messages shared with me privately by authors who have experience with Infinity Publishing and FastPencil.
As of today:
The FastPencil website redirects to Opyrus.com.
The Infinity Publishing website is still operational, and appears to still be accepting manuscripts. There is nothing on their homepage at all about their plans to cease publishing books IN JUST 1 DAY. Interestingly enough, the letter they sent to authors last month has the Infinity Publishing logo and this headline: “We Are Sunsetting Our Services”
I wonder who came up with that creative (stupid!) term? It should say, “We’re no longer going to publish and print your book and, by the way, if you want your production files, you’ll have to pay us for them.”
And, why doesn’t it mention FastPencil? Oh wait, it does. It’s signed, “The Infinity Publishing team” but, underneath that, appears this:
Copyright (C) 2023 Fastpencil, Inc.. All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
Fastpencil, Inc. 517 Boston Post Rd Sudbury, MA 01776-7600 USA
According to Arthur Gutch’s LinkedIn profile, Infinity Publishing merged with FastPencil in February, 2017. So, I don’t know why the letter sent to authors only has the Infinity Publishing name at the top. Hmm….
Infinity Publishing’s History
Infinity Publishing evolved from a printing company called “Professional Duplicating,” which Tom Gregory founded in 1977.
Originally called “Buy Books on the Web,” Gregory changed the company name to “Infinity Publishing” in 1998.
In 1997, he developed a system that gave self-published authors the ability to print and sell their books online. This was about two years before others developed the same capability.
By all indications, Gregory was a straight shooter and a friend of authors. He even contributed a comment once to an article on WritersWeekly, back in April of 2009.
The reports of problems between authors and Infinity didn’t appear to start until after Gregory sold the company to New Harbour Partners LLC in May of 2010. At that point, Arthur Gutch took the helm as CEO. Gutch remained in that position until the merger of Infinity Publishing and FastPencil in 2017. Gutch is the CEO of another division of the company called Opyrus.
Steve Wilson and Michael Ashley founded FastPencil in 2009. The idea behind the company was to build a social network around writing. At the core, FastPencil was a web-based tool to help authors compile and format their books, and then publish those books through print-on-demand.
In 2013, one of the largest book manufacturers in the United States, Courier Corp., bought FastPencil as a play to get into the self-publishing market. But, Courier ran into financial problems trying, among other things, to incorporate FastPencil into its overall business. By 2015, Courier sold FastPencil back to Wilson.
The Merger Between Infinity Publishing and FastPencil
The paths of Gutch and Wilson crossed at some point shortly after Wilson bought back FastPencil. The two announced a joint deal with Bowker in May of 2016. And, six months later, FastPencil announced another deal with Books-A-Million.
By February of 2017, according to Gutch’s Linkedin profile, Infinity Publishing and FastPencil merged.
The Timeline Gets a Little Muddled at This Point
Opyrus does not appear to be a separate company, but is instead a DBA of FastPencil. Gutch’s resume says he became CEO of Opyrus in 2017. But, the domain Opyrus.com wasn’t registered until September of 2018, which is a bit odd for a company with an Internet-based service. Usually one secures the domain before, or close to, the time of forming the company.
Also, Wilson’s resume says he was CEO of FastPencil until July of 2018, roughly a year and a half after the Infinity merger.
There is not anything particularly nefarious about all of this but I think it shows confusion. And, the online complaints about FastPencil seem to follow this timeline.
The Rebranding of FastPencil to Opyrus
Opyrus appears to be FastPencil 2.0, but oddly reimagined using three concepts in fashion with the venture capital community at the time: Wellness, SaaS (Software as a Service), and a mechanism for altruism to show the company is “giving back to the community” (The LifeWrite Project).
Gutch and Wilson Try to Raise Money
In December of 2020, Opyrus launched an equity crowdfunding effort to raise approximately $250,000. What is equity crowdfunding you ask? I didn’t know, either, so I looked it up.
Essentially, it is Kickstarter for private businesses. The company sets an amount it wants to raise, and then sells shares to the public for a specific period of time in an attempt to meet that goal. The company has to reach the goal. Otherwise, no shares get sold.
To do this sort of offering, a company has to file documents with the SEC that include, among other things, a business plan and top level financial data for the last two years (in this case 2020 and 2019).
Opyrus did that here:
In that filing, it’s pretty clear things weren’t looking good. Seriously… Would YOU invest money in a company with these numbers? I can’t believe a company with only four employees (at that time) has/had that much debt!!!
Incidentally, at BookLocker.com, we keep our belts tight, and always have. We charge reasonable rates and we take excellent care of our authors. We have ZERO DEBT and we ALWAYS pay our royalties to our authors on time. In fact, on many occasions over the years, like this month, we paid royalties early. For all those reasons, BookLocker has stayed in business, and remained profitable, for 24 years. Infinity Publishing / FastPencil should have taken a page from our book (pun intended) when running their business!
Interesting reading. If, after reading it, you can understand exactly what they do, and how they could possibly recover their prior financial losses with that service, please let me know.
It is unclear if they raised all the money they were seeking but I don’t think they did based in the line below in this document.
2021-07-29 ($0.2 MM Offered, $0.1 MM Sold)
Things That Don’t Quite Add Up
+ There are authors who are very upset with Infinity Publishing / FastPencil. These authors are claiming that they are not getting royalty payments, nor even getting a response when asked about the matter. Authors have been complaining about non-payment of royalties dating back to at least 2017. Yet, authors kept signing up for their services? I think many authors chose NOT to sign up after seeing all of the complaints posted online about Infinity Publishing / Fast Pencil / Opyrus. That may explain their financial numbers above. And, I bet things were even worse in 2021 and 2022 but we’ll never know.
+ Opyrus.com was registered in 09/12/2018 but the company’s Linkedin page, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and blog pre-date that year. It is likely that they are using the digital assets of the previous companies. To an undiscerning eye, it makes Opyrus look more established than it is. Though I don’t know how much good that strategy is doing since upset authors have been leaving comments on those social media channels. There is even a Facebook page called Fast Pencil is a Scam. It appears Infinity Publishing abandoned their Facebook page in 2019 since that’s the last time they posted. They haven’t posted to the Opyrus Facebook page since January, 2022. Here are two comments under that last post:
+ There are more than 7000 titles under the Infinity Publishing name and 642 titles under the FastPencil name, according to Amazon. When are they planning to remove those books? After all, the company is getting paid for the sales of those books.
+ VERY CONCERNING. An author sent us a copy of an email she received saying she’d need to pay $25 per title for each of her books’ files. Since Infinity Publishing / FastPencil took money from those authors to publish their books in the first place, and are now leaving those authors in a lurch, shouldn’t the company be giving those files to the authors FOR FREE?!?! And, what about authors who are owed back royalties by the company? Shouldn’t they also get their files for free AND payment of their royalties?!
+ Arthur Gutch is still the CEO of the new organization. I sure wouldn’t invest money in a company with that track record.
If you are an Infinity Publishing / Fast Pencil author, know that they are planning to cease book publishing operations on October 15th. You MUST get your production files from them ASAP.
CLICK HERE to learn how to do that.
What could the company have done differently?
They could have spent their money more wisely. I am absolutely floored by the numbers in the image above.
They could have paid their authors’ royalties on time, thus saving their reputation. I suspect all the complaints about Infinity Publishing / FastPencil online had a major impact on their revenues. If they’d just done their jobs right, and tightened their belts, maybe they wouldn’t be terminating their authors.
When they decided to cut their authors off, they could have offered to transfer their authors’ files to a different company (a stable one!!) rather than giving authors one month to contact the company. What about the authors who never saw the message???
What do you call it when a company sells its authors’ books, and doesn’t pay the authors’ royalties. I’ll tell you what I call it. Theft.
If you are an Infinity Publishing / Fast Pencil author, after you get your production files, I encourage you to report them to the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The complaint form on their site is RIGHT HERE.
They appear to be planning to keep Opyrus running. Shouldn’t they have to sell all their assets to pay their authors’ past royalties? That would seem pretty fair to me. If they plan to stay in business, no matter what they call it, or what that division is doing, those future revenues should also be used to pay past debts.
What do you guys and gals think? Please let me know in the comments box below.
- EXTREME AUTHOR ALERT: Infinity Publishing/Fast Pencil is CEASING BOOK PUBLISHING OPERATIONS! Here Are 3 Things Their Authors MUST Do RIGHT NOW!
- MORE COMPLAINTS about Fast Pencil / Infinity Publishing. And, now they have a website called Opyrus!
- Complaints about FastPencil / Infinity Publishing!
- Infinity Publishing Tries to Insult Us on Twitter, Then Immediately Blocks Us
- Complaints about specific publishers
- BookLocker’s Publishing Packages and Prices
Founder Buys Back FastPencil
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