Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"We're not in Indiana anymore." Publishing has a deceptive 'Wizard of Oz'

When I was a little kid, I went to see "The Wizard of Oz." The Wizard scared the shit out of me, I cried, and left early.

It wasn't until years later that I learned that the Wizard was merely an illusion. When Dorothy's dog Toto opened a curtain, it became obvious that the Wizard was an ordinary man with an amplified voice and animation machinery.

Today I am emulating Toto, opening the curtains to reveal the operator of two deceptive Wizard-ish websites.
You may have received emails from -- or clicked on links to -- ChooseYourPublisher.com and FindYourPublisher.com.
The website's wizards want you to think that the sites are operated by some impartial and knowledgeable entity that will help you select the proper company to publish your book, based on such criteria as genre and reason for publishing.
Unless you look closely (i.e., 'behind the curtain') you might not notice that the sites are not competitors. In fact, they are both operated by pay-to-publish behemoth Author Solutions, Inc. ("ASI") and serve to steer wannabe authors to ASI brands such as Xlibnris and Palibrio.
Even if the best choice for you is Vantage Press, CreateSpace or Infinity, neither "Choose" nor "Find" will tell you that.

There is actually not much difference among the Author Solutions brands (other than Palibrio publishing in Spanish). Author Solutions also operates pay-to-publish businesses for other companies including Writers Digest magazine and religous publisher Thomas Nelson.

At Self-Publishing Book Expo, marketing director Joe Bayern told me that ASI's best editors work on Xlibris titles. The 'best' is often not good enough. Xlibris publishes some dreadful books.

Author Solutions is guilty of other illusions.
  • It invented the phony "Jared Silverstone" (with a purchased stock photo) to hype the company in social media. Jason was deactivated after being exposed as an illusion. Emily Suess played the part of Toto.
  • It co-opted the term "indie publishing" to replace what used to be called vanity publishing and what its competitors call self-publishing. For many years "indie" described small publishing companies who were not part of the "Big Six." Author Solutions was recently purchased by the parent of Penguin -- one of the Six -- for $116 million. That doesn't seem very indie to me.
  • The websites of the Author Solutions brands promise "free" or "complimentary" books to authors. The books are free only if you ignore the payment of as much as $15,249 to get published. (Authors have to pay a fee for shipping and handling of the free books, by the way.)
  • After being offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax benefits by its home state of Indiana, the company has fired American employees and is building up its staff in the Philippines.


  1. "Indie" as a term hasn't been completely hijacked - American Booksellers Association has an Indie Bookstore section:


    Be sure to register your local store there.

  2. "Indie" as a term hasn't been completely hijacked. American Booksellers Association has an Indie Bookstore section:


    Be sure to register your local store(s)

    Would have liked to see LightningSource and its relationship with Ingram talked about here. Existing in a catalog DOES NOT equal credible sales efforts to Indies, let along B & N