AuthorHouse a scam operation?

Readers may be aware that several years ago I published a collection of my acid logic articles using the self-publishing outfit AuthorHouse. (Book available from Amazon here.) Over the years I’ve heard the AuthorHouse brand being maligned but never really got the gist of the complaints until I read through some posts on David Gaughran’s blog. Here’s a good one in which Gaughran describes an AuthorHouse practice of dubious morality.

Author Solutions – and their various subsidiaries, including Palibrio, Trafford, iUniverse, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse – has emailed customers pimping a unique opportunity to get your book in front of thousands of readers at the Miami Book Fair this coming November.

For $3,999 you can have a one hour slot at the Author Solutions booth to sign some books. You’ll have to cover your own airfare, hotel, and food, but you will get some free copies to sign, and some bookmarks to give away… if anyone shows up.

The experience of twiddling your thumbs for an hour, looking forlornly at a pile of poorly produced books, is likely to be so memorable that you will deeply regret not swinging for the premium package. For just $7,999 you get to do the book signing and get a 60 second video to treasure forever.

This is likely to be profitable for Author Solutions. In 2011, it had over 50 authors signing books, netting at least $199,950. The following year was even better with more than 60 authors participating, bringing in at least $239,940.

Those numbers don’t even take into account the 400 authors who shelled out $799 each to be in a “new title showcase” that nobody will look at, netting Author Solutions a further $319,600.

In total, Author Solutions made over half a million dollars from the 2012 Miami Book Fair. That’s a pretty good return when booths are going for just $1,000.

I will say, I’ve never had any issue during my AuthorHouse experience. My basic goal was to collect my work in an attractive package I could be proud of, and sell at least a couple hundred, and I succeeded. I was always wary of and disinterested in their various attempts to upsell me expanded packages.

Nonetheless, it’s a little disturbing to realize how much of what AuthorHouse and like minded companies sell is not basic self-publishing tools (like printing and editing services) but a dream. The dream of being a respected and accomplished author. While I certainly don’t think AuthorHouse’s actions are anywhere near criminal, they’re certainly designed to take advantage of authors with stars in their eyes.

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