Welcome to the Hotel Author Solutions

October 28, 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-old-hotel-sign-image4947363UPDATE, OCTOBER 18, 2015:  Today, I checked the websites for IUniverse and AuthorHouse to see whether they had made any changes to their form of publishing agreement. Yes, they have. While their old form gave them the right to continue to sell your book on a non-exclusive basis for one year, the new form has changed that to a 90 day period.

But I will keep this post live as a lesson to writers to READ THE FINE PRINT BEFORE YOU HIT ACCEPT ON ANY PUBLISHING OR PUBLISHING SERVICE CONTRACT.

Last week, I spoke at a conference where Keith Ogorek, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Author Solutions, gave a keynote address. I was curious to hear how he pitched the various Author Solutions self-publishing service companies. After all, their prices are high and their reputations dismal, yet they still pull in tens of thousands of new self-publishing writers each year. How did the marketing man himself sell his companies? Did he trash CreateSpace, Smashwords, Outskirts Press and other competitors?

No, he explained. There is room in the market for all these companies. After all some people like to camp, and others prefer to stay at a hotel. CreateSpace and Smashwords are for campers. AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford, West Bow and the various other Author Solutions companies are for those who prefer a more professional and catered experience.

I almost choked on my latte. What an absolutely perfect analogy.

I love hotels, particular ones with soft sheets and fluffy robes. The more chocolate and chardonnay in the mini-bar, the better. But not the Hotel California! Save me and other writers from the Hotel California.

Anyone of a certain vintage will remember the Eagles’ song, Welcome to the Hotel California, about a nightmarish hotel where you can never leave.

Welcome to the Hotel Author Solutions. You can sign up anytime you like, but leaving, well, that’s another story.

Buried in the Self-Publishing Services Agreement for Xlibris, Trafford and AuthorHouse is a never-ending license. (This may be in the agreements of the other Author Solutions companies, but I could not find them on line.)

Read this:

7.3 License Continuation Post-Termination. For a period of one (1) year, beginning at the conclusion of the Term, regardless of the reason for Termination, We [Author Solutions] are granted, by You, the non-exclusive, worldwide license to manufacture, store, use, display, execute, copy, reproduce (in whole or in part), warehouse, host, store, use, transmit, modify (including to create derivative works), import, make, have made, offer to sell, print, publish, market, distribute, and sell (individually or as part of compilations of collective works), and license for use via any subscription model, through all distribution channels (now or hereafter known, including online and electronic distribution channels), and otherwise exploit in any language, in print form, digital format, audio book format, or via any other medium, now known or hereafter devised, the Work [your manuscript].

Translation: Even if you fire the Author Solutions company for poor service, they have the non-exclusive, worldwide right to continue to print, publish and sell your book for a year in print, digital, audio or any other medium.

It gets worse than that. Hidden in the remedies section of the contract is another got-ya. As I read it, if the Author Solutions company continues to sell your book beyond that one year, your only remedy is to collect royalties on their sales. That’s it. You waive the right to stop them.

This is like breaking up with Mr., Slick, meeting Mr. Right, but still being obligated to go out with Mr. Slick every Friday night for a year, or even longer as long as he pays for dinner.

Image you self-publish your book through AuthorHouse  and it sells well. A traditional publisher approaches you and wants to re-publish it with lots of support . They promise book tours and full-page ads. You go to terminate your agreement with AuthorHouse and discover this provision. Now, you have to tell the traditional publisher that you cannot grant them exclusive rights, that AuthorHouse has the right to continue to sell your book alongside the traditional publisher. This could kill your deal and opportunity.

To get out of the AuthorHouse contract will you have to pay something to AuthorHouse? Do you have to buy back your own book? I would not be surprised. If you or anyone you know has been through this, please contact me. I would love to get the story.

Sadly, I had to leave to catch a plane before the end of Ogorek’s speech. I wanted to ask him the business justification for this never-ending provision. He deserves to be put on the spot. In a crowded room, of course.

I DO NOT KNOW OF ANY OTHER SELF-PUBLISHING SERVICE COMPANY THAT HAS SUCH A PROVISION IN ITS CONTRACT. I’ve looked at CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Mill City Press, Outskirts Press, BookBaby, Smashwords. In their agreements, you may terminate any time you like, and they stop selling your book within 30 days, typically less.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-camping-tent-mountains-summer-blue-sky-clouds-high-peaks-dream-image42017952Bottom line, you can choose to stay at a hotel, fancy, cheap or pure business, but choose a hotel you may leave any time you like. Even better, try camping and manage the self-publishing process yourself. It’s not that hard. You’ll sleep better in your own tent anyway.

Writers, you work long and hard on your manuscripts. You pour your hopes, dreams and soul into them. Take the time to look at these contracts before you sign them, particularly the provisions on the grant of rights and termination. If you need more guidance on how to read these contracts, consult with an attorney. At least pick up my book, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. The Addendum walks you through these key provisions so you know what to look for.

If you can write a book, mastering character, plot and structure, then you CAN understand these contract provisions. You have to.

Otherwise you could be stuck with Mr. Slick.

 

SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

28 responses to “Welcome to the Hotel Author Solutions”

  1. Carla King says:

    Brava, Ms. Sedwick! Ogorek used to compare ASI to hiring a contractor to build your deck instead of doing it yourself (as I reported in my PBS column way back, “Why Self-Publishers Should Care That Penguin Bought Author Solutions”). Your Hotel California analogy is right on. Thanks for spreading the word about their draconian contract and the fact that self-publishing isn’t that daunting. There are lots of ethical services to help you out. You named CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Mill City Press, Outskirts Press, BookBaby, Smashwords, and I can add BookBaby, Vook, IngramSpark, too. And there are all kinds of other cool places on the web with nonexclusive terms where you can start small while you finesse your book, like LeanPub, Libiro, and newcomers like ScrewPulp. Thanks again!

  2. A few months ago as I neared completion of my first novel I scoured the web for publishing ideas. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go traditional, and I had no knowledge of the industry.

    AuthorHouse ads were everywhere, and once you they get your email as a possible victim they are very persistent. If not for blogs like this I might have blithely forked over five grand or more, content with the knowledge that that was how self publishing worked.

    You are providing a very valuable service, and I thank you. Now go find out when Ogorekis speaking publicly again and ask that question!

  3. Brian, Your comment made my day. I want to educate writers that there are better options than the Author Solutions model. Much better.

  4. Carla, Yes, there are many reputable professionals and companies to help writers self-publish without losing control. We must all spread the word.

  5. Thom Reece says:

    You wrote more than just a simple article, Helen… it is a major public service to all writers/authors/self-publishers. Thank you. Finally… truth and credibility! I am featuring this on todays issue of Book Marketing Journal.

  6. Great analogy! The vanity presses really prey on new writers who don’t have the information they need to make a good choice for themselves. Hopefully this way, when writers Google about it, this post will show up.

    I recently did a cost analysis of their $999 package – what they offer you, versus what it costs for you to do it yourself (and where to go, like Createspace and Smashwords). For what Author Solutions charges at $999, authors can do a better job of it and retain all the control for just $130, and get the exact same things offered in the package.

    This is that post: http://www.thewriterschallenge.com/2014/07/self-publish-your-book-cheap-not-cheaply.html

  7. I must say I continue to be astonished at the number of suckers… oops, tourists, who stay at Hotel California every year.

  8. Unfortunately, clauses like this are only the beginning of the problem with predators like Author Solutions. For those who aren’t aware of the horrible practices of the company, start with this: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/the-case-against-author-solutions-part-1-the-numbers/

  9. P.S. I’d love to know what conference thought it was a good idea to invite Keith Ogorek…

    • Ogorek speaks at a lot of conferences. If you look at the list of sponsors for many conferences, you’ll see Author Solutions. This is smart on AS’s part; gives them instant credibility. But these conference organizers are doing writers a disservice. They have invited the fox into the hen house.

  10. Ms. Sedwick, I’m a long-time Author Solutions watcher and critic (in connection with my work for Writer Beware). I’m also not a lawyer. But I have to say that I don’t agree that there’s a never-ending license here.

    Here’s the clause of the AS Self-Publishing Service Agreement (http://www.authorhouse.com/uploadedFiles/AHUSTerms%20and%20Conditions.pdf ) where the “sole remedy” language appears:

    “9.3 Our Duties upon Termination.
    Upon termination of the Agreement in a manner permitted by this Agreement, We will supply notices within thirty (30) days to any Affiliates, contractors, or other partners to discontinue publishing and distributing the Work. You acknowledge that We are not responsible for the failure or delay of any of Our contractors, vendors, partners, or any other entities to remove a Work from print, publication, distribution, or marketing for sale once notified by Us. You release Us, Our Affiliates, and Our contractors, and waive any claims against Us or Our Affiliates and contractors, arising from such contractors’, or other Parties’, failure to
    remove Your Work from print, publication, distribution, or marketing for sale of Your Work. Your Sole Remedy against Us, Our
    Affiliates, or Our contractors arising from such post-termination print, publication, distribution, marketing, or other use of the
    Work is solely Royalties upon such Work as specified in Section 8.4 (Royalties Post-Termination).”

    In other words, when an author terminates with AS, AS will send out termination notifications to vendors, retailers, and any other entity involved in production and distribution–and after that one time, it’s off the hook. It has no responsibility for performance–it doesn’t have to follow up to see if vendors, etc. comply with the termination notices, or, if they don’t comply (as sometimes happens), to send them further notifications. By requiring authors to “waive any claims,” and by limiting authors’ right of redress to payment of royalties that may be due because of vendors’, etc. noncompliance, it frees itself of any broader liability for that noncompliance.

    This is certainly a “get out of jail free” clause for AS, in that it lets AS absolve itself of any responsibility for followup, and of any liability if things go wrong (which suggests to me that the “license continuation post-termination” language is–at least in part–another way for AS to cover its butt for vendors’ and others’ screwups). But as I read this clause, it’s not a never-ending license. It’s just a way for AS to do the minimum, and leave it up to authors to deal with anything else that arises.

    • Victoria, The got-ya is hidden in the Remedies Section. I question whether a court would enforce it, but who wants to fight that fight. The contract states that in the event they sell the author’s work in an unapproved format or after termination, the author’s sole remedy is the payment of royalties as Liquidated Damages. The provision is vague, and not as clearly written as the one-year non-exclusive license, but should not be there at all. Section 14.3 says:
      The Parties acknowledge and agree that any harm to You caused by Our breach would be impossible or very difficult to accurately estimate at the time of making of this contract and at the time of the breach, and that the Liquidated Damages are a reasonable estimate of the anticipated or actual harm that might arise from Our breach. Our payment of the Liquidated Damages is Our sole liability and entire obligation and the Author’s exclusive remedy for the listed breaches for which the enhanced Author Royalties percentages are listed as a remedy.

  11. How is that a never-ending publication license, though? To me it reads like AS attempting to limit the possibility of lawsuits like the ones that have been aimed at it over the years, including the class action that’s still ongoing.

    I absolutely agree that the post-termination continuation should not be there. That provision originally appeared in the iUniverse contract, and was heavily criticized at the time. I believe it made its way into the AuthorHouse agreement after AS acquired iUniverse in 2007, and then into the Trafford and Xlibris agreements when AS acquired those companies.

  12. One of the effects of that provision is the author has given up the right to enjoin Author Solutions from selling his or her book and must accept royalty payments alone. Sounds a lot like a license to me.
    By the way, I’ve followed Writers Beware for a long time and admire what you do. You would have made a great lawyer, but thank goodness you are doing something far more valuable.

  13. I have a friend who made the mistake of signing with Author Solutions, but she was lucky. A name author saw her posts on Facebook, and arranged to get her help to get free of the contract. It still took months, but she got her book back.

  14. Helen,

    I’m pleased you had the opportunity to hear my Four Paths to Publishing talk at the recent Digital Author/Indie Self-Publishing Conference. This is an exciting time for authors as there truly is a publishing option to suit almost everyone.

    Victoria’s comment that the post-license termination provision is not indefinite is correct. While we generally remove an author’s work from listing on our AuthorHouse site within just hours, or at most in a few days of the request, and while our print partners generally respond to our request to cease distribution in the same time period, the reality is some large retailers can take much longer to remove a book after we have notified them.

    The provision in our agreement merely provides us and our retailers protection given how long it may take them to remove a book even when we have complied with their specific notification procedures, and, even asked them more than once.

    In fact, the very beginning of Section 9.3 of our agreement also self-imposes responsibility on us to notify our retailers to de-list the books of terminated authors within thirty (30) days of the author request, and we consistently do so.

    Perhaps even more important, our authors will continue to be paid royalties on their book sales during the time of their notice to us, and the time the slowest retailer takes to remove their book from their catalog.

    Finally, according to the agreement, our authors can take his/her manuscript elsewhere at any time after termination – to publish with whomever they choose, regardless of any retailer’s delay.

    Regards,
    Keith Ogorek
    Author Solutions
    @KeithOgorek

    • Keith, Thank you for the clarification and for joining in the conversation. I still wonder why you retain a one-year, non-exclusive license after termination. This is not a typical provision in self-publishing service contracts.

  15. My question is what kind of conference would invite someone like this to do a keynote? Or anything else?

  16. Vanity Press in general is a crooks’ den. I can’t fathom how people sane in their mind can still think of these kind of scams as publishers.

    Really, it’s way beyond me.

  17. This is a great response! The other issue I have with these companies is that authors do not own the design files that are created for their work. Anything they do is really still theirs, and many authors will pay again to get their final files back.

    Authors do not need to self-publish alone or with crooked scammers. I implore you to educate yourself if you are self-publishing, be honest about your abilities and hire a professional team with a clear, easy contract that you can understand.

    Full Disclosure: I offer self-publishing services to a specific audience that wants a catered experience, with no hidden fees and provisions like you and I have mentioned.

  18. If new writers search ‘self-publishing’ online, Author Solutions and its various companies are usually at the top of the search results. Many writers don’t look much further.

    It’s our job to keep posting about the problems so our warnings show up high in the search results. Let’s keep talking and linking.

  19. Oh dear, I fell for it and now I am in a fix with Author House UK= Author solutions. I have had many issues with this company. Then, after a few queries they stopped answering. My books are all over the web even free copies and I get zero royalties. There was also an issue about copyright, in the UKCS there was no copyright deposited I checked with them in the UK. As for the States there are no records online of my books. Author solutions answered that they gave a copy of my books to some library and that is all that was needed for copyright. They are marketing pros and real good at it.They have no interest in selling your books they want you to buy their marketing services which are very costly. Helen Sedwick, I will get in touch with you and tell you about my adventure with Author Solutions. It’s incredible. Great post by the way, wish I had seen it beforehand.My best regards.JT

  20. What does 8.2c mean below? More than six months have passed since I signed the 4 contracts for 4 books. When I terminate my contract I fear I will not get a refund for my last two books that I haven’t yet published.

    http://www.authorhouse.co.uk/uploadedFiles/AuthorHouse_UK/Agreements/AHUK_Terms%20and%20Conditions.pdf

    Section 8. Termination & Refunds
    8.1 Termination. Either Party may terminate this Agreement at any time, with or without cause, upon thirty (30) days’ prior written
    notice to the other Party. Upon termination of this Agreement, You will remain liable for payment of the balance due for any outstanding
    Service Order(s), Additional Services or other fees, subject to the Refund provisions below. We may terminate this Agreement
    immediately and without prior notice for the following reasons: (a) Our determination that affiliation with You or the Work has or might
    subject Us, Our Affiliates or Our Contractors to public disapproval; (b) upon receipt of a formal or informal allegation, complaint,
    demand, or Action in any form made by a third party relating to You or Your Work; or (c) upon receipt of notice from government or
    other person or entity that Your Author Royalties from Qualifying Sales of the Work are subject to inquiry, investigation, Action, or
    garnishment.
    8.2 Refunds. Subject to the exception in Section 8.3 below, upon Termination of the Agreement, We will refund amounts paid by You
    for Publishing Packages or individual Services (“Refund”) as follows:
    Revised: 8/5/2015
    (a) Publishing Packages. The potential Refund for a Publishing Package is exclusive to the amount paid for such Publishing
    Package as set forth in the Service Order(s), and will be calculated as follows:
    i) Prior to submission of the Manuscript: 100%, less a non-refundable £105 (GBP) Setup Fee
    ii) After (i) above but prior to the start of interior design work: 50%
    iii) After (ii) but prior to Final Approval 25%
    iv) After Final Approval No Refund
    (b) Services not Included in Publishing Packages. We will Refund to You the full amount paid for individual Services not included
    in a Publishing Package, or Additional Services, that We have not fulfilled or started to fulfill, or that We are unable to fulfill as of the
    effective date of the Termination. If We have fulfilled or started to fulfill a Service or Additional Service, no Refund for that Service or
    Additional Service will be due to You.
    (c) if You terminate this Agreement more than six (6) months after the Effective Date, You will not be entitled to a Refund under
    8.2(a) or 8.2(b).

    • Jocelyne, Let’s not assume the worst. Perhaps they will give you a refund if they have not done any work. Contact them and ask. If they won’t, then contact me through the Contact Page.

  21. Thank you for your quick reply Helen,
    I have prepared the contract termination without cause letter requesting the refund.I want to be polite and not accuse them of anything. I read and signed the contract, so it’s my fault I guess. I may need them in the future. I could try to write to one of my consultants before mailing my letter. Lately they haven’t been answering my questions by email.Surely they have read my Blog.Thanks for posting a link to my Blog by the way.

    Will let you know about the outcome,I shall cross my fingers.
    Have a nice day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top