Yesterday, several writers I know—professionally- and self-published both—went ballistic at the news: Simon & Schuster Join with Author Solutions to Create Archway Publishing
Why the furor? Why is this such a bad thing? Two reasons.
Reason #1: Conflict with Writer’s Rule #1
Writers Rule #1: Money flows toward the writer.
When you’re self-publishing, this is a hard rule to keep. Remember, though, that when you’re self-publishing, you’re wearing two hats: Writer and Publisher. Money flows toward the Writer, but the Publisher has some up-front costs. But how much up-front cost is too much? Most writers don’t know, are naifs in the wilderness of the writing/publishing ecosystem, and are in general insecure about the whole “business” side of their business.
Archway Publishing is designed to pounce upon this innocence, capitalize on the insecurity, and profit from selling a dream. They offer packages for fiction writers that start at $2000 and go up to $15k, but take a look at what you really get. At the low-end, you get hand-held through the self-publishing process and 5 copies of your paperback, and that’s about it. They list editorial services but what you really get is access to editorial services. To get an actual content edit of your book will cost an additional $4k, if your book is about 100k words.
In short, Archway Publishing is a vanity press.
Reason #2: Author Solutions
Author Solutions is an umbrella corporation. It owns (among others) AuthorHouse, Xlibris, and iUniverse, all of which are notorious self-publishing outfits that prey upon dreamy-eyed writers, offer very little value, and charge a high price.
Most of these publishing venues have an unsavory reputation in the professional writing community. There are worse offenders (PublishAmerica comes to mind), but essentially they are cut from the same cloth.
One item of specific interest is that Author Solutions is also part of the Penguin/Random House conglomerate, and Simon & Schuster is part of CBS. This means that, in part, Simon & Schuster has decided to help the competition. Odd, that.