Tag Archives: scam

Barnes and Nobles Wants To Be Author Solutions When It Grows Up

If you haven’t yet seen it, do check out the FAQ for the Barnes and Noble/Nook Press satirical attempt to offer self-publishing “services.”   David Gaughran has more.

My favorite part is the $399 charge to be told which editing package you should purchase.

My second favorite part is knowing your Barnes and Noble/Nook Press print book will not, under any circumstances, be sold through any Barnes and Noble store — physical or online.

Barnes and Noble has run out of feet of its own to shoot, and is apparently taking volunteers who will pay to be shot.


Best Lawnmower Contest

Here’s a thought: I’ll hold a contest for the Best Lawnmower.  You and everyone else drop your lawnmower at my house, I’ll carefully evaluate them, and the winner will get a free landscaping session from my brother.  (He’s a gardener.)

Your lawnmower might not win, but you won’t have to worry about it anymore.  No, you don’t even have to come pick up!  You see, when you entered the Best Lawnmower contest, you gave me complete ownership of your lawnmower.  I get to keep it.  Or use it to mow my own lawn.  Or maybe rent it out to someone else so they can make some money with your lawnmower, too.  Or maybe I’ll just sell it.  The moment you walked your lawnmower onto my property, I owned it.  Didn’t you read the fine print?  Look, if you didn’t want me to own that lawnmower, you should have just brought me the old one you wanted to get rid of anyway.

You should be happy with this!  After all, I’m telling people it’s your lawnmower!  What more do you want?

That’s the gist of Amtrak’s current rules for writers submitting for the train residency.  The problems with the contract have been discussed in many, many places.  Here’s the view of an Intellectual Property Attorney.

I’ve submitted to writing contests.  I’ve even won.  I’d never send a piece of my writing to a contest, publication, group whatever that thought my writing was worth so little to me that I’d give it away just for the oh-please-pick-me chance at a prize.  I’m a no-name, but I’ve kicked around the industry’s edges long enough to see how easily and willingly new writers will fall for the “But everybody does it!” claim if they think there just might be an outside possibility Someone Important will finally see their work.  They’ll fall so willingly, they’ll ignore contract conditions that take advantage of them, choosing to  believe that’s the price one must pay.

That belief, my darlings, is bullshit.

Do I think Amtrak has knowingly done this?  I can’t say.  Perhaps Amtrak looked at a few highly advertised contests with unprofessional rules, or perhaps looked at boilerplates of the sort new writers are warned away from signing.  Perhaps the transportation company tossed this project together to take advantage of a sudden interest, and didn’t think it through.  Or perhaps they knew exactly what they were doing, and were counting on that writerly willingness I mentioned above.

It’s a really cool idea, the whole writers on a train residency, and I’d love to do it myself.  Trains and writing are an awesome pairing.  But not so awesome that I’ll participate in, and thereby encourage, poor and exploitive practices.

The truth will come when and if Amtrak releases new application rules, now that professional writing organizations and individuals have pointed out these and other contract issues.  Until then, I have neither the need nor the inclination to donate my property.

So if you still want that lawnmower of yours back, I suppose I’ll hand it over.

But… Hey…  Would you like to enter my Best Pie contest while you’re here?


ETA: Amtrak has confirmed the rights to all parts of all applications, including the writing samples, become Amtrak’s property upon submission, and that the writing from those submissions will be used for Amtrak’s promotional purposes.  This isn’t a “business transaction.”  It’s a rights-grab.

Truly, if after understanding the principle of the rights-grab, you still think supporting the practice is worth a free train ride, go for it.  But don’t go around telling new writers that giving up control of their intellectual property is an honorable standard and therefore not worth worrying one’s pretty little head over.

An Additional Piece on Author Solutions

David Gaughran takes on the Author Solutions situation again, this time from the perspective of their participation in a Canadian book festival.

The festival’s stance boils down to, “Well, writers should know to investigate them first.”

Here’s the deal: Writers trust writers groups and book festivals.  They assume there is a basic ethical standard that would keep said groups from inviting and supporting known scam artists to stand beside professionals at their events.  They assume said groups wouldn’t want their own professional image tarnished.

Increasingly, alas, it’s the assumption of shared basic ethics that permitting companies like ASI to hook new writers with the full support of publishers and book festival organizers.  “Sure, ASI is ripping people off, but we’ll keep endorsing them as Super Cool, and blame the writers who fall for it!”

Go read the article and marvel at the book festival response.


Update to “Interesting Timing”

Back on May 21, I mentioned that Bowker was recommending the vanity press Author Solutions as a great place for self-publishers to find needed services.  And now–Hooray!–the endorsement of Author Solutions has been removed.

However–Boo!–the first choice on the list is now Vook.  This is a company that charges $6 per page for copyediting.  This is a company that calls ebook retailing “complicated,” thus justifying the percentage of royalties they will take.  Oh, and the payments from ebook retailers go to Vook first, and Vook will pay its customers (the writers).  Is Vook more acceptable because it doesn’t have as many complaints against it as Author Solutions?  I’m not sure.  It looks as if I’d have to “sign up” to get more information.

Never trust a company that requires you to “sign up” to learn about what you will be paying for.

If Bowker understood self-publishing, their links would be instead to the various self-publishing platforms and information centers rather than companies that charge huge fees for work that can be performed by professionals at reasonable rates

(As an aside, Vook works in partnership with Publishers Weekly on a program that has self-published writers paying a fee for a line listing in PW publications that go to folks working in the publishing industry.  Truly, if one wants to spend money marketing, it would likely be best to target readers.)

This stuff drives me crazy.

Interesting Timing

Today I followed a link provided by David Gaughran to a website run by Bowker (the exclusive provider of ISBN numbers in the U.S.).  The site purports to be informational for folks looking to self-publish.  The trouble is, their recommended service includes Author Solutions.  ETA: It used to be listed as the first option, but has oddly enough been moved down the list.

If you’re not sure why that’s a bad thing, check out the Writer Beware blog for years’ worth of background.

The rest of the site is also filled with misinformation that does, indeed, make self-publishing sound so immense, costly and daunting, it’s small wonder inexperienced writers, or writers who haven’t researched much, would see it as a relief to have companies like Bowker and Author Solutions on their side.

What’s interesting is that this news–this seeming support of self-publishing from Bowker–comes on the heels of big (yet oddly quiet) news from the distribution sector of the publishing world.  Book distribution company Baker & Taylor changed its policies, permitting self-published titles to appear alongside of, and be sold at the same terms as, titles published by the “Big Publishers.”

So why did this happen now?

I think it’s tempting to assume it’s because self-publishers and small presses are seeing greater possibilities for success than ever before.  But I’ve a cynical bent, you see.

I believe these two major shifts happened because, as is outlined here, the large publishers who work with Bowker and Baker & Taylor now have their own “self-publishing” divisions which are–what a coincidence!–mostly supported by Author Solutions.  While the main source of income for Author Solutions has been authors purchasing services rather than readers purchasing books, I’ve no doubt “Big Publishers” wanted a better chance of making money off bookselling as well.

That doesn’t mean small press and self-publishers can’t take advantage of the opportunities.