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Indie Authors ALLi Watchdog Warning: Archway Publishing

 

Ben Galley ALLi's Self-Publishing Services Watchdog

Ben Galley ALLi’s Self-Publishing Services Watchdog

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is concerned about the email approach being made by Archway Publishing to a number of our advisors and colleagues.

Archway is a new joint venture between publisher Simon & Schuster and Author Solutions (AS) an umbrella company operating self-publishing package brands such as AuthorHouse, Xlibris, and iUniverse. Several of these regularly bring forth serious complaints from writers (see below).

The new Archway imprint, though backed by a trade publisher, exhibits the same model widely employed by AS and is almost indistinguishable across the various imprints.

Like the others, Archway’s products are designed to provide a “360-degree solution”  (from cover design to editorial assessment to ISBN and eBooks) for authors wishing to self-publish. And also like the others, the price tag on Archway’s packages is far from cheap: beginning at a handsome $1,999 and reach a — staggering! — $14,999.

“What’s causing concern is not the cost per se,” says Orna Ross, Director of ALLi,  “but the value to authors in how their book will be packaged, presented and promoted to readers. An expensive service that delivers may sometimes be better value than a more reasonably priced one that does not.  Sadly, Author Solutions’s houses are infamous among writers for their failure to deliver — and worse — and so far, even more sadly, we are seeing no evidence that Archway is handling the self-publishing challenge differently.”

Desperately Seeking Self-Publishers 

Archway is currently engaged in a mass marketing drive, contacting industry professionals, bloggers, and organisations, inviting them to join their new affiliate scheme. The “Archway Affiliate Program” enables partners to earn a $100 “bounty” for each author that buys a self-publishing package from them.

This is a smart, if not slightly worrying, move by Simon & Schuster and Author Solutions. There are plenty of publishing package providers in this industry and, as many of you already know, ALLi is keen to root out the flaws that these packages can often exhibit — overly high price tags, questionable quality in offerings, misleading information about publishing potential and vague promises that are not, often cannot, be delivered.

The argument for the package model is that it allows authors a one-stop shop for all their needs, across the spectrum of publishing. The counter argument is that an overly large initial investment by the author is financially risky. The inclusion of a middle-man, especially one that is overpriced, makes it very difficult for the average author to break even, never mind make a profit.

And many package providers fail to deliver in key areas, such as cover design, due to the mass-production, conveyor-belt-style way they process their customers. Often promotion and marketing promises do not follow through. And some go so far as to require exclusive rights, when instead of offering an advance on royalties, an author is being asked to pay to be published.

Given that Archway now has the power of  a major trade publishing house behind them, it is more important than ever that writers are clear about what precisely is being offered in exchange for sizeable fees.

Opportunity or Opportunism?

In their email approach, and on their website, Archway is keen to tell the author that “Simon & Schuster, always on the lookout for fresh, new voices, will monitor Archway titles that perform well”  This is of course very attractive to authors. Do we dare say it sounds like a lure, to draw more authors in to purchase self-publishing packages?

Combine this with the tack Archway are taking with their Affiliate Scheme, and asking leading industry figures to include links on their websites, and it is easy to see that this is an all-out, heavyweight grab to attract as much new business as possible.

These promises will remain unfulfilled for the vast majority of authors who, going on past performance, could be falling into the trap of a dubious package model. Complaints that ALLi, and other writers organisations and concerned representatives like Victoria Strauss, David Gaughran and Emily Suess, regularly receive about Author Solutions companies include:

  • non-payment of royalties
  • inaccurate royalty information
  • misappropriation of rights and breach of contract
  • harassing sales calls
  • not returning phone calls and in other ways ignoring complaints or service issues
  • excessive markups on review and promotion services
  • selling formerly out-of-print works without author consent
  • overcharging for and/or failing to deliver marketing services promised
  • overcharging for and/or failing to deliver distribution services promised
  • telling customers add-ons will only cost hundreds of dollars and then charging credit cards thousands of dollars
  • shaming and banning writers who go public with their stories
  • verbally insulting their writers.

Says Orna Ross: “When Penguin’s parent company bought Author Solutions last year, ALLi hoped they would fix the editorial issues that gives the company such a poor reputation and make its activities more author-focussed and transparent. We still hope that might happen — but have yet to see any indication of it.  Archway describing themselves on their website as ‘a passageway to becoming a published author’, for example, is the sort of misleading language that is very unhelpful.”

As always, ALLi urges each author to be shrewd and to put services under a microscope before parting with your money. Analyse what that service could cost elsewhere, if it’s worth it, if it’s possible to be handled by yourself.  Compare what you’re getting with offerings from companies like KDP, Kobo, Bookbaby, Smashwords, Createspace and Lightning Source.

Under such scrutiny, more often that not the price tag for a publishing package quickly goes from appearing like good value, to looking very extortionate indeed.

 

Watchdog Watchout 1: Known AS brands and partnerships include: Author House, iUniverse, Xlibris, Trafford, Palibrio, Publish in the USA, Abbott Press, Balboa, WestBow, Inspiring Voices, Legacy Keepers, FuseFrame, Pitchfest, Author Learning Center, WordClay, BookTango and AuthorHive.

~

Watchdog Watchout 2: If you want to know more about which provider is best for you as an author, or want advice on the plethora of providers out there, ALLi will be launching its first publication – SELF-PUBLISHING SERVICES FOR INDEPENDENT AUTHORS: A COMPARISON GUIDE – at this year’s London Book Fair. Written by Ben Galley, the Guide will examine every inch of the most popular providers and all of their services, allowing you to make complete and informed decisions. More news about the Guide coming soon.

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16 Responses to Indie Authors ALLi Watchdog Warning: Archway Publishing

  1. Diana Horner January 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    As eBook conversion and distribution specialists, we are recommended by Waterstones and have many clients and referrals from the Society of Authors. Since we began converting and distributing eBooks in 2010, we have been clear that we do not offer promotion of eBooks within our services. This is simply because it is a specific and challenging area and needs focus and constant attention from the author along with help from expert marketers or enthusiastic and knowledgeable contacts at the very least!

    We have ‘inherited’ many disillusioned clients from other companies who promise the earth and deliver little, and I am pleased that you shine a spotlight on shady practice. I encourage writers and publishers to ask as many probing questions as they can think of and to go through our Terms and Conditions carefully. This results in some lengthy telephone calls, but happy clients and referrals.

    Please add us to your list of companies to examine closely :)

  2. ALLi Admin January 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Thank you Diana. The way ALLi handles this is to invite good service providers to join as Partner Members: http://allianceindependentauthors.org/joining.html. Once joined, they are vetted and once passed, free to let our author members know about their services. This allows us to highlight good providers and gives us funds to do our campaigning and other work on behalf of indie authors. Thank you for your interest — when the view is good, there’s nothing we love more than taking a closer look. :)

  3. Philippa Rees January 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    A timely reminder of the horribly familiar. Perhaps Ben’s Guide could collate a lot of dis-illusioned authors’ information. It is not so much that these Companies overcharge, but over-promise, particularly on the promise of marketing, and if one falls for that, and overpays for the other (which may be rather ho-hum) in order to achieve marketing, you lose on both. The same applies to the suggestion that if you use a publisher’s (like Thomas Nelson’s) self publishing arm ( Westbow) you are likely to ‘picked up’. If you have written 50 shades….maybe but she certainly had succeeded first, and did not need the ‘respectability’…if indeed that is the appropriate word conferred by Random House.

  4. Ken Windsor January 15, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I published my e-book on Amazon Kindle and did it myself, at no cost. If you do not feel up to the task then there are conversion companies such as the one operated by Diana who will do the job at reasonable cost. Marketing and promotion is a very specialised area and what many non-fiction authors fail to realise is that the best person to do this is the author himself.

    Non-fiction by definition will encompass specialist areas and the good author will know his subject and genre better than anybody else when it comes to identifying target readership.

    There are also many authors out there who seem to be bombarding us with self help books which are little short of brainwashing – presenting in a paid-for format large chunks of chapters which offer nothing more than plain common sense.

    My advice to everyone is – before getting caught up in any “paid-for services” from flash looking companies just stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself “can I do this myself, or with the help of other less expensive options ?”

  5. Kevin O. McLaughlin January 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Archway is, flatly, another scam in the same line as the rest of the Author Solutions scams. Using that term advisedly: Webster’s defines “scam” as “a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation”. While whether or not Author Solutions and Archway’s actions constitute fraud or not is up to the courts to decide, these companies are incontestably deceptive operations.

    Authors should avoid these operations at all costs.

    My general guidance about publishing methods is simple:
    It is OK to partner with another company for publishing. If that company is taking ANY up front money, then the finished work should be uploaded to the *author’s* accounts at retailers/printers. No exceptions. It is OK for a publishing partner to take a percentage of sales in exchange for editing, cover art, distribution, or other services rendered. But it is flat out bad business to work with a company which both takes up front money for those services and a percentage of sales.

  6. Anthony Cabrera January 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    This is getting frustrating!!! I was actually excited to read about Archway and foolishly felt that it was a real solution. I thought that writing the book would be the hard part but here I sit a year after I finished it and nothing but confusion…

  7. ALLi Admin January 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    That’s why ALLi’s here, Anthony, to show the way. It’s not confusing, really. You just need a writing/publishing plan and to choose the path that’s right for you. Many of our members are finding their way to a great deal of success: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/alliance-of-indie-authors-members-on-member-benefits/

  8. Gordon March 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Another rip off self publishing pariah uncovered – Draft2digital scam
    It was an awful shame I had hoped that Author Solutions would be transformed when acquired by Penguin’s parent company. I investigated both BookTango and a self publishing ebook grinder called http://Draft2digital.com. I tried D2D’s ‘free’ services for three months and never received a cent. Reading their terms it states they hold your money for 60 days but even after those days passed I still never received my royalties. I know at least 20 people who my book through them but nothing was paid – thank god I never gave them my bank details. Sadly I realized I was never going to see this money and pulled my book from them. I uploaded my e-book to KDP and have never looked back.

  9. David James March 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    You have to ask yourself why in the first place successful houses like Penguin and Simon and Schuster would wish to dabble their toes in the still murky waters of self-publishing. I mean, what’s in it for them? They’re already booming. Are they honestly looking for that delicate flower that’s otherwise born to blush unseen? Are they charitably disposed to the young talented but stifled author? Do they really expect to rescue gasping talent from the slushpile? If you live in the real world you know that these mega companies are savvy enough to lend their name and cash in on the exponential growth of the self-publishing industry. .

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  11. trina January 3, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Well, it seems as though you began to bash Archway Publishing, before their first publishing. I like Archway & you seem to be scheming so that you lure people your way. It’s a dirty game & you seem to be just a dirty.

  12. Val Dumond (@oldenoughtoplay) January 7, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    It’s already begun, Ben. I read about Simon & Schuster’s grand idea to publish memoirs for seniors through AARP and Huffington Post (of all people). But the rules were ambiguous and, to a experienced author, a tad threatening. S&S wants all rights to your material, even if you don’t win.

    I sent an email to the contest people at AARP to clarify and received a bland repetition of what was written down. So I went to S&S. About the same time, earlier this week, S&S announced their deal with its supposed partner, Archway, to publish your book. They make all kinds of promises about high quality and great service — but neither the website nor the free booklet (to download) mentions actual costs.

    When I woke up this morning, all seemed clear. This was another one of those “publishers” who want to publish anything you write — and will do it through dubious means. One of my clients recently had a nightmare publishing experience with Westbow, costing her a fortune as they sold and sold and sold and harassed her to buy, buy, buy. When I interceded for her, giving my phone number but not my real name, I began to receive calls to “help me publish”. That was 8 months ago — they’re still calling!

    Soon after I arose, my telephone rang. I knew without answering, it was Archway. A friendly voice identified himself as from S&S, then rattled off a message of help for a struggling writer and asked me to call them. I suspect I’ll be receiving their calls for months before they give up.

    Oh yes, I opted out of the memoir publishing contest! Immediately!

    Please add S&S’s Archway Books to your Beware List!

    • George January 23, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

      Well, I’m waiting for a reply as to why no one read my book–no reply all of a sudden. I am into this for about six months now.

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