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The Alliance of Independent Authors Watchdog Warning: New Self-Publishing Resource from Writers & Artists

indie authors services

ALLi’s Guide to Author Services: Where Providers ARE Rated.

Another once-venerable publishing brand, Writers & Artists, an imprint of the Bloomsbury group, is showing little regard for writers as they move into the self-publishing arena.

We’ve written here before about trade publishers like Penguin and Simon & Schuster showing insufficient care for authors as they trade on their brand-names to sell over-priced and under-performing services to poorly informed aspiring and beginner writers.

Now Bloomsbury is joining in — but in a different way.

The first thing that struck our Watchdog team as we explored this comparison site was the presence of so many Author Solutions (ASI) companies there. ASI is, of course, the controversial organisation that is the subject to a class action lawsuit in New York State. It operates under a variety of names — AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford — to name a few, all widely distrusted by savvy self-publishers, known for high prices and poor service. 

Some of these companies received abysmal ratings in our Choosing A Self-Publishing Service Guidebook (pictured).

So why are they on the Writers & Artists Website?  Is it that the people at Bloomsbury didn’t know?

Alas, no.

ALLi worked with Bloomsbury for some months on a potential rating system for this new comparison website. We were excited to think that Writers & Artists was producing a website that would be of value to authors and were pleased to be invited to rate the providers  and provide a system that would do that.

A challenging task.

Four members of our Watchdog team — Mick Rooney, Ben Galley, Philip Lynch and I — spent a great deal of time and thought working through a pilot trial, to ensure that the ratings provided would be robust and meaningful.

We did come up with a system that we were proud of but in the end it became clear that service providers, not authors, were the focus of this endeavour.

Feeling that authors were not being well served as the vision unfolded, we withdrew.

ALLi Watchdog Warning.

Writers should be aware that:

  • The suppliers on this comparison site pay to have the author’s contact details passed onto them as a “lead”.  ALLi asked that this would be made clear to authors using the service.  At time of writing, this key information still does not appear anywhere on the W&A website and the comparison tool is presented purely as a service to authors. It is highly likely that authors will use the service, without any knowledge that their email address has been passed on.
  • Good services like Silverwood books, Matador, Ingram, Amazon, Kobo, Mill City Press, ebook Partnership and many others — including a number of our partner members —  appear beside some companies who are the worst in the business, without any way for an author to differentiate between those who serve writers well, and those who exploit.

ALLi is disappointed to find that none of its concerns have, to date, been taken on board by the team at Bloomsbury.

We believe writers deserve better from an service comparison site than this.

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31 Responses to The Alliance of Independent Authors Watchdog Warning: New Self-Publishing Resource from Writers & Artists

  1. Linda Bahnan September 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    I agree with this article. Writers and Artists, like so many ‘traditional’ companies, are clutching at straws. However, I have to say that I attended a writing ‘conference’, held under the auspices of Writers and Artists and thought it was excellent value for money. Yes it’s true there was the feeling that the attendees were lambs to the slaughter, as so many paid services were on offer from W & A affiliates, some of them dubious but, oh the thrill of meeting other writers after months cooped up alone and working on my current project: priceless!

  2. ALLi Editorial September 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    You’ll have to come to the day in planning at Rich Mix in November by the Literary Platform. We’ll have a free ticket to give away but it will only be £49 for the day… lots of seminars etc. and only reputable providers! Will keep you posted Linda.

  3. Diana Horner September 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Hi, just wanted to mention that we did not pay anything at all to be included in the list of providers on the website. We submitted information about our services as requested. Our company is well established, and we have many customer recommendations and testimonials.

    Diana Horner
    eBook Partnership

    • ALLi Editorial September 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      Thanks Diane. Our information is that the arrangement is that you would pay for any “leads”, but please do let us know if that is incorrect. Yes, many of the companies on the list are ALLi Partner members, highly reputable and giving great service. It’s distressing to find them in a list with others that are the opposite, and no way for a writer to differentiate.

      • Diana Horner September 30, 2013 at 11:33 am #

        When the site was launched, we received an email saying that there is no charge, but that a charge for leads may be introduced at a future time. I am a little concerned now, that unless a company is mentioned by ALLi (as above) – that other companies like ours, may be bundled into the Buyers Beware Category!

        However, it is always good to encourage due diligence, and I am all for authors and publishers making decisions based on all the facts available.

        Diana

        • ALLi Editorial October 7, 2013 at 10:40 am #

          A good point, Diana. There are too many to list all but the biggest but we have amended the text above to include your company and to read “and many others — including a number of our partner members -”

  4. Janet Gogerty September 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Thanks for the warning. I’ve just come across this site and signed on. ‘Cyberspouse’ and I published on Amazon Kindle as we were neither able nor willing to part with money for someone else to organise our publishing, but we it is great to have the means to judge all the many names and companies out there.

  5. Mitzi Reinbold w/a Mitzi Flyte September 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Good information and unfortunate that it’s necessary. I’ve republished your article on my author FB site: http://www.facebook.com/MitziFlyteAuthor

  6. Melinda Field September 29, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    Thanks again fir your integrity …

    • Orna Ross September 29, 2013 at 4:53 am #

      It’s what we’re here for Melinda.

  7. Avalon weston September 29, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Can I ask ALLi to look at Feed A Read (FAR). I think it is a method of getting your Ebook in print for free. The author just uploads the text. You can choose to pay
    £88 for distribution. (i.e. get on amazon). I’ve just done mine ‘A Midwife Abroad’. The author then buys the books for about £5.FAR sets the selling price.
    This seems to me a brilliant way to get review copies.
    I have looked for a flaw and can’t find it.

    • ALLi Editorial September 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      We’ll certainly take a look, Avalon, and report back. Though from what you’re saying it would be cheaper to do POD on Amazon for an average size book, as Createspace charge less than that for Author copies.

  8. Patrick Dacre September 29, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    This sort of WalMart for writers is fraught with peril. We advocate a joint venture where writers and authors pair up with publicity and marketing indies who are actually doing the work not resting on laurels.

    • ALLi Editorial September 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Yes, Patrick. We have a Partner Membership, where service providers are vetted by ALLi and can be recommended to our members. Anybody who is overpriced or under-performing doesn’t make the grade.

  9. avalon weston September 30, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Re Feed a Read v. Create Space. I have tried Create Space, but as I’ve a word file I’ve got to convert it etc. I ran away from their complicated page.
    FAR asks you to download a template into which you can load the file you uploaded to Kindle. It is simple and a UK company.

  10. Ann Victoria Roberts September 30, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Good points in your article – I’ve copied it to my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ann.v.roberts

  11. Writers & Artists September 30, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Hi All,

    Thanks for your comments on our self-publishing provider comparison service.

    Realising it might be cause for debate, we’ve posted a blog on our website which should go towards alleviating any concerns about the impartiality of the service and its overall goals.

    https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/2013/09/our-self-publishing-comparison-service-where-we-stand

    Please contact us on writersandartists@bloomsbury.com if you would like to know anything further.

    The W&A Team

  12. Dianne Ascroft October 1, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Thanks for the warning. It is disappointing to learn that W&A are taking this route. For years they were the resource that writers depended on and looked to for information and advice.

  13. Debbie A. McClure October 8, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Thanks for the information-sharing. I’ve like-wise shared this article on several LinkedIn forums to help educate and inform other writers. Keep up the good work.

  14. Writers & Artists October 11, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    The Writers & Artists self-publishing comparison service has been designed to give writers a comprehensive, independent and impartial view of self-publishing providers in the market. Writers & Artists welcomes all the feedback it receives on this new service, which has been launched to help increase writers’ understanding of the myriad of services on offer.

    While we would like to thank ALLi for their thoughts in the blog post above, we also feel it important to clarify our position on points raised in objection to the launch of our self-publishing provider comparison engine.

    It is perfectly reasonable to run a service that is both commercial and free to writers, while also charging providers a flat fee for the data that is sent to them. This is a recognized business model that millions of consumers worldwide are used to. The fee received by Writers & Artists covers administration costs and does not affect the impartiality of the comparison service. Furthermore, the ranking of providers on our site is based entirely on the number of services offered by the providers and how closely they match the needs of the writers. This means that no provider needs to be in partnership with Writers & Artists to be ranked higher than others. The agreement with providers is a payment ‘per lead’ and remains the same across the board, ensuring a level playing field between large companies and freelance editors. Every single provider that we know about is featured on the site to ensure that we are being impartial and not partial. Authors know that their details are being passed on to providers for the purpose of seeing if they can fulfill the author need or not.

    Another point raised in this blog is that we are featuring some (or, in particular, one) providers that are considered disreputable. In order for us to be comprehensive and impartial, we can’t ignore them in the hope that writers won’t find their way to them. Furthermore, it has always been in our plan to introduce a ratings system and, as pointed out by the above blog, we attempted to offer this in partnership with ALLi. However, some of the information that we were required to put together was not possible and, unfortunately, ALLi felt it had invested enough time on the project.

    We do, however, remain hopeful that members of ALLi will contribute towards ensuring our User Ratings feature can be as beneficial to authors as envisaged by our team, and that Writers & Artists can continue in its role as the outstanding intermediary resource for all areas of the publishing industry.

    For our comparison service to be as extensive as possible, we encourage every company offering self-publishing services to submit their information to us. This affords aspiring authors the opportunity to compare and research the options available to them.

    For those seeking further information, please feel free to consult our comparison service’s step-by-step guide, our extensive FAQs section, or please contact us on writersandartists@bloomsbury.com.

  15. OrnaRoss October 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Thanks for letting us know about the unfolding situation at Writers & Artists and we are pleased to see that some of the important issues raised are being dealt with. Great to know that the authors are now informed that providers pay to be on this comparison site (we agree there may be nothing wrong with that in theory; our issue was one of transparency).

    One clarification point: neither I nor anyone at ALLi felt we “had invested enough time on the project”. On the contrary, we were keen to contribute and to go on contributing. We withdrew because of Bloomsbury’s refusal to include *pricing* as a value in our rating.

    This to our mind, rendered the rating meaningless — given that authors must make their choices in an unregulated environment where the same service can cost $500 against $15,000, for pretty much the same thing, depending on where you shop. And where one large operation with many imprints — ASI — dominates the information stream, including Google Ads/search.

    Pricing was key to a meaningful rating, as was patiently explained many times, ALLi could not stand over any rating that did not include this vital information in its scoring mechanism.

    The refusal to include pricing, together with other responses and behaviours, led us to conclude that the comparison site was not, as it purported to be, an author-centric service and, as an author’s representative body, we were forced to, regretfully, withdraw.

    All of this was again carefully explained in writing (a communication that, as yes, has not received a reply).

    We are glad the issues at stake are now being considered by Bloomsbury as they are crucially important for the author community.

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