Author Solutions, Random House & Syphilis, Oh My!

author solutions syphilisIt never fails; every time I mention ‘Author Solutions’ and ‘self-publishing’ in the same breath, some self-pub stalwart emails me or tweets me with a tirade about how self-publishing—true self-publishing—has nothing at all to do with the business model of vanity presses, and Author Solutions is a vanity press.

In theory, I would agree. I even tried to make this distinction here on the blog early on, but found it futile. However we might like to define terms like ‘self-publishing’ and ‘vanity press’ in an academic sense, we cannot ignore actual language in use. ASI calls what ASI does self-publishing. Consumers call what ASI does self-publishing. Media outlets call what ASI does self-publishing.

If that makes you angry, perhaps I can console you a little. ASI’s attempt to change public perception by framing itself as a self-publisher has had limited success*. Instead of forcing ASI to use the less desirable term, we’re getting something even better out of the deal: The term ‘Author Solutions’ is now bearing the negative connotations we had previously associated with the more general term ‘vanity press.’

As an amateur linguist, I find this fucking delightful.

***

Recently a friend asked me how things were going with ‘that Author Solutions.’ Her nose wrinkled. Her upper lip curled. She expressed disgust. It was like someone had shown her the syphilis photos from my seventh grade health book at the exact moment she said ‘Author Solutions.’

That’s it! I thought. Author Solutions is syphilis.

And the thing about syphilis is that it’s contagious.

***

Yesterday, Random House went and did something foolish, exposing their sores and lesions to the world. You see, Random House recently launched e-book imprints with contracts so foul they were likened to vanity press contracts.

John Scalzi, president of The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, took Random House to task after seeing contracts for Hydra and Alibi**. He pointed out plenty of problems with the contracts: there are no advances, authors are charged for costs previously covered by publishers, and—I find this stuff particularly disgusting—the publisher keeps your rights for the length of copyright AND options the next thing you write.

Scalzi wrote:

“Dear writers: This is a horrendously bad deal and if you are ever offered something like it, you should run away as fast as your legs or other conveyances will carry you.”

Funny. That’s exactly what Mrs. Hewlett told us about sleeping with people who didn’t want to wear condoms.

***

So what, specifically, does Random House have to do with Author Solutions and syphilis?

Remember back in July when Pearson and Penguin acquired Author Solutions for $116M and the publishing world sort of gasped in horror? Many people thought executives at the traditional house were out of their ever loving minds. Others, including a few ASI employees, expressed hope, thinking maybe the sale would be good for ASI.  Maybe the new owners would finally force the scourge of the publishing industry to clean up its act?

No such luck. Think about it. When was the last time you heard of a healthy person and a syphilitic having sexytime, and the syphilitic being healed as a result?

So the disease has continued to spread through the industry. Pearson (parent of Penguin) merged with Random House after buying Author Solutions. Author Solutions was then hired to run Archway for Pearson’s competitor, Simon & Schuster. Penguin launched Partridge, another self-pub imprint operated by Author Solutions. And ASI already had self-publishing connections to Harlequin, Hay House and Thomas Nelson.

 ***

Maybe I’m paranoid from watching too much Fringe lately, but I believe Random House has a serious case of the ASI syphilis strain. Remember how your Sunday School teacher told you that having sex with one person was just like having sex with all the people that person had sex with? It’s kind of like that in the publishing industry right now. (Author Solutions is owned by Penguin who merged with Random House. Yadda. Yadda.)

Syphilis! Syphilis! Syphilis!

What makes Random House unique from syphilitic brands like iUniverse, Penguin, Partridge, etc. is that they’re not embracing the term ‘self-publishing’ when talking about their suck-ass, vanity-style imprints Hydra, Alibi and (presumably) Flirt—because that’s a term that could raise flags for even the n00biest n00bs.

I believe Random House wants to pioneer making vanity publishing the new traditional publishing, and they’re starting by, as Scalzi puts it, trying to “skim the slimmest of margins off the most vulnerable of writers” first.

I also believe that if these assholes succeed with their little vanity contract experiment, they’ll be one step closer to erasing any distinction at all between vanity publishing and traditional publishing.

And then those self-pub stalwarts all hung up on their definitions are really going to be pissed.

 


*By the way, you should know the law firm Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP is currently investigating the practices of Author Solutions and all of its brands. There are whispers of a class action lawsuit. Tell. Everyone.

**As far as I’m concerned, both of Scalzi’s blog posts are required reading for new authors.

 

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How I Found My Editor

ellis shumanby Ellis Shuman

After I finished writing, revising, and polishing my manuscript – a suspense novel set in Bulgaria – and after receiving very few responses from the many literary agents I had queried, I decided to take my next step in a completely independent direction. The world of publishing had changed, making it easier than ever to self-publish. I had read the success stories of indie authors and I was convinced that I could follow in their footsteps.

Before I clicked the submit button to make my novel available to the public, I had to be totally convinced that it was in the best possible shape, free of embarrassing punctuation and  grammar mistakes. I had reviewed the text repeatedly, but I no longer could see sections requiring further revision. I needed the assistance of a professional editor.

How would I find a suitable editor, one who would connect with my fiction and provide professional assistance and advice at a reasonable price? Just when I was ready to begin looking, Emily Suess added a Self-Publishing Services Directory to her blog. I also found listings on the Editorial Freelancers Association website. I selected fifteen candidates that I felt would be the most suitable to edit my fiction and I sent each of them a short email with a sample of my writing.

I have written a suspense novel (104,000 words / approximately 400 pages) and have been querying literary agents/publishers. I am interested in receiving a quote for editing services (proofreading + just having a set of professional eyes review the manuscript). Thank you in advance for responding with a cost and time estimate for this project.

To my surprise, and very much unlike the process of querying literary agents, most of the freelance editors replied with huge enthusiasm for my project. A suspense novel set in Bulgaria? Exciting! A missing Peace Corps volunteer? That’s just the kind of book that interested them!

With so many eager candidates, I had to select which editor would best edit my manuscript at the most reasonable price. Each of them had been sent a short sample of my writing, although in some cases I was asked to send a longer version. Three pages, one chapter, 50 pages – whatever was needed to demonstrate my writing abilities, showing the prospective editor how much work was to be done and showing me what editorial changes each would suggest.

The responses I received were quite varied. One editor said he wouldn’t change a single word in my first chapter, so I ruled him out right away. Another said he could only provide revision suggestions if he saw the entire manuscript in advance. I ruled him out as well.

The rest of the candidates sent back Word documents with suggested changes highlighted by the tracking function. Unintentionally, I had made a simple punctuation mistake in the very first sentence of my writing sample. Most of the freelance editors immediately pointed that out to me. The majority suggested simple sentence restructuring, occasional word replacements, and a tightening of the text. All of the suggestions were truly helpful, and on target, so how would I choose to work with just one of them?

“The correct way to write the name of the Bulgarian currency is lev,” one of the editors wrote in a comment listed in the Word document sent back to me. “Also, why do you repeatedly refer to your main character by his last name? Was that intentional?”

None of the other freelance editors had pointed out these two issues. In addition, this same candidate had presented the most comprehensive editing of my sample writing, incorporating most of the suggestions made by the other editors and adding many other original revisions. She was the only candidate who had gone out of her way to research the simple elements of my manuscript, to make sure that what I wrote matched the facts.

Of course, setting the price for the freelance editing was also a major factor in the process. To edit a 400-page work of fiction I received quotes ranging from $900 to $3,500. One freelance editor refused to state his price until he had read the entire manuscript. All of the editors stated that they were ready to start work on the project immediately, with quick turn-around times.

Luckily, the candidate who had displayed the best sample editing, was available at a reasonable price. Having a good working relationship with your freelance editor is crucial to the success of a project. Questions, comments, suggestions, observations, and revisions have to be part of an ongoing two-way street of communication. I am pleased with the freelance editor I selected; we worked well together. I have no doubt that my manuscript was vastly improved with her assistance.

My suspense novel, Valley of Thracians, was published for Kindle at the end of January, 2013, and is now available in paperback as well. I would like to thank Amber Jones Barry for helping transform my writing into something I’m truly proud to present to readers. I highly recommend her to writers interested in hiring a professional freelance editor.

[box]Ellis Shuman and his wife, Jodie, lived in Sofia for two years 2009-2010. During that time they maintained a very active blog, Ellis and Jodie’s Bulgarian Adventures, detailing their travels. Ellis is the author of Valley of Thracians, a suspense novel set in Bulgaria. The book is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions. Ellis writes frequently about Bulgaria, Israel, and other interesting things at his blog.  [/box]