Read the Fine Print
I subscribe to a number of magazines and read them cover to cover. Admittedly I will skim parts of them but I learn a great deal in this process which is a regular part of my reading life.
I'm one of millions of subscribers to Readers Digest magazine. For many years I've faithfully read this publication. In the January issue, I was drawn to A full color ad and the words, “Love to Write? Pursue Your Passion with LifeRich Publishing and Reader's Digest.” I scanned my page and have included it with this article.
The page was positioned near the front of the magazine near the index to catch a lot of attention. Because I'm constantly reading about publishing and had never heard about LifeRich Publishing, I read a little closer.
Then I located the publishing connection—see the second image that I'm including which says, “The Reader's Digest Association Inc and Author Solutions LLC.”
In the next few months, I'm almost certain to meet authors who will claim they have been published by Reader's Digest through LifeRich Publishing. It is the same way writers will claim they have been published by Thomas Nelson through WestBow or Lifeway through CrossBooks or Guideposts through Inspiring Voices.
There are at least 20 different company names for the various Author Solutions companies. I've met numerous authors who have paid $8,000 to $20,000 to these publishers and have many books in their garage. The authors who took this leap did not read the fine print of their agreement.
These companies are only online—i.e. no book placed inside brick and mortar bookstores. Yes there are some exceptions but of the thousands of titles they are producing each year, it is only online sales.
I have written about this issue in the past. Make sure you carefully read this Publisher's Weekly article from 2012. Notice this sentence in the article about their employees, “Its workforce totals 1,565 full-time employees with by far the greatest number, 1,215, located at its facilities in the Philippines which handles not only production but sales and marketing as well.”
The volume of books these Author Solutions companies are producing is staggering. Just check out this article from 2011 which shows they produced over 47,000 titles (yes different books). These numbers have only increased in the last few years.
Recently I heard Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference. He said, “Author Solutions has put the capital V in Vanity Publishing.” Coker was talking about the cost of publishing for authors and how they are paying these various Author Solutions companies with very little return on their investment. There is a reason that Penguin purchased Author Solutions for over $116 million. Large amounts of money here but not necessarily beneficial for the authors.
Last fall, I wrote an article about how authors can avoid being cheated. I raised a series of questions that many authors never ask when they are considering publishing. If more people ask the questions, they will be wiser about what they are doing. It grieves me to see authors spend a great deal of money with the expectation their book is going to sell and become a bestseller—yet in reality they haven't asked enough questions or the right questions to make an informed business decision.
Yes publishing a book with anyone is a business decision. Ask lots of questions to make sure you make the right decision.