Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Simon & Schuster Is Trying To Bribe People Like Me refer people like you to their new vanity imprint, Archway, which they formed in partnership with AuthorHouse (aka "ASI") late last year. A couple of days ago, I received the following, kind of astonishingly brazen email from a Simon and Schuster staffer:

Simon & Schuster recently launched Archway Publishing as a new type of offering for self-publishing authors. With services delivered by Author Solutions, Archway was developed to help authors achieve their publishing goals and reach their desired audience. S&S has provided guidelines on book design, introduced certain unique self-publishing services, designed packages tailored to meet specific author objectives, and will monitor titles for potential acquisition.

Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options. We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers. The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway*. Click here to learn more about the affiliate program. In addition, we’d like to extend to your audience a 10% discount off any Archway package, when referred though affiliate links on your site. We can also create contests, webinars, and creative for your site, or discuss other ways to work together.

[*emphasis added by me]

Note that when industry people write to me and make reference to my "blog", they're generally talking about, not this blog.

Anyway, it's obvious that this person has zero familiarity with me, aside from the fact that I own and operate a site that's very popular with writers, authors and publishing professionals. Anyone who bothered to peruse this blog would've very quickly discovered there's no way I'd ever sign on for such a thing, and I'd be inclined to publicize the offer.

After re-reading the email a couple of times to be sure I wasn't misunderstanding anything, and giving myself a couple of days to put together a more reasoned (and less pissed off) response, I hit Reply on that email, and this is what I said:

I have always advised indie authors to avoid vanity publishers, and AuthorHouse is one of the most notorious among them. The reputation of AuthorHouse as an overpriced, under-performing scam agency far precedes its name. I have warned many a writer away from AH in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

I am very disappointed to see such an august and respected publisher as S&S moving into this new, arguably predatory market area: pairing up a respected publisher with a vanity press to offer desperate would-be authors various, fee-based "services"---any of which the writer could retain him- or herself from freelancers at a fraction of the cost---and/or a publishing contract offering terms that virtually ensure the publisher will turn a profit, but the author will not. Surely the strongly negative reaction to Random House's Hydra imprint hasn't escaped your notice?

I'm also troubled by your affiliate offer, as I fear many others you've approached with the offer will accept it and be motivated to lure naive aspiring authors to Archway like so many lambs to slaughter. The mere fact that Archway can afford to pay affiliates a $100 "bounty" per referral attests to unnecessary fees your author-clients are being asked to shoulder. I have little doubt that bounty is being paid by the author who was referred, probably bundled together with many other fees under an innocuous, yet vague heading like "book set up".

I am sorry to be so negative, and I understand you are not personally responsible for the existence of Archway. However, having been a supporter of indie authorship since the days when people scoffed at the possibility of brick and mortar bookstore chains failing, I've seen far too many companies like yours take advantage of far too many of my peers. To say I feel very strongly about this sort of thing is a gross understatement. Nevertheless, I am glad to have received your email for one reason: now that I am aware of Archway, I can warn others about it.

So if anyone on any site you frequent is starting to advertise Archway, refer site visitors to Archway, or running content or contests provided by Archway, in all likelihood it's because that person said "yes" where I said "no".

It would've been more honest for Archway to offer a "bounty" of thirty pieces of silver per referral, because anyone in the indie community who takes them up on this offer is a Judas.

*UPDATE* See S&S's response to me, and mine back to them, here.


Anonymous said...

April, this is my first ever visit to your site and I already love you!

I know and know of too many authors who have gotten themselves into a financial hole with vanity presses and your response was perfect! Exactly what I would have told them.

Unknown said...

Very well said. Kudos!

HistorySleuth said...

Excellent response. Professional yet right to the point!

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

I'm with you; I cannot believe a reputable publisher such as Simon & Schuster would sign any agreement with those scam artists. Thank you so much for the warning.

Commander Mc Bragg said...

Wow, thanks for the tip. I'm planning on getting my first rejection notices in a month or so. I'd rather be rejected than scammed, any day. Thanks again.

India Drummond said...

I also received a similar letter from Archway last week, but they were asking me to blog about and recommend a "workshop" they were running. I thought about replying, but in the end, decided just to bin it, because I figured anything I would say to them would fall on deaf ears anyway.

Did they respond?

L K Jay said...

Really interesting post and good to keep my eye out for. As Commander McBragg said, I'd rather be rejected and do the self-publishing myself than waste money on false hope.

April L. Hamilton said...

India -
No response from S&S, and I don't anticipate getting one. I mean, what could they possibly say?

Publishers keep blindly jumping into these vanity ASI 'partnerships' without giving a thought to how badly it reflects on them. The more they engage in these transparent money grabs, the more current and future authors will be turned off to working with them. How can you trust any company that's involved in such underhanded dealings?

David Thayer said...

Thank you for posting this April.

Michael J. Sullivan said...

Well done! An excellent response.

James F. Brown said...

Wow. Looks like Trad Pub is going all-out to see who can be the biggest sleeze artist. First Random House with their egregious e-pub imprints contracts, and now Author Solutions, having been bought by Penguin.

More and more reasons to self-pub as an Indie and less and less to go the Trad Pub route. I wonder how this will continue to play out. Probably in the most ugly, rapacious, and venal ways possible.

April L. Hamilton said...

I got a response from S&S today. Here's my very brief post about it, containing their response and mine back to them.