Since my own foray into indie publishing last month, I promised a blog post on the ups and downs of my experience. But that will have to wait. Today I think it's more important to publish four links about the new class action lawsuit filed April 26, 2013, against Penguin and Author Services Inc., which it owns. Under that Penguin umbrella are a host of other self-publishing services, such as AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, Xlibris, Palibrio, and Booktango. ASI is also the force behind self-publishing imprints with traditional book publishers like Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing), Thomas Nelson (WestBow Press), Hay House (Balboa Press), Guideposts (Inspiring Voices) and Writer's Digest (Abbott Press).
I've had students and manuscript clients who have published books with some of the services listed above, and who said they were satisfied with what they got for their money. I've also had clients who were so traumatized by their experiences with these same services that they couldn't even bring themselves to share the details with me. They seemed to take the blame onto their own shoulders, and were too ashamed to talk about it.
Well, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit isn't ashamed. In Emily Seuss' blog, Jodi Foster (no, not the Oscar-winning actress) is more than willing to talk about her experience with iUniverse.
I have not researched this particular lawsuit thoroughly, though this Mick Rooney blog post at TIPM takes a balanced look at it. Also, Victoria Strauss at the excellent Writer Beware blog reports on it as well.
Until I can write more intelligently about the lawsuit, I'll withhold comment on that. What I will say now is this: it has always made me deeply uneasy that major publishers such as Simon & Schuster—even Christian publishers such as Thomas Nelson—should offer two separate paths to publication. If you aren't lucky enough to get an actual contract where they pay you to publish your book—and give you all the editorial and promotional services that go along with that, for free—there is a back door, a kind of servant's entrance. You can still have that affiliation with S&S or Nelson, sort of—as long as you are willing to pay them for the privilege. But does that buy you the same careful editing, the book design, the cover art, or the promotion that a contracted author receives? Somehow I doubt it.
Now that may not be a fair representation of how these self-publishing imprints of traditional publishers work, but that's how it comes across to me. If any reader has published a book with one of these imprints, I'd love to hear about your experience.