Based on an argument in a LinkedIn group, I found there was a significant amount of mis-information being spread about the current Author Solutions case, with some even trying to defend the company by putting the blame entirely on the victims.
As you may imagine, my hackles sat up and turned red.
If you’re a member of the “Let’s Talk About Writing” group (it’s an open group, so if you’re on LinkedIn you should be able to join) you can read the whole sorry mess here.
OK, so for those wanting more background, or to understand the points of law which are extant in the current class actions, against Author Solutions there is background, more background and the full text of the most recent judgement against ASI’s motion to dismiss.
In precis: Author Solutions have been investigated and are accused of failing to deliver (in part or in whole) those services which are, in fact, stipulated in the contracts. The judge sitting has dismissed one of eight original claims, allowing the others to stand and be heard by court. The one she has dismissed would have sought to break the contract against which all other claims are based. The judge has also ordered that Penguin Random House is dismissed as co-defendant, leaving Author Solutions to stand as sole defendant for its actions.
I greatly encourage the reading of the facts of the case, rather than engaging in rhetoric over whether or not a generic contract is legal and binding. Contracts may be challenged if they are deemed unfair; the results of a contract may be challenged if either party do not supply.
The point of Unfair Enrichment (of which Author Solutions stands accused in hundreds of cases), is that if a supplier enriches themselves at the other parties’ expense they must provide something of equivalent value for that enrichment; when they do not, that is Unfair. When a supplier seeks to imply that certain types of enrichment are “standard” when the same services, of an equivalent quality, can be found for substantially less cost (or free, in many cases), and the supplier does so in the full knowledge if these facts, that may also be deemed to be Unfair.
The full case (and thus the ultimate detail to be presented) has not been heard, but that is the basis of the legal challenge.
Recently, there was also an excellent article I re-blogged here which gave a good round of the situation. In addition, the article seeks to highlight the several other ways in which Author Solutions presents services which can be obtained for substantially less cost, or for free, or which Author Solutions has no method of actually delivering with greater success than an author may do on their own.
There are numerous examples presented and well documented. Several people have also supplied anecdotal evidence on either side of the fence, of which I am not in favour, but which seems to be evidence-du-jour – the balance of that evidence to any reasonable interpretation is that Author Solutions, and its practices, should be avoided at all costs.
Some have claimed that it is purely a case of caveat emptor, the writer should know the publishing business before entering the fray…
I quite agree that a writer seeking to make writing their profession, or to work in the industry to any significant degree, should make themselves fully aware of the business aspects of industry.
Someone seeking only to have their one-and-only manuscript “published” (or just printed), needs to be able to trust that this industry will not strip them bare to do so, and then fail to deliver.
The point about naivety is that many (or most) writers, on entering the industry do not know what they do not know; they haven’t even, yet, formulated the questions to ask what they do not understand. THAT is naivety, and it is in precisely these situation that a predatory company will practice some form of Unfair Enrichment.
We cannot educate everyone who seeks to enter the business, without providing an Authorship 101 as a compulsory module at school; even then it’s not a given. What we can do is spread such knowledge as we have about these businesses which practice predatory tactics and try to eliminate them from the industry, when we find them.
When companies like Author Solutions exist, the industry as a whole suffers.
Readers lose potentially great books.
The authors lose potential income, standing and readership.
The legitimate publishing companies lose the same as the author, though from another angle.
The industry as a whole loses face and the trust of both readers and writers.
It is a situation which cannot be borne, and should not be excused, argued for, or perpetuated.