Writing on the Ether: Oil, Water, Publishers, Self-Publishers

3 October 2013 iStock_000016610957XSmall photog Serasker texted story image

Table of Contents

  1. Echoes of Past Mistakes
  2. ALLi Is Not Amused
  3. CONTEC: Do They Have Any Business in Your Business?

Echoes of Past Mistakes

Another once-venerable publishing brand, Writers & Artists, an imprint of the Bloomsbury group, is showing little regard for writers as they move into the self-publishing arena.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Jonny Geller, Kristin Nelson, Michael Tamblyn, Jon Fine, Hugh Howey, Amanda Barbara, Peter Armstrong, Florian Geuppert, Matthias MattingHold that thought. Hang on to those words of Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, an international group based in the UK. The keywords I want you to note in that line from Ross are publishing brand and little regard for writers as they move into the self-publishing arena. We’ll be back to Ross shortly.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Jonny Geller, Kristin Nelson, Michael Tamblyn, Jon Fine, Hugh Howey, Amanda Barbara, Peter Armstrong, Florian Geuppert, Matthias MattingWednesday evening in New York City, I was glad to be invited to speak on a panel of journalists who cover publishing at a session of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR)—the literary agents’ organization. My colleagues on the panel were Andrew Richard Albanese of Publishers Weekly, Michael Cader (our Twitter refusenik) of Publishers Lunch, Laura Hazard Owen of GigaOM.

Agent Brian DeFiore organized the evening, which included a lot of frank, thoughtful exchange between agents and media types, a good event.

Our moderator was Shana Cohen of Stuart Krichevsky’s seaworthy agency. (I’ve teased Krichevsky for years that if he takes on any more books about dreadful historic disasters at sea—Sebastian Junger’s harrowing The Perfect Storm, Nathaniel Philbrick’s someone-may-have-been-eaten In the Heart of the Sea— his staff is going to be wearing life rings in the office.)

One of the questions Cohen asked us at the AAR panel in New York was what questions we might put to chiefs of the major publishing houses.

I answered that I’d like to ask major publishers how such smart, accomplished business people keep making the mistake of approaching the self-publishing phenomenon in ways that so clearly—and so predictably—hack off the author community.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Jonny Geller, Kristin Nelson, Michael Tamblyn, Jon Fine, Hugh Howey, Amanda Barbara, Peter Armstrong, Florian Geuppert, Matthias MattingI’m referring to the Pearson-Penguin buy of Author Solutions announced in July 2012 and the November 2012 announcement of Simon & Schuster’s creation of Archway Publishing, a “self-publishing experience,” as the press release phrases it, from Author Solutions (ASI).

And the links in the above paragraph take you to Author Solutions’ own announcements of its Penguin parentage and its Archway deal with S&S. There’s a reason I’m linking to those ASI statements, in which you can read the company’s own way of announcing these things.

1 October 2013 iStock_000016421102XSmall photog Lisay texted story imageLast weekend during the Writer’s Digest West Conference (#WDCW13) in Los Angeles (I’ve written about the event in Ether for Authors: Do All Conference Roads Lead to Writers Now? at Publishing Perspectives), I met and spoke briefly with Author Solutions’ Keith Ogorek, Senior Vice-President of Marketing.

A more affable and able panelist you’d be hard-pressed to find. Ogorek made his points very well on the “New Frontiers” self-publishing panel moderated by Writer’s Digest Publisher Phil Sexton.


Keith Ogorek

Author Solutions runs a Writer’s Digest division, Abbott Press.

And Ogorek’s good contributions to the panel were announced prior to the conference by Author Solutions in this press release.

Here’s a bit of the tweeterie I was churning out during the panel on September 27 relative to the sort of comments Ogorek contributed.

Ogorek’s observations were the insightful, experienced comments of an executive from a company that is expanding its approach to self-publishing authors through arrangements with traditional publishers. ASI becomes those companies’ self-publishing arm.

In a quick talk between presentations in Los Angeles, Ogorek made the point to me that criticism of the company frequently is made without an attempt to get a comment from ASI. This is not good practice. It’s why I’ve chosen to link you to ASI’s own statements about its associations with Pearson-Penguin and with Simon & Schuster, and about his appearance at Writer’s Digest West. In those statements, you can read the way ASI, itself, sees and phrases these events.

Today’s central issue, however, coming to us from Ross and the Alliance, does less to call Author Solutions into specific question than it asks a larger question about the UK’s Bloomsbury and other major publishers working with author-services providers.

For this reason, I’m not engaging Ogorek directly on this one, but will be most happy to hear any comment if he feels he’d like to provide one, as I was glad to have input recently from corporate folks involved with BookExpo America and ran that commentary, in full, on the Ether.

Before leaving ASI, I want to show you something else you learn when you look for the company’s press releases in its news section on the site: announcements of legitimate deals, Author-Solutions-originating books chosen by major publishers. Many—but not all—of the titles listed have been picked up by ASI’s new parent, Penguin.

A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la PavaThe most lustrous of those currently listed is Sergio de la Pava’s A Naked Singularity.

The author published the book, himself, originally through Author Solutions’ Xlibris.

It was picked up by the University of Chicago Press. And now, it has won the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize.

Another such publishing deal from an Author Solutions start is Brand Damage! It’s Personal! by Larry G. Linne and Patrick Sitkins. That one was picked up by Prentice Hall, a Penguin Random House imprint to be released in January 2014 as “Brand Aid: Take Control of Your Reputation—Before Everyone Else Does.”

There are more. But today, our topic is the peculiar discomfort in which publishers find themselves when they try to get into the self-publishing service-provider gig, themselves.

Book Country Literature Map July 2013 final - literary highlightedAs you might recall, the Pearson-Penguin buy was particularly awkward in some observers’ minds Penguin Global Digital Director Molly Barton and her team were making a big effort at the time to win the respect of authors with their Book Country program. (More about that program, now relaunched, is in my write-up at Publishing Perspectives, Book Country: Now Opening New Territory.)

It appears that the publisher in question this time is Bloomsbury, which has attempted to expand its own author-wooing “services” effort with what it calls a “self-publishing comparison service” as part of its expanding Writers & Artists program for authors.

It’s this effort the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Orna Ross is addressing in the comment that opens today’s Ether.

Back to Table of Contents

ALLi Is Not Amused

We’ve written…before about trade publishers like Penguin and Simon & Schuster showing insufficient care for authors as they trade on their brand-names to sell over-priced and under-performing services to poorly informed aspiring and beginner writers.

Now Bloomsbury is joining in — but in a different way.

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Orna Ross

In her piece on the new Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists “comparison site” of self-publishing services, Warning: New Self-Publishing Resource from Writers & Artists , Ross reveals that ALLi actually was working with Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists to help create the comparison functionality—which sounds, on first hearing, like a place to go to check out one service’s offerings vs. another.

Four members of our Watchdog team — Mick Rooney, Ben Galley, Philip Lynch and I — spent a great deal of time and thought working through a pilot trial, to ensure that the ratings provided would be robust and meaningful.

Choosing a Self-Publishing ServiceThe choices of author service providers Bloomsbury was making, however, wasn’t what Ross and her associates felt they should see.

An update: While my understanding originally was that Ross based her ratings of such providers on ALLi’s own guide for self-publishers, Choosing a Self-Publishing Service Guidebook, she tells us in a comment below that the process worked in the opposite direction: the commentary in the book is based on the research done “initially as a response to the request for assistance from Bloomsbury.” You can read her comment here.

Meanwhile, in her statement on the ALLi site about author-service providers listed by Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists, she writes:

…Some of these [service provider] companies received abysmal ratings in our Choosing A Self-Publishing Service Guidebook.

So why are they on the Writers & Artists Website?  Is it that the people at Bloomsbury didn’t know?

The ALLi-Writers & Artists relationship went south, it seems, when, Ross writes, “it became clear that service providers, not authors, were the focus of this endeavour. ”

She writes:

Writers should be aware that:

  • The suppliers on [Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists’] comparison site pay to have the author’s contact details passed onto them as a “lead”.  ALLi asked that this would be made clear to authors using this service.  As far as we can see, this key information does not appear anywhere on the W&A website. 
  • Good services like Silverwood books, Matador, Ingram, Amazon, Kobo, Mill City Press etc. appear beside some companies who are the worst in the business, without any way for an author to differentiate between those who serve writers well, and those who exploit.

Since Ross posted her piece, Writers & Artists has posted one of their own at their site—making our job easier because a comment is being provided.

Writers & Artists @writersartistsIn Our self-publishing comparison service: where we stand (unsigned, in corporate tradition), the people behind the Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists comparison site appear to step forward to lay out the truth of who is paying whom here:

Providers who have elected to receive data are charged a flat fee, ensuring all those featured remain on a level playing field. Should writers wish to do so, their information on which services they are interested in is then passed on to providers. They will then be contacted by providers with further information regarding the services they have indicated within the questionnaire.

Even with Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists now stating clearly—seemingly thanks to Ross’ and ALLi’s public commentary—that providers are paying to attract author interest by being part of the comparison program, the “comparison” term, itself is questionable.

What a “comparison” turns out to be when you work your way through the Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists questionnaire, which you can find here, is a price-quote sent to you by one or more providers you choose from the list.

Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists makes some other interesting offers to authors, these in direct exchange for money, aside from the “comparison service.”

For example, you can buy a “How Strong Is Your Book Idea?” appraisal for  £119.99.

Or a “Beat the Rejection Clinic” for  £199.

Another interesting twist—Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists’ statement following the ALLi post includes this, emphasis mine:

In addition to the comparison service itself, there are also articles from industry experts (from editorial and marketing advice through to warning signs to watch out for in a provider); an ever-evolving glossary of industry terms; an expanding FAQ section; and interviews with self-published authors. These features have all been included with writers in mind. Our goal is not only to help demystify the self-publishing process, but also develop an accessible, impartial service that puts writers in touch with the providers best-suited to moving their novel forwards.

So we have a firm line in the sand. ALLi sees the Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists “comparison site” as being about the providers who pay to be on it, not about authors who might come to find them. And Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists is using the phrase “with writers in mind.”

In short? This is a confusing presentation of something called a “comparison.” In all fairness, we should include this note from Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists, which makes it seem as if Ross’ and ALLi’s concerns may not be a surprise:

We are, of course, expecting lots of feedback from writers using our service, and we’ve already planned how we’re going to put this to good use. Once we’ve received sufficient data from writers, a second ratings section will be introduced in the results table. This will allow authors the opportunity to filter results by both ‘Best Match’ and ‘User Reviews’, further strengthening the transparency of the platform and allowing freelancers to rank alongside established companies established within the industry.

“The transparency of the platform” sounds good to me. What Ross and ALLi are reporting in careful, level-headed language, is that they believe such transparency is not in place and may not, indeed, be an actual goal of the Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists.

The bottom line lies in each writer’s assessment of his or her own needs and resources.

However you feel about Bloomsbury/Writers & Artists or about Ross and ALLi or about one service provider or another, the real question here is about publishers moving into the self-publishing space, some quite aggressively, with offers of what are inevitably presented as highly useful, writer-supportive products.

While many legacy publishers may not like to think about how large the self-publishing movement is (Smashwords alone, has announced that writers have self-published more than 250,000 books on its platform), it appears that making money off self-publishing authors is just fine by the traditional houses.

And that is, at the least, an unattractive reality.

Back to Table of Contents

CONTEC: Do They Have Any Business in Your Business?

I don’t know whether publishers operating in the self-publishing services space will be a specific topic of discussion, the coming CONTEC Frankfurt 2013 Conference’s extended “interactive learning lab” session, “Self-Publishing and Its Implications for the Industry,” will be looking at many such issues on Tuesday, October 8.

CONTEC SelfPub Impact Panel iStock_000013987129XSmall photog MacXeverMore about that panel is here in a piece from Publishing Perspectives on it, Self-Publishing and the Industry: Implications and Impact. Our purposefully large panel for the session includes author Hugh Howey; Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary; Peter Armstrong of Leanpub; Amanda Barbara of Pubslush; Jon Fine of Amazon; Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown; Florian Geuppert of Books on Demand; journalist Matthias Matting; and Michael Tamblyn of Kobo.

Both Jane Friedman, host of the Ether, and I will be on-hand at the CONTEC Conference all day and you’re most welcome to follow the many fine sessions from this day-before program at Frankfurt Book Fair through hashtag #contec13. For the Book Fair, itself, the hashtag is #fbm13.

Have you availed yourself of “author services” offered by a traditional publisher? What was your experience? How do you feel about traditional houses creating these programs to sell to self-publishing authors? 

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Main image:  iStockphoto – Serasker

Posted in Writing on the Ether and tagged , , .

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

View posts by Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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On first glance, Porter, my question is this: what is the end game? Why would a traditional publisher dip into the self-publishing industry? Are they trying to make up for lost revenue on the traditional side? Are they trying to diversify their holdings? Are they afraid they’re missing out on easy money from naïve writers? Are they simply altruistic, redefining their life’s work to now “serve” writers? From the outside, it’s always looked to me as if they’re trying to bypass agents. By opening a self-publishing division, they can troll for the next superstar author on their own time. They’re… Read more »

James Scott Bell

It’s simple. Publishers are in business. Businesses have to make money or they won’t be in business for very long. Disruptive technology has scrambled the risk assessment of the traditional publishing matrix. An uncertain future looms, but businesses have to plan or…..they won’t be in business for very long. In light of that, “self-publishing services” is a logical choice in this context. It’s an income stream. It’s a shot, it’s an action, it’s a preparation. It’s also uncomfortable, because it’s not at all like the monolithic publishing model that’s been in place for over 150 years. Big industry having to… Read more »


I love this synopsis, Jim. Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here and just ask the question…why do publishers think that writers need these services? Because in my mind, we are way, way past all of this.

Porter Anderson

@Victoria_Noe:disqus @jamesscottbell:disqus @christinakatz:disqus Viki, Jim, Christina, I love it when you guys team-teach a tutorial like this, the Ether couldn’t be in better hands! This is really a great little trio of comments. I’m just off the plane (or still on it and dreaming I was off) from the aforementioned panel with the agents, and delighted to find this lively and smart, smart, smart convo going on. Viki, you’re asking all the right questions! In fact, after your comment came in, I added the notes on a couple of Author Solutions books that have been picked up by publishers (especially… Read more »


Why do we need all this info repeated again and again? Because in the end, not everyone knows what we know. We’ve all been around (for varying lengths of time). There are new people jumping into the business every day (and yes, the Barnum quote is cruel, but unfortunately true). Not everyone even knows who to follow – or why. The annual lists of websites to follow that Writers Digest offers is a big help. People ask me what writing conferences to attend and I say “it depends.” (on your needs/goals) But I’ll say what I said over on Publishing… Read more »

Porter Anderson

Hey, Viki, Scroll down a little way on this page http://bit.ly/11UcUSr and you can see the tracking (three tracks) that WDCW just did in LA for its conference. How does that look to you? It doesn’t divide things into beginners and advanced folks — by name, at least — but the topics of the tracks tend to create some divisions reflective of newbies and old hands. That said, I wouldn’t mind at all seeing such a division of advanced and beginning in these settings. If anything, I think the problem may be that many writers think they’re more advanced than… Read more »

Orna Ross

Victoria & James, I completely agree that writers must do their research and take responsibility for their own mistakes and
Christina, I very much look forward to the day that we are past all this. Not yet, alas. In this particular case, might not writers be forgiven for thinking that good research is exactly what they are doing when they use a “comparison site” run by an imprint called “Writers & Artists”, (the equivalent in the UK of Writers Market)?

[…] In Writing on the Ether at JaneFriedman.com, Porter Anderson looks at a new instance of a legacy publisher offering self-publishing services to authors.  […]

Mary Burns

Dear Porter, i appreciate all that you know, but I find your columns very difficult to read because of the many references you include. i know that you are only trying to be helpful, and maybe this is how things are done now. Maybe my mind and my eyes have not yet adjusted to the digital world. Had to tell you this, though. I think I even read somewhere that reader burnout is predictable when a text includes so many website referrals.How to handle this? My problem, perhaps, not yours. And yet…

Porter Anderson

@9b66d6d6d9411be8f999fe00a7eb7585:disqus I hear you, Mary, and have made the same adjustment, not always easily, myself. The key to the Web is the fact that it IS networked, interconnected, and able to offer so much in terms of “rich” linkage. However, it’s also the case that everyone won’t want (or need) such things as a speaker’s Twitter handle (this is usually the link on a person’s name in the ether) or they may not need to click over and read a story for background (the headlines/titles that are “lit up” as hotlinks). Here’s what helps me. Try simply reading the piece… Read more »


I have to agree with Mary. I appreciate all of your hard work, Porter, including what we see here and all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes (which I am sure is considerable). However, I find these columns to be more of a grand tour and less of a summary. In these busy times I would love to see more of a summary with less random tweets quoted and more short and to the point reporting. This may be just me, but since Mary brought it up, I thought I would chime in.

Porter Anderson

Thanks, Christina, appreciate the input. 🙂

Orna Ross

Oh my! Really? For my part, the particular nutriment of Porter’s columns is the array of unexpected and delicious trimmings around the meaty main meal.

Porter Anderson

YOU know the right thing to say, Orna, lol. Seriously, all input is most welcome, but I’m glad to hear the little non sequiturs work for you. I find people feel strongly either one way or the other — the only time I worry is when no one speaks up either way. 🙂

Gayle Lin

What a godsend. Just yesterday someone from Archway called me. I still haven’t figured out how they knew I was nosing around their site. I’ve always said I wouldn’t self-publish. We’d all like to think our work deserves the attention of the big mullahs. But how are we supposed to gain access to them if they insist one has an agent first, while at the same time, said agents will not accept an unsolicited manuscript? I’ve learned now there are some agents out there who are glad to look at unsolicited material, but they’re hard to find.

Porter Anderson

@fratmom:disqus Gayle, so good of you to read the Ether and write thank you. Just to be sure you understand, the kind of site you were seeing (Archway and others offered by Author Solutions, sometimes in tandem with a large publisher) are the closest thing we have operating today to the old “vanity” websites — which means you’re paying someone else to “self”-publish you. If this is the right way for you to go, please do be very, very, very careful. There are peoplel who have good experiences with this. Many others, however, have terrible and terribly expensive experiences with… Read more »

Gayle Lin

Thank you for everything. That’s why I said your article was a godsend. It grabbed me right before I had time to think of doing something stupid.
One more question: Can one publish the same book on amazon and at the same time on an indie press such as Smashwords so they have copies on Kindle and Nook?

Porter Anderson


Yes, indeed, Gayle, you can certainly publish on more than one platform, and that’s a smart thing to do. The only change in that might occur if you do the Amazon “KDP Select” program http://bit.ly/um9tSb — in that case, you agree to a 90-day exclusive agreement with Amazon in exchange for some promotional advantages. Standard Kindle publishing, however, doesn’t require exclusivity and the more platforms you access, the better chance your readers have of finding you, of course.

Thanks again!

Lexa Cain

I think you summed it all up when you called it an “unattractive reality.” Publishing is a business striving to make money, and like all businesses, some are more unscrupulous than others. And like all transactions: Let the buyer beware.

Porter Anderson

@LexaCain:disqus Hey, Lexa — Yes as you and James Scott Bell are saying very well, the buyer-beware caveat is just huge here. One of the things we all have to be careful about is suggesting, even unintentionally, that the writer doesn’t have the responsibility to do his or her research and really vet these options before heading out. No one really gets off the hook that lightly, especially in times of such industry instability. It’s good of you to keep that focus so well in place, it’s such an important part of any author’s job. Thanks as always for reading… Read more »


My personal opinion, as I have yet to see much change in the past year or two in regard to this issue, is that these companies, of which ASI is the prime example, are basically taking advantage of lack of knowledge, experience, and desire on the part of new writers. The services provided are horribly over-priced. With some research and time, one can find any/all of these provided services through freelancers, i.e. editing, covers, etc., for less money and likely higher quality. Yes, one must be diligent about this avenue as well, since there are scammers and hacks in the… Read more »

Porter Anderson

@jimnduncan:disqus Hey, Jim, Many thanks not only for the kind words but also for a very cogent point — Ive wondered the same, in that you have to think that setting up an entire division, a new self-publishing sub-company (whether in partnership with Author Solutions or any other outfit) isn’t a pretty laborious and costly way to try to spot new material. Just as a mere bit of “anecdata,” as we call it — meaning this cannot be read to represent the wider market in these issues — when Penguin’s Book Country community writing development service relaunched in July, it… Read more »


I like the notion of Book Country far better than something like ASI, where writers are being over-charged for services. Having publishers setup things like BC, where internal, self-curation is the norm, and I would guess, on par with many of the services provided by companies like ASI (there are a lot of highly skilled, unpublished writers out there) makes more sense and is more respectful to the writer community. Don’t put yourself in a position of saying, “we might look at your work if you pay us money to publish your book.” While many writers out there don’t know… Read more »

Mary Johnson

Incredible article Porter. Reading through the post and the corresponding notes on the ALLi website it does make me wonder though…to what extent is this also about positioning and trying to undermine Writers & Artists to gain more £80 subscription rates? There also seems to be an unnaturally close link between ALLi and Smashwords. After reading most of ALLi’s reviews and/or ‘alerts’ the reader is often pointed to the Smashwords website as the the optimum solution- which puzzles me. It is one of the cheaper alternatives (aside from going to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble under your own steam), but… Read more »

Porter Anderson

@9b66d6d6d9411be8f999fe00a7eb7585:disqus No thoughts at all, Mary. 🙂 Seriously, I think that if you feel that you’re seeing ALLi’s personnel operating in ways that favor their own operation, then this is something to ask them about. It’s always excellent to make any such qualms known and especially important to give an organization (of any kind, commercial, nonprofit, etc.) a chance to (a) understand how you’re perceiving it and (b) a chance to respond to you. One of the best ways to tell whether you’re dealing with a reputable and responsible outfit, in fact, is to do just that, challenging– cordially —… Read more »

Orna Ross

Hi Mary, I can assure you that isn’t ALLi’s motive at all — or indeed, my own. I have a personal affection for Writers & Artists Yearbook, as it was through it that I found my first agent and first publisher many moons ago. Our concern is simply to see authors well served by author-services. Our link with Smashwords is that Mark Coker is one of our advisors and a font of knowledge, some of which he shared with us in his presentation for our members this week. We have had similar events with Amazon, Kobo, and Bookbaby and Ingram… Read more »


it all comes down to adding value

Orna Ross

Thank you for the cogent and balanced analysis, as always, Porter. If I might just call attention to one thing: we don’t base our ratings of providers on our own publication (which is just a representative sample from across the industry spectrum). We — initially as a response to the request for assistance from Bloomsbury — put many months into devising a system that would rate author-services across various provisions and propositions — value for money, customer service, client feedback, transparency, etc. etc. It is on that system, which from our perspective had to be robust, meaningful and fair, that… Read more »

Porter Anderson

Thanks for the input, Orna, I’v’e made an update in the body of the story and linked it to your comment here for clarification.

[…] Writ­ing on the Ether: Oil, Water, Pub­lish­ers, Self-Publishers […]

David Gaughran

First of all, I’m sure Keith Ogorek “made his points very well” *because* the moderator was Writers’ Digest Publisher Phil Sexton. Writers’ Digest is not the respected institution it once was. Aside from running ads for scammy vanity presses and spamming its subscribers with 90s-era internet marketing wheezes, it also runs its own vanity press, powered by Author Solutions. I’m sure Sexton gave Ogorek a real grilling. For the record, I have attempted on innumerable occasions to get comments from Author Solutions on the many pieces I have written – including directly from Ogorek himself – by email, Twitter, Facebook,… Read more »


I very much appreciate all the work you’ve put into holding Publishers accountable for their exploitative self-publishing vanity press divisions, David. I’d like to take up a point I saw above – that the author is responsible for avoiding these scams. I believe that is unfair. Publishing holds a strong cultural perception by the general public as being trustworthy and accountable. When Penguin puts their name on a vanity press, why would the average debut author doubt their intentions? The debut author is unlikely to know that they SHOULD do research. The name alone lends gravitas and inspires trust. It’s… Read more »


Thank you for a great post!

[…] WRITING ON THE ETHER | Pub­lish­ers and Self-Publishers | JANEFRIEDMAN.COM […]

[…] lord, Jane Friedman’s post, “Echoes of Past Mistakes” points out that Simon & Schuster have an Author Solutions look-a-like, Archway […]

[…] WRITING ON THE ETHER | Pub­lish­ers and Self-Publishers | JANEFRIEDMAN.COM […]

[…] WRITING ON THE ETHER | Pub­lish­ers and Self-Publishers | JANEFRIEDMAN.COM […]