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Penguin Random House Sells Author Solutions

Author Solutions Penguin Random HousePenguin Random House is no longer in the self-publishing business. From Publisher’s Weekly:

Penguin Random House has sold its Author Solutions division to an affiliate of the Najafi Companies, a private investment firm that at one point owned Bookspan and made an offer to buy several hundred Borders outlets after the chain filed for Chapter 11. Terms of the deal, which closed December 31, were not disclosed.

In a brief letter to employees, PRH CEO Markus Dohle said with the sale of Author Solutions, a leader in supported self-publishing services, that “we reaffirm our focus on consumer book publishing through our 250 imprints worldwide, and our commitment to connecting our authors and their works to readers everywhere.”

Author Solutions was acquired by Penguin parent company Pearson in 2012 and became part of PRH following the 2013 merger of Random House and Penguin. A class action lawsuit against Author Solutions was filed in the summer of 2013 by several authors who charged the company with fraud. The case was dismissed in late 2015.

Does this signal an end to Author Solutions merger with traditional publishing? Likely not, as they still have imprints with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. But it does show that Author Solutions is on the ropes. A lot of bad press, and an outdated POD-publishing model, as well as many other options for self-publishing via print or ebook, and Author Solutions doesn’t seem quite as dominant as it did in the past. The other trad publishers may just follow suit, as Author Solutions’ expensive packages aren’t quite sustainable when there are so many other options. Writer Beware adds:

At the time of AS’s acquisition by Pearson–for what I thought was a surprisingly low price, given AS’s then-dominant position in the self-publishing services world–I wondered whether AS was really a good investment, with its old-fashioned POD-centric production model, not to mention its large fees and dreadful reputation. Just over three years later, AS finds itself with a new owner. You do the math.

As for AS’s reputation, it’s as bad as ever, and problems still plague its many imprints: poor customer service, problems with payment, deceptive advertising, high-priced services (particularly marketing services).

Mick Rooney has this to say: “Will Najafi change the fortunes and poor reputation of Author Solutions? I’m not holding my breath.”