It’s no secret among members of the self-publishing community that there are some names you should just run from. Some of those names, like Author Solutions–who is currently embroiled in not-its-first legal battle with authors in a class action suit–are simply synonymous with ripping off authors who have a dream of being published, but who don’t have the various tech and publishing know-how to realize they’re being taken advantage of.
But when Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press division announced last year that it was expanding what it can do for its authors by offering new services such as editing, artwork, and print-on-demand, more than a few industry watchers had immediate concerns: Barnes and Noble is the largest bookselling chain left in the US, so where did they find the talent pool to shift into book creation?
In articles like this one, this one, and this one, various experts speculated about such a talent pool, and it would seem that their initial fears were correct. Nook Press has apparently partnered with one of the most notoriously ill-reputed companies in operation, Author Solutions. Now, one of the most outspoken and well-documented critics of Author Solutions’ shady practices, David Gaughran, provides not only his thoughts on the apparent partnership, but also his proof of why this is not good for authors.
Gaughran’s article is HERE, but essentially, Nook Press authors–at least on the surface–should just be receiving the things they request and pay for, all under the direction of and association with Nook Press. In theory, a Nook Press author should never even hear the name Author Solutions, and any of the notoriously bad customer service experiences that authors have lobbed against the Penguin Random House-owned Author Solutions shouldn’t even be an issue.
But as Gaughran points out, the agreement with Author Solutions allows AS to contact Nook Press authors and try to upsell them expensive packages of services, which documents show is to the mutual benefit of both partners in this agreement. Presumably that implies that B&N will be earning some kind of return if its authors sign on with AS for additional services like their so-called marketing packages.
Also, further documentation shows that Author Solutions is entitled to the personal contact information of Nook Press authors who sign on for any of the new Nook Media services, and can use those authors’ names as evidence of AS’s great service. This means that an author who signs on with Nook Press’ services and may have never even heard of Author Solutions can find himself as the posterboy in an AS advertisement.
Perhaps the most alarming issue, though, is one that Gaughran highlights specifically, and that relates to the rights any customers have to take legal action. The terms of service an author agrees to when signing on for services offered through Nook Press/Nook Media results in waiving the right to take direct legal action against the companies and forfeits any participation in a class action suit (like the one that Author Solutions is currently fighting), and instead requires the parties to go to arbitration.
If all of the experts’ concerns are true–and it’s looking more and more like they are–this is genuinely sad news. B&N and its Nook Press division have always been quiet underdogs in self-publishing, to be sure, especially since they’ve only offered authors a streamlined ability to distribute an ebook to readers while not directly stocking their POD print titles in stores or on their website, but they’ve been there for authors and have made self-published works available to their Nook e-reader users. The ebook creation platform they’ve built is straightforward and easy to use, even for first-time authors. They’re just not a company you hear a lot of complaints about, but this unfortunate partnership could erase that hard-earned reputation.