Ripoffs, Scams and Authors … Oh My!

Have you ever been around someone; read something; or seen something … and you want to get in a shower or a hot bath and soak the slime off?

That’s exactly how I feel when I read about the gobbling up that involves the granddaddy of all Vanity Presses—Author Solutions as the mother ship to Booktango, Inkubook, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, Wordclay, AuthorHive, Pallbrio and Hollywood Pitch. Did you know that Author Solutions and its various companies derive over two-thirds of its income from selling services and books to authors … not to the readers of authors’ books?

The kingpin of vanity presses (as Smashwords’ founder Mark Coker states in his blog that Author Solutions makes more money from selling services to authors than selling authors’ books, “Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the ‘V’ in vanity. Author Solutions earns two-thirds or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors’ books to readers …”

The shocker is that truly legit publishers have gotten into bed with the predators … one recent pitch from an Author House/Solutions rep to an author who contacted me, “If you sign with us … your book will get in front of (fill in the blank) … at Penguin.” Hmmm… are they that desperate … or they that smart?

With the partnering, both stealth and visible, Author Solutions has gotten into bed with Hay House (Balboa Press), Thomas Nelson (Westbow Press), Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing packages start at $1599 and can go up to $24,999), Guide Post/Writers Digest (Abbott Press) and others. With Penguin recently acquiring Author Solutions, who knows what Penguin will turn over from their slush/pass piles to Author House to “follow up” on.

Author House/Solutions is a boiler house operation. Pitch, pitch, pitch. The deals put together with them … mean squat—there is absolutely NO GUARANTEE that a book will get in front of the acquisition team with the publishing house that is now diving into the self-publishing/vanity press arena. You are still dealing with a pay-to-publish operation; a vanity type of press—they type that has excelled in total sales average of 100 copies of a book and selling books to the author at a very inflated cost. What it wants to do is SELL you more stuff.

Some of these companies have tarnished records with a lot of unhappy customers. Several authors have complained to the Better Business Bureau and some companies have been sued.

When people are victims of scams, they often report the incidents on the Internet. Before doing business with POD publishers, a pay-to-publisher operation or any other person or company that wants your money, make a Google search for:

(That company name) + Scam
(That company name) + Problem
(That company name) + Complaint
(That company name) + Fraud
(That company name) + Ripoff
(That company name) + “Better Business Bureau”

Read the reports and be advised. Unfortunately, too many walk away woven with shame that they got sucked in the first place and/or so ticked that they got taken, they just want to take the shower and get as far away as possible.  As a side note, one of the members of the Author U LinkedIn group, posted that she had just got he had been sucked into the Balboa Press operation, sure that Hay House, and of course Louise Hay, would personally be watching over her book. The pitch she got from her Author House rep—which is what Balboa Press is—she needed, she should get the marketing package, and it was only $18,000!

The boiler rooms are in full gear. Outside of the Author Solution predators, another crop is popping up offering “self-publishing services” to authors and small/indie publishers. They employ “boiler rooms” of sales people making relentless calls. The goal: to wear the author on the other end of the phone down. In many cases, they are hard to resist.

Let’s face it. The major publishers are doing some bleeding. The self and indie author moves faster and in many cases, is willing to commit money—often more that what a traditional publisher would commit to in the support of a newbie author’s book. Don’t be seduced. Check them out.


My advice …. Do not; do not; do not go down this rabbit hole. Stop this predator insanity. Stop the wrong author package. Author beware, be very beware.



2014_JBriles-1Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord Indie/Fab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Unplugged, a two day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at . Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and Judith Briles – TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at

22 Comments on Ripoffs, Scams and Authors … Oh My!

  1. Great information, Judith. I advise anyone who wants to write a book to step back and treat the project like a business — write a complete business plan that includes financials and a marketing strategy. Then thoroughly research all the providers you’re considering. Don’t get taken by a sales pitch carefully crafted to appeal to your ego.

  2. The Book Shepherd says:

    you are welcome!

  3. The Book Shepherd says:

    Jacquelyn… as you know so well … authoring and publishing are a business. Period.

  4. We also had a really bad experience with IU, stay away.

  5. I worked with IU, do yourself a favor and stay away.

  6. I am so irritated with Author Solutions and Westbow Press. Stay away from them!!!

  7. Stay away from Westbow Press and Author Solutions. I have so many complaints about different issues regarding these publishing companies.

  8. Add Balboa Press (Hay House’s Author Solutions buddy), who is swooping in and sucking up naïve authors right and left. Of course, they truly believe that Louise Hay will personally look over what is sent in … and fingers crossed, pick them to cross over to Hay House … save them please!

  9. Sheila says:

    I see all the STAY AWAY from this company or that company …but no suggestions or list of reputable and honest publishers to go with. It is getting overwhelming and for those just starting out how do we know who to trust?

  10. Sheila … I’ve said this multiple times … there are so many companies now, that you are going to have to take the name and Google it … add the words, complaint, scam, problems, con, lawsuits, fraud, ripoff. Stay away from all things Author House, Author Solutions, Xlibrs, iUniverse, Balboa Press, Westbow (both are affiliated with Author House) … make sure you dig past page two and three. These companies are very smart about burying grumbles. On the Author U group in LinkedIn, there are huge streams that talk about companies to stay away from.

  11. Karen Reid says:

    Judith Briles–you did not seem to hear what Sheila said. She said you give “no suggestions or lists of reputable and honest publishers to go with,” and even in your answer to her, you once AGAIN failed to give any positive suggestions or names of reputable and honest publishers!

  12. Karen … I’m not going to go through a “list” … let’s define what a publisher is .. are you… is Sheila looking for a “paid to publish” operation. Most I will put a nix on. Period. If authors will “get” that they have to learn what publishing is … then they make choices. I will pursue the traditional publishing path as Plan A for “them” … For others, it becomes Plan A which is I’m publishing it myself. Do I pay someone to do everything — which I don’t recommend. There are plenty of competent and reasonable cover designers–I recommend them all the time; feature them on my radio show, they are posted on Associates on the website. Ditto for interior designers, and use editors. Now –do you print lots or POD. If POD, definitely go with IngramSpark and second CreateSpace. Always, always, get your own ISBNs. If doing an offset print run; then the list of printers on the site are all approved. ALso upload fo CreateSpace so that indiebook stores can order your book. If you get approval with chains, they can order via the Ingram distribution system. Next you bet on and set up Author Central. Finally, I recommend Author Fulfillment Services for warehouse and distribution to Amazon … you are in business. Market, Market, Market. And, the reason why I recommend IngramSpark over CreateSpace is that bookstores like Ingram, they don’t Amazon.

    I have a boatload of complaints about just about every “paid to publish” operation. It’s why I don’t recommend any.

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  17. John Bazzanella says:

    Westbow press is a scam ! They took me for $1995. They sell their own books and then they sell Authors their own written material which never gets published being screwed for royalties. They refused to publish my book because of the Judgments of God discussed in the book. The book is called ” Pyromancy” They are a devil publisher and apostasy here runs rampant. Don’t be taken by them. Take Care and God Bless —- Sincerely —– John Bazzanella

  18. One more thing to mention about westbow press — they changed three publishing coordinators on me in a matter of a few weeks. This should tell you how much of a scam they are. Keep clear of westbow press or those others who are affiliated with them.

  19. Just one last thing westbow took me for $1,995 American which amounted at the time to $2,775 dollars Canadian.

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