Word on the Street Festival Doesn’t Care About Author Scam

WOTSASIPRHI wrote a post last month about Author Solutions’ relationships with The Bookseller magazine in the UK, and The Word on the Street Festival in Canada.

Since then I’ve been in touch with the editor of The Bookseller. I’ll share more about that when I can, but suffice to say that the discussion has been encouraging. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my exchange with The Word on the Street Festival.

To recap, last month I discovered a new Author Solutions scam – using their booth at a Canadian literary festival to get even more money from their customers. From that post:

I received some spam recently from Xlibris (yet another Author Solutions brand), touting a literary event – the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto this coming September.

For £299 (approx $450), I was offered the opportunity to place my book in a “new title showcase” at the event. I’ve seen these shelves at the London Book Fair – a tired assortment of books, usually in an out-of-the-way part of the hall. I walked passed on numerous occasions to see if I could catch anyone browsing the books. I never did.

But that wasn’t the worst deal on offer. For an astonishing £2,999 (approx $4,500), I was offered the chance to host a book signing at the same event. To avoid any confusion, flights, accommodation, and personal butler aren’t included in this price. Not even a free ticket to the event. All you get is an hour slot at the Author Solutions booth and some free copies to sign – if anyone shows up.

You might think that no-one is gullible enough to spring for this. But you would be wrong. At Word on the Street 2012, Author Solutions had over 300 client books in their “new title showcase” and 36 book signings.

By my reckoning, Author Solutions brought in $297,000 from this wheeze. That’s from one year. And one event.

I closed those remarks by expressing a hope that the festival organizers weren’t aware of what Author Solutions were doing, and that they would put it stop to it.

That hope was misplaced.

This is the response I received from Heather Kanabe, Festival Director of The Word On The Street.

Dear David,

I had a chance to clarify the matter over the week.

We do not track nor put controls on the pricing/revenue of our vendors, and they do not report these figures. Also, we have been very candid with self published authors about our rates for participation in the festival as a self published author. I would hope that individuals published through Author Solution would do their own due diligence to make a fair assessment of whether or not to register with Author Solutions.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention so that it can remain under review. Next year we will re-assess the the situation in regard to the amount of space made available to self-published authors/vendors within our marketplace.

Warm regards,

Heather

In other words, if you have been scammed by Author Solutions, The Word on the Street Festival thinks it’s your own fault, despite the sophisticated deception Author Solutions uses to ensnare customers, and despite the legitimization The Word on the Street Festival grants them by allowing them to appear.

I can’t abide this cowardly passing of the buck. The Word on the Street Festival have a range of options open to them, from asking Author Solutions to stop using their name in promotional materials and to stop selling $4,500 packages to sign books at their booth, all the way up to banning Author Solutions from the event altogether.

Instead they are choosing to blame the writers. As an author friend put it, “Would they run ads for known credit card scammers, then tell victims: Do your homework?”

Indeed.

I’m sure the milquetoast response from The Word on the Street Festival is nothing to do with the fact Author Solutions’ owner Penguin is a key sponsor of the event.

Whatever the reason, there’s still time for The Word on the Street Festival to put a stop to this scam. Please consider letting them know how you feel on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and by sharing this post using the buttons below.

Note: I published an interview with Ted Oswald on Friday – author of a superb Haitian murder mystery who is donating all proceeds to charity – but it appears some of my blog subscribers didn’t receive the usual notification. If you were affected, please let me know in the comments or by email, and I’ll try to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, you can read that post here.

About davidgaughran

David Gaughran is a 34-year old Irish writer, living in London, who spends most of his time travelling the world, collecting stories. He is the author of the South American historical adventure "A Storm Hits Valparaiso" and the short stories "If You Go Into The Woods" and "Transfection" as well as the popular self-publishing guide "Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should."
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80 Responses to Word on the Street Festival Doesn’t Care About Author Scam

  1. Greg S says:

    While I hope that no authors will be stupid enough to take up the offer, in all fairness, it isn’t the job of the festival organisers to somehow censor the event. There are hundreds of such offers for representation at the Frankfurt Book Fair too. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect the festival organisers to decline a booth or such like.
    Indeed, the bigger worry here is that the festival will review how much space is allocated to self-published authors. In other words, everyone will suffer. Although, realistically, a self-published author appearing in any form at a festival is pretty much a waste of time, still. Maybe, one day, times will change.

    • I fundamentally disagree, Greg. I don’t know if you clicked through to the original article and read the links therein. Author Solutions (and their subsidiaries such as Xlibris) are using the name of The Word on the Street Festival to sell these crazily overpriced packages to their customers. The “author signing” (at a cost of $4,500 I must add) takes place at the Festival booth. The association lends Author Solutions legitimacy and they are trading off the name of the Festival (as well as using their show to hold the author signing). As I also said, there is a range of options available to the Festival organizers. I would dearly like them to ban Author Solutions from the event, but at the very least I would expect them to ask Author Solutions not to use their name in relation to this scam, and not to hold the author signings at their Festival booth. Is that really too much to ask?

      • Greg S says:

        The problem is this, while you and I agree that author Solutions is a scam and a rip-off, there are some authors with no clue (and no chance of success anyway) who might find the service satisfactory. OK, we know that those authors are severely disillusioned and certainly that any author who has read even 10% of your site and still goes to Author Solutions is a moron and deserve what they get (and frankly there are people who deserve what they get).
        But it is not for the festival to decide on behalf of all authors that Author Solutions should be excluded. That is censorship.
        So far as banning them from using their name, that would be bordering on impossible. Let’s say I decided that your Blog is terrible and that you shouldn’t be allowed to use the name WordPress because it suggests an association or endorsement. Should WordPress somehow tell you to not use WordPress in you advertising, details, offer? How would you do that? Buy a domain name, remove all ‘Powered by WordPress’ tags, tell everyone that you have a Blog they can visit on a website somewhere but not tell them it’s at WordPress?
        By the fact alone that the booth is at said festival (I have never heard of the festival before so it carries no weight with me as name-dropping anyway), Author Solutions has to say where the booth is and therefore the festival name comes into play.

        As a disclaimer, I should mention that I have no relationship with Author Solutions or any of their mother/father/daughter/subsidiaries and never will. I did my research first.
        Like I said above, you’ve done your bit purely by bringing it to our attention and alerting prospective customers to the scam. Anyone who doesn’t bother researching it before buying a signing, or who comes here and reads this and still chooses to buy a signing is a bloody fool. Maybe they will learn something from the experience and be a better (or cleverer) author for it. But you should be proud of what you have already done and not over-exert yourself fighting a losing battle to get the festival to block out any companies there.

      • Greg, this is not regarding writers who make it as far as my site. We don’t have to worry about those guys – they have already taken enough of a step to engage with the self-publishing community that they (likely) won’t be taken in by a scam like this.

        Those writers aren’t the ones that Author Solutions targets. They aim for newer, less experienced writers. They focus on Google ads where the keywords are newbie terms (like “I need a publisher” and “how do I find an agent”). They focus on events which tend to attract newbie writers more than professionals – because that’s their target market.

        And let’s be clear about something: banning Author Solutions from appearing at an event is not censorship. Not even close. No-one is suppressing Author Solutions’ speech here or suggesting that take place. In fact, I would love if Author Solutions engaged on any of the issues I have raised. My comments section is open to anyone. I have contacted them on a number of occasions seeking a response to a story I’ve written and they have never replied. And as far as I’m aware, they have never responded to any of the issues that have been raised about them by a wide variety of authors and watchdog groups, including Writer Beware, over the last four or five years.

        You also seem to be laboring under the misconception that The Word on the Street Festival are powerless here. Here’s one example of what they could do:

        Dear Author Solutions: It has come to our attention that you are selling over-priced promotional packages to display books at our festival, and to host author signings at one of our booths. We wish you to desist from this practice immediately, and refund any authors you have charged for this service to take place at our upcoming event in September. If you fail to comply with this request, we will consider all options available to us, up to and including rescinding your invitation to participate in any future events. — Kind regards, Festival Organizers.

        It’s really not that hard.

  2. I’ve seen those new title showcases at BEA in the U.S.. I’ve never seen a single person looking at a featured book – not even a casual glance at them.

  3. Reblogged this on Theo Fenraven and commented:
    Another “author beware” post by Gaughran. If you’re an indie writer, you DO need to research everything before plunking down your money!

  4. Tyler Wills says:

    Totally agree with all your sentiments, David. An obvious rip-off like this should not be sponsored by The Word on the Street Festival, or any other organisation for that matter. To say that it is simply the author’s look out is a cop out, getting muscled by the Mafia for protection money should have been legalised I guess, by Greg S’s way of thinking.

    • Greg S says:

      I’m yet to see anywhere that the festival is in any way sponsoring Author Solutions. They are out to make money too and have simply sold them a booth, beyond that, the festival doesn’t care. Do you really think that the average book festival cares about some self-published authors? No way. They only care about which publishers are paying what money to show their wares. if the festivals had there way, self-published authors would be banned. for a festival organiser, Author Solutions is seen as a hurdle that blocks out self-published authors with no money to throw around. The average Indie will never pay for their own 2m booth, will they?
      If the festival authors wrote the letter that David suggests to Author Solutions, the festival would probably have such a backlash from all of Author Solutions friends that the festival would never run again.
      Again, they only want to make money, like Author Solutions. Like Amazon, like Google and Facebook who let scam adverts run on their sites, like your local pub, grocer, book-store. They don’t really care about you, the author, or the customer. They all care about the bottom line. None of the above will block out a big chunk of their business based on it maybe being unfair to a few little guys at the end of the chain.

      You are aware that I’m on your side, right? I’m a self-published author with festival experience (through an agent and selection – government sponsorship). I also want for self-published authors to succeed and to get a fair deal. But I hold a negative (realistic) view on the people involved in the process and think it’s wasting your time and energy (and it will depress you) to try and push this with the festival organisers.

      • I’m totally aware you’re on my side and that we are just arguing in the margins. I do think it’s an important point though. I do believe that the Festival bears some responsibility for what happens at their event. One thing I perhaps should have mentioned above, the festival is *not* a profit-making venture. It’s a non-profit, registered charity (and free to attend). Judging by the sponsorship list, it seems to be predominantly funded by local, municipal, and governmental organizations in Canada. I don’t know if that would change your assessment of both their level of responsibility here, and the possibility of getting them to change their mind.

      • Greg S says:

        That does change things, to an extent. In this case, I would take it to a higher authority responsible for the sponsorship. Someone who would be embarrassed by the fiasco and doesn’t want their name associated with it.

      • I think that’s a good next step, but probably best taken by a Canadian citizen (i.e. a tax-payer there). And I think it’s good for them to have a blog post to point to :)

      • C. Nault says:

        Festival can and do take steps to police who has the right to rent booths, I assure you. I do work on the organisation of a festival here in Canada (not as big as Toronto, but things can’t be that different). We have a black lists of publishers we refuse to host for a whole range of reasons. That’s why we are the organizers! I don’T see why Toronto couldn’t do the same.

      • A.C. James says:

        Are you sure you’re not from Author Solutions? ;)

      • Greg S says:

        I’m from the land of realism where I know how the rest of the market views us self-published authors. This may have happened because I was lucky enough to have my first novel selected for presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair and I got to attend as part of the guest of honour program. There, it was made very clear to me what the industry thinks of self-published work.
        As I said above, I have nothing to do with Author Solutions. But I will let you choose to believe what you will. It probably wouldn’t be hard for you to find out who I am and to confirm for yourself my place in the industry and what connections I do and don’t have. I choose not to put my full name here because I prefer to not have anyone ever think I am commenting just to make sales of my work.

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  6. blair says:

    Every organization that puts on an event is indeed responsible for the quality of vendors it permits to participate. This group has decided it’s in their best professional interest to align themselves with a company known to scam writers and currently operating under the cloud of legal action. They must figure if that sort of partnership is so-cool for Penguin, it must be way-cool for the festival.

    It would be great if they’d care about writers. But really, I’d be satisfied if they showed a whit of concern for what their decision indicates about their own ethical standards. Should everyone assume the ASI association is a fluke, or should it be assumed it’s indicative of their decision-making capacity?

    And you’re right–it’s no different from permitting any known scam artist from participating.

  7. Pingback: An Additional Piece on Author Solutions « Blair MacGregor

  8. Once again, thanks, David. Spot on. Right now indie authors are relegated to the back of the bus as far as distribution goes and anyone or any institution who makes money by feeding our false hopes needs to be exposed.

  9. Thanks for your ever-vigilant investigating and reporting, David. Once again, it’s about the money. And, dare I say (as a lawyer) that it’s the lawyers who probably dictated the “not our problem” language you got in your response from the Festival.

    Keep up the good fight.

  10. Thanks for the post. I believe, even if this book festival were for profit the organizers have the responsibility of screening vendors — unless they want to be associated with scammers. It’s just good business. Allowing booths to scammers may destroy their reputation. By the way, if they’re trying to appeal to writers and readers, they SHOULD care about self published authors and their books.

  11. kingmidget says:

    I marvel at the math of it and wonder how any self-published author would think they could earn back enough to cover the $4,500 cost of the book signing. I also marvel at any author who would think they should have to pay to have a book signing. It’s like the old vanity presses. It makes no sense.

    • hogfigure says:

      Easy: they see major successes like 50 Shades, Harry Potter et al and think that they can replicate and become overnight successes. Being disillusioned is the easiest way to lose your money.

  12. Mary says:

    Rather than blaming the victim, a real 21st century art form let’s evaluate the damage that is done to our pockets and business prospects by wild, wild west capitalism. I am a conglomerate, my business is publishing books successfully and attracting readers, selling books in general. Instead of that I have several affiliates who essentially shake down hopeful authors by promising them untold riches (think wizard of oz don’t’ look behind that curtain) and fame and fortune using my incredibly magic snake oil remedy called author solutions. Bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars by pimping people’s dreams adds quite a bit to the bottom line. BTW I don’t have to do anything for them so costs are minimal. It really takes the pressure off the main stream business, identifying talented writers, publishing them, and providing a product that has commercial viability. Ergo, I don’t have to prospect for many new authors. The misfortune of those unenlightened rubes is inextricably tied up with our fates as authors hoping to be given a fair shake.

    Any corporate entity that steals from people, has just taken the pressure off presenting real business solutions. That ethical standard will permeate all their lines of business eventually. So the more they steal, the less likely that business model will become a truly win, win scenario where good books are identified, sold to customers and the publisher and authors share profits.

    Finally, I just want to say having attended and organized industry conferences (technology, financial services, scientific) it is incumbent on the organizers to offer business solutions that are legitimate and ethical.

    Thanks, David, for bringing these scams to our attention.

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  14. mcwatty9 says:

    You’re better off setting up your own stand on a crowded street corner and signing for whoever stops/yells at you to get a permit. The fine is much less.Plus, there’s a couple extra signatures riddled throughout the tickets they give you and checks you have to sign.

  15. I get invites and announcements for “literary conferences” and “events” every single day, both online and through the mail, but there is a distinct, greasy smear which grasping tentacles leave across the surface. I usually see these traces and demur. I haven’t been to any kind of literary event in quite a few years, and while I might remain unrecognized in person, my work is still getting known. Thanks, David, for keeping on this one. Writers need to be afraid… very afraid.

  16. Matthew Iden says:

    Two thoughts here:

    - I feel there’s a tendency to let a “caveat emptor” attitude override our obligation to hold institutions to a higher ethical standard. The issues are mutually exclusive. Clueless participants who allow themselves to be scammed should be chided and guided in the right direction, full stop. Entities that do the scamming–the active party, here–deserve our criticism from a different pool of condemnation. Just because there are easy marks in the world shouldn’t let the thieves off the hook.

    - A literary festival like Word on the Street is selling itself as a focal point for a curated selection of businesses and services to writers–there’s an understanding that it’s providing more inherent value than a street corner or an empty parking lot where the same group could gather. If it relinquishes responsibility for vetting its sponsors and commercial participants, where exactly is the value? Maybe more importantly, the “trust value” they’re selling is then essentially fraudulent–if they don’t vet the Author Solutions of the world, but allow participants to *think* they did, they’re responsible for perpetrating their own scam. Responsible screening in this case is not censorship, it’s due diligence.

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  18. Alan Petersen says:

    The cost of a booth at the Word on the Street Festival for a “large distributor/publisher” ranges from $1,960 to $2,390 (depending on the registration date) if they’re making around $300,000 from the festival, that’s one heck of an ROI for Author Solutions on the backs of the uninformed author.

    And get this, the price for a self publisher (with one title) to setup their own damn booth at the same festival is $340-$415 (depending on registration date), but Author Solutions is preying on the uninformed and charging them $4,500 for an hour, when they could have their own booth for $340.

    Obscene greed.

    (Pricing source:)http://www.magazinescanada.ca/uploads/File/CoverLines/2013/2013-Exhibitor-Registration-Package.pdf

  19. annerallen says:

    I have never heard of a festival that doesn’t screen vendors. Even our little town’s beachside craft fairs require that artists’ work be vetted. It may mean there are fewer vendors, but they won’t allow cheap mass produced imports or anything else that might cheapen the town’s image. If this festival doesn’t vet presenters, what’s to keep porn vendors from showing X-rated videos in their booths–or whatever. They had to have done some vetting and they chose to allow Author Solutions to use them to scam writers. The festival is at fault and should do whatever they can to remedy the situation (like give those authors their money back.)

  20. I was appalled to see that NaNoWriMo did the same thing last year – had an Author Solutions imprint as a sponsor, and let them offer their “special deal” to entice writers into their web.

    I was a state rep for NaNoWriMo, and brought it up on the internal boards. A LOT of other state/regional reps spoke up agreeing with me. It was too late to do anything about it that year, we were told (which mean money had already changed hands). But they’d look into it more carefully next year.

    Still hoping to see them NOT taking money from scam-the-writer operations this year. Time will tell.

    • NaNoWriMo as well? Sigh.

      Hey, November isn’t too far away. Any chance you could find out what their position is now? We can apply some pressure if they aren’t budging…

      • I misremembered – it was Outskirts Press, which is an Author Solutions wannabe, but not actually part of that particular scam set, if I remember right.

        And yes, they are still listed as a sponsor on the main page of nanowrimo.org

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Off topic: Kevin – I always enjoyed your posts on the LinkedIn fiction & writing boards before I fled for greener social media pastures…some of those discussions were toxic. Glad to see you’re still fighting the good fight.

  21. Lalo says:

    Xlibris is definitely a scam. I recently did a beta read for a very nice author with a very unique and interesting story. I made a short list for him of things I thought he should change. Very short list but I told him the main thing he needed was an editor. Sadly, he had already paid for an editor. And that is sad because he paid a lot and the editing… if any… was poorly done.
    I felt so sorry for guy. He had paid so much money to publish his book, and it was a good story. But basic things that they should have told him, they did not.
    I told him to keep writing and go independent.

  22. Joe McNally says:

    “Dear Festival organizer,

    There’s a pickpocket ring operating at your festival. I can tell you who they are, where they are and how they operate.

    Yours, Concerned Author”

    “Dear Concerned Author,

    We welcome pickpockets at our festival. See you next year!

    Yours, Festival organizer”

    ” Dear Author Solutions,

    I always remembered the story about the people who really made money in the Gold Rush being the ones who sold the picks and shovels. If you adopted a similar strategy, I’d happily buy from you, But it seems that the picks and shovels you’re selling are actually toothpicks and teaspoons.

    Don’t you think your teaspoons a tad expensive at $4,500? That would be somewhat over the top, even for a proper shovel. I think you’ve mistakenly used the price of a mechanical digger there.

    Still, all those dollars must make a fine filling for the pillows, so they help you answer those letters asking how you sleep at night.

    Yours in astonishment, A.N. Author”

  23. There was a story recently about a respected author who set up a publishing business and had to leave the country in disgrace. (New Zealand?) Some of the packages she offered to help people self-publish were $10,000. The few that actually ever saw a book said they were of poor quality. I remarked that a certain amount of this problem was author naivete. I know it is true a sucker is born every minute and people hear what they want (from their priests and psychiatrists also), but there is SO much info out there. I do not get why people keep falling for this. On LinkedIn, every time I see someone offer a help package I remark that you do not need to spend money to do this. If you want someone to design a cover, etc., and you can afford it, that is a whole different story.

  24. Shari Stauch says:

    Agreed David, the festival absolutely does bear a responsibility to host legitimate vendors, and another way they could avoid Author House charging the fees is to restrict subcontracting of space by vendors so that if Author House wants to invite its authors to sign there they may but may not charge for the privilege. This would be even moreso in the festival’s best interests as they could establish their own Indie Bookshelf/space/tent/whatever for new authors at the show and charge them a nominal fee but still make $. Example – the Decatur Book Festival in Atlanta sells booths, but also offers discounted space in an “Emerging Authors Pavilion” tent – folks can go in and browse/buy a bunch of books and have them signed by the authors there… Likely the festival will need to have enough folks put such info in front of them and/or voice their displeasure with the current allowances before they’ll be pressed into changing. David, as always, your efforts are to be applauded… one voice will surely become the battlecry of many :)

  25. Greg S says:

    Out of curiosity, aside from you and Writer’s Beware, etc (aside from indie authors, that is) has any publisher, company, government agency, etc had something bad to say about Author Solutions?
    I wonder, because if they haven’t, then no matter how much noise we make, don’t we just end up looking like whingers? This would mean that in the eyes of the festival, Author Solutions is offering a legitimate package. They would see no reason to shut the door to them but they may well see more reason to shut the door to us whinging Indie Authors who sit about complaining about them.
    I guess my question is this: could publishers and festivals (anyone but the Indie Authors who are getting scammed) see Author Solutions as a legitimate and ethical company?
    Answering this question requires putting aside any feelings and experience (grudges) we hold as Indie Authors and trying to look at it in the eyes of the ‘other side’.
    They would probably claim something like; “If Author Solutions is so bad, and they have published over 290,000 titles by 250,00 authors (Wikipedia), then why aren’t at least 200,000 authors complaining about them?”

    By the way, nice mention and link to you in the Wikipedia article on Author Solutions, David. Did you do that or someone else?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Author_Solutions

    • What they’re doing isn’t illegal, Greg. So the government is unlikely to get involved (although class action lawsuits have been filed for damages against Author Solutions and Publish America, among other similar companies).

      The publishers OWN Author Solutions (Penguin/Random House own the company outright, and several other major publishers have partnered with Author Solutions or run their own similar programs). So they’re unlikely to say anything negative about them. These are cash cows.

      Technically, I could advertise a service to sell you a special wristwatch. The watch acts as a pedometer, and tells you your heart rate. It also tells time. And it costs only $700 plus $1 for every mile you walk. On top of that, I could offer special upgrades for $500-5000 that add features to your watch like a new color.

      Technically, there is nothing illegal about a car repairman charging you $500 to replace your brakes, and adding a device to your car which tracks every time you tap your brakes, deducting ten cents from your bank account every time you use the brakes on your car.

      Technically, there is nothing wrong with a pool cleaning service taking 1% ownership of your house every time they clean your pool. If they write that into their contract, and you sign it…well, that’s just your problem, right?

      The issue with Author Solutions is that they make their services *sound* very good. They then prey directly on the most poorly educated, inexperienced, and desperate writers. They take those writers for a LOT of money up front, for 50-90% of the income on sales, and push hard to upsell them on additional “products” that have little or no real value.

      Most of their victims either never realize they were taken for a ride, or are too embarrassed to say anything once they learn the truth.

      • Greg S says:

        I don’t disagree with anything you said, Kevin. But therein lies the problem. As long as they aren’t doing anything illegal and publishers and festivals are happy to accept their ways (and not care about all those rubbish worthless Indie authors), then there’s nothing for us to do and nor for the festivals either.
        Most festivals don’t want Indie authors to turn up, we cheapen the quality of the wares because we haven’t gone through a gatekeeper. They may well be sitting there now thinking that they should definitely book Author Solutions for all future festivals because it gets up our noses and we want to boycott the festival. Win win for them. More money on booth rental and less of those rubbish Indies pushing their trashy poorly written books with the dodgy covers.

      • The good news, Greg, is that author opinions DO matter. When enough people take to their blogs, twitter, etc, about an issue, the word gets out. We tend to write a lot. And collectively, folks tend to listen to us.

        The goal then is twofold: pass the word enough, and get enough other people passing the word, that every new writer learns what sorts of operations are scams, and what to avoid. AND, to make taking money from those scams such a PR nightmare that festivals and other organizations shy away from doing so.

      • Greg S says:

        I agree… BUT do festivals care what Indie authors think? Do they care even if 100,000 indie authors are up in arms about it?

      • If they don’t, that’s where the education part comes in.

        But every writer, however they publish, should be furious about these companies preying on our novices. It’s not just an indie problem.

        And yeah, I think festivals care… If anyone who Googles a festival gets a bunch of links to articles about how the festival is supporting a group that preys on writers, it matters. But again, it all comes down to letting more people know how rotten the situation is. Penguin should not get a free pass on actively ripping novice writers off.

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  27. This is an interesting conundrum. A few years ago at Balticon, I found a talented artist with a booth in the dealer’s room offering commissions. I commissioned him for a playful self-portrait for the “About Me” section of my author website. He asked for all the money up front via credit card, which is a little unusual, but not unheard-of.

    And he scammed me. No art, communication ceased, etc. After much frustration, I contacted the convention organizers. They were instrumental in helping me get my money back after a conversation with his agent. I wrote a blog post about it, trying to warn people. There is no site offering user reviews for artists, and I didn’t want other authors and con attendies to be scammed. To this day, I continue to get comments on that article from people who are also being scammed by this guy, who have ordered hundreds of dollars worth of art-work and are being jerked around and will probably never receive what they paid for. Later, I spotted another blog post from another author who’d been scammed by the same artist. Her post also got lots of comments from other frustrated authors and con-goers.

    And yet this guy continues to get booths at many conventions I attend. I know that cons have received complaints about him. But it doesn’t seem to matter. He gets to keep setting up his booth, taking a bunch of money, completing a small percentage of commissions, returning the money from another small percent who complain loudly, and pocketing the rest without doing any work. And he looks legitimate because he’s got booths at respected conventions. Most people assume that the convention has vetted him at least a little bit. But conventions don’t do that.

    I, too, feel that conventions have a responsibility to at least attempt to eliminate con artists. At the very least, they should have some system to investigate reports of fraud and block repeat offenders. But they don’t agree, and it’s not just Word on the Street. It’s all of them. They sell a booth. That’s all. Beware of any author-related service you see hawked at a convention. Con artists love the pseudo-legitimacy that convention booths provide.

    • Your final sentence should be on a bronze plaque at every convention venue. Conventions and accountability issues are good for another couple of thousand words. A huge brou ha ha about someone being sexually harrassed at a convention was, too me, ridiculous. Both well know people in the publishing industry, and everyone playing the blame game. The feminist sites in flames over his behavior, the male-oriented sites ripping apart her motivation. It’s like getting roofies in your cocktail. How did that happen?
      Etc.
      Big time.
      Realy hard to stay on topic. Read any good books lately?

  28. Tyler Wills says:

    Other than a few shorts published (copyright free), on a couple of reputable websites, I am still what I would consider a writer, not yet an author. In researching the steps to publishing a 60,000+ word fictional, which at present is 90% professionally edited, I did research on my options. Two years down the line and I am still regularly bombarded with requests to ‘handle my goods’ in one way or the other. These people do not know the meaning of ‘No Thank You’, and so, the constant e-mails from these various entities, who are probably all under the same Holding Company, go straight to where they belong – the Scam Folder. Yes, it is ‘Author Beware’, but it is also much more than that. Harassment comes to mind. Thank you so much David, not just for your valuable time, but also for your selfless integrity.

    • Tyler Wills says:

      ‘Organised Crime’, is another thing that comes to mind. I may end up sticking to my day job driving a cab; you meet such nice people!

  29. Pingback: On ‘Author Beware’ – Publishing your work. See the recent excellent contributions re these Rip Off’s on http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/word-on-the-street-festival-doesnt-care-about-author-scam/#more-2853 | Tyler Will

  30. dewriter77 says:

    Not only do they charge outrageous prices, but a lot of the scammers do not deliver on their promises. I’ve seen threads where one author will bring it to the attention to another author, and the unsuspecting author will say he’ll check out their website. That will get you nowhere. Authors need to google company names with “scam,” “complaints,” “fraud,” and “reviews” to read the real dirt. Many of AS’s imprints have been involved in lawsuits already, and there is currently a class-action suit against AuthorHouse. If I were to approach Word On the Street, I would ask them if they really want their name associated with these brands, because it makes them look bad.

  31. YOU ARE OUR HERO DAVID GAUGHRAN! KEEP UP THE SPAM ALERTS!

    Hi…I READ DAVID GAUGHRAN’S blog on on Authorhouse, AKA 1stbooks, xlibris, etc….about such ridiculous high fees to show book at the Toronto Street Festival….NEEDLESS, but actually NEED TO SAY, self-published authors like myself continue to need to be our own Private Detectives and Advisors when such “attractive,” “promising,” HIGH-PRICED, probably do little good offers come our way….For thousands of dollars, better to buy a trunk full of your books, hit the road and sell them or SOMETHING other than throw good money away and be “gulli-vized” by this kind of stuff. I’ve been self-pub for years…I admire writers who self-publish, but believe me, unless we get smart, we will continue to spend millions on worthless avenues to get our book noticed…and just be puppets handing over our good money to those directly, or INDIRECTLY, like festivals, etc…who take money and DO VERY LITTLE IN RETURN. But, yep, just like any other scam, credit cards, real estate, relationship cons, etc…it’s up to us to be the smart ones…DON’T TURN OVER YOUR MONEY SO EASY….THIS FROM A SELF-PUB AUTHOR WHO INDEED IS A HOOSIER, with a book from that one and only….AuthorSolutions, or 1stbooks as it was when I published….I love my book, I love POD s, well some, and SOME advantages about them…but, c’mon guys/girls/execs/whatever….when you started your companies…WAS THAT IN YOUR MISSION STATEMENT…GET RICH OFF OF US AT ALL UNETHICAL COSTS…self-pub who just want a loyal, fair-based POD to help us put our book in print, and perhaps get some REAL, reasonable fee-worthy exposure for our story. Shame on you, my dear fellow Hoosier POD! Watch out though, CREATESPACE is gonna put a dent right into your tactics…BY OFFERING UP THE BEST DAMN POD DEAL IN THE WORLD! AND WHAT A GREAT, EASY, FREE PROCESS FOR REVISIONS UNTIL AN AUTHOR GETS HIS/HER BOOK READY FOR PRINT! NO more Authorhouse for me! Good luck to writers…..Be smart and Write-ON!
    Gail Galvan, Self-Pub author/poet http://www.gailgalvanbooks.com and http://www.newjackrabbitcity.com

  32. jfbrown123 says:

    David posted: “One thing I perhaps should have mentioned above, the festival is *not* a profit-making venture. It’s a non-profit, registered charity (and free to attend).”

    Just because something is “non-profit” doesn’t mean it’s ethically pure or even legit. There are lots of ways people involved in or running a non-profit can live quite high on the hog. Nice salaries, big fat expense accounts, first-class travel and lodgings, 4-star restaurants, company car (and not a cheap econo-box, either). Plus, in the US at least, a non-profit can legally own and operate a *for-profit* subsidiary. In fact, many non-profits are simply scams. Just google a list of charities that forward a pittance of what they collect to the causes they purport to support. Most of their incoming contributions go for “expenses,” salaries, PR, marketing, sales commissions, etc.

    It behooves everybody, before parting with their money, to investigate everything. Quite easy to do these days using the Internet and search engines. Sadly, it has always been, and remains, a “caveat emptor” world we live in.

  33. anniepearsonOK says:

    Often the problem with nonprofits is that they don’t know how capitalism works.
    I worked for 10 years on a major corporate-sponsored event show, and under our booth agreements, we would never allow any business to “sublet” OUR space at THEIR profit, whether or not they were event sponsors.
    The truly foolish thing the Word on the Street organizers are doing here is letting another business make a profit on their work. They could provide booth offerings and signing opportunities that self publishers can take advantage of, while forbidding any such “sublet” actions on the part of other businesses.
    Clear agreements in their booth offerings are the only way they can control scamming, and it doesn’t require that they evaluate booth renters’ business models.
    David, your letter should have been a major heads up for them, because it reveals how they themselves are being scammed.

  34. mira says:

    David, you are awesome. Thank you!!!

  35. Unfortunately, they are hogs at the same trough. One could hardly expect them to lift their snouts from the swill.

  36. Thanks for the post, David, and for all your investigative work.

    As a Torontonian and indie author / entrepreneur, I have to agree with you on this. If an organization is using the festival’s name, and being allowed to do so, then the festival has a certain responsibility as you say. Sadly, money talks.

    However, I think this particular case is indicative of a big problem with the Toronto literary scene which is antiquated, arrogant and snobby and has no time for unique, free-thinking indies. If you are an indie film maker or musician, you get loads of attention. If you are an indie author, nothing.
    I should say I’m not speaking from bad, personal experience or bitterness – these are just my observations here at home.

    Canada is far behind the US and UK as far as awareness or acceptance of indie publishing and I see no signs of that changing, sadly. There are not even any grants open to indie authors even if you can provide proof of sales and readership. Grants are only for traditionally published authors here.

    I was at Word on the Street last year and walked by the Author Solutions booth where I did see many victims (erm, authors) doing book signings, or waiting to sign books that would never be bought. I steered well clear of their salespeople on my way to the Wattpad event.

    Wattpad, by the way, was the only indie-friendly entity at the festival. They invited authors and poets from around Toronto to an event where they gave everyone lunch, swag and then asked us authors what they could do for us – at no charge to authors! This was incredible, especially in Toronto. Wattpad is a great outfit but sadly not representative of the scene in Toronto.

    Word on the Street needs to change things up and be more responsible if they want to become the first-rate literary festival they imagine themselves to be.

    Thanks for all the great posts, David. I’ll be sure to read on!
    Cheers.

  37. gvkbj says:

    Last year I had my book on the Beijing International Book Fair, through AuthorHouse. I went there myself, spent some time chatting with the people running the “American” stand and took pictures of me with my book. The whole time I spent there nobody ever passed to look at any of the books. For details on that Fair and the pics: http://blog.strategy4china.com/?p=3872. Needless to say I never received any feedback. A total waste of money.

  38. Pingback: Monday Mentions: Cute Animal Pictures, Writing Scams, Trademark Woes & Thrilling Videos | AMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood

  39. One day I hope to self publish a book of shorts so it is disheartening to hear organisations such as this one showing little interest in protecting authors from scams such as this. Obviously I get the point that we all have to be vigilant on our own, but as part of a ‘author community’ should we all not have each others backs so to speak. Or am I just a deluded crab swimming in a pool of sharks?

  40. Pingback: Author Solutions Takes Signing Scam To Miami Book Fair | David Gaughran

  41. Pingback: Book Signing Scams…don’t fall for one, don’t do one! | Book Editing Expert

  42. Pingback: AuthorHouse a scam operation? at My So-Called Penis

  43. Pingback: A Victory Against Author Solutions | David Gaughran

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