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Publetariat Dispatch: Simon & Schuster Puts A “Bounty” On Indie Author Heads

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!
In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, Publetariat founder and Editor in Chief April L. Hamilton shares an alarming email exchange she had with Simon & Schuster, which is offering to pay bloggers to refer self-publishers to their new vanity publishing arm.

Simon & Schuster is trying to bribe people like me to refer people like you to their new vanity imprint, Archway, which they formed in partnership with AuthorHouse (aka “ASI”) late last year. A couple of days ago, I received the following, kind of astonishingly brazen email from a Simon and Schuster staffer:

Simon & Schuster recently launched Archway Publishing as a new type ofoffering for self-publishing authors.  With services delivered by Author Solutions, Archway was developed to help authors achieve their publishing goals and reach their desired audience.  S&S has provided guidelines on book design, introduced certain unique self-publishing services, designed packages tailored to meet specific author objectives, and will monitor titles for potential acquisition.

Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options.  We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers.  The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway*.  Click here to learn more about the affiliate program.  In addition, we’d like to extend to your audience a 10% discount off any Archway package, when referred though affiliate links on your site.  We can also create contests, webinars, and creative for your site, or discuss other ways to work together.

[*emphasis added by me]

Note that when industry people write to me and make reference to my “blog”, they’re generally talking about, not [my Indie Author] blog.

Anyway, it’s obvious that this person has zero familiarity with me, aside from the fact that I own and operate a site that’s very popular with writers, authors and publishing professionals. Anyone who bothered to peruse [my Indie Author] blog would’ve very quickly discovered there’s no way I’d ever sign on for such a thing, and I’d be inclined to publicize the offer.

After re-reading the email a couple of times to be sure I wasn’t misunderstanding anything, and giving myself a couple of days to put together a more reasoned (and less pissed off) response, I hit Reply on that email, and this is what I said:

I have always advised indie authors to avoid vanity publishers, and AuthorHouse is one of the most notorious among them. The reputation of AuthorHouse as an overpriced, under-performing scam agency far precedes its name. I have warned many a writer away from AH in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

I am very disappointed to see such an august and respected publisher as S&S moving into this new, arguably predatory market area: pairing up a respected publisher with a vanity press to offer desperate would-be authors various, fee-based “services”—any of which the writer could retain him- or herself from freelancers at a fraction of the cost—and/or a publishing contract offering terms that virtually ensure the publisher will turn a profit, but the author will not. Surely the strongly negative reaction to HarperCollins’ Hydra imprint hasn’t escaped your notice?

I’m also troubled by your affiliate offer, as I fear many others you’ve approached with the offer will accept it and be motivated to lure naive aspiring authors to Archway like so many lambs to slaughter. The mere fact that Archway can afford to pay affiliates a $100 “bounty” per referral attests to unnecessary fees your author-clients are being asked to shoulder. I have little doubt that bounty is being paid by the author who was referred, probably bundled together with many other fees under an innocuous, yet vague heading like “book set up”.

I am sorry to be so negative, and I understand you are not personally responsible for the existence of Archway. However, having been a supporter of indie authorship since the days when people scoffed at the possibility of brick and mortar bookstore chains failing, I’ve seen far too many companies like yours take advantage of far too many of my peers. To say I feel very strongly about this sort of thing is a gross understatement. Nevertheless, I am glad to have received your email for one reason: now that I am aware of Archway, I can warn others about it.

So if anyone on any site you frequent is starting to advertise Archway, referring site visitors to Archway, or running content or contests provided by Archway, in all likelihood it’s because that person said “yes” where I said “no”.

It would’ve been more honest for Archway to offer a “bounty” of thirty pieces of silver per referral, because anyone in the indie community who takes them up on this offer is a Judas.

This is a cross-posting from April L. Hamilton’s Indie Author Blog.

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