At one time, it was easy to figure out who the self-publishing companies were. They were called vanity presses, and people paid them large amounts of money to get small amounts of books to distribute to their closest friends and family members.
Then the self-publishing world exploded and in so doing became a little more respectable. Unfortunately, along with that came a bunch of companies that took advantage of writers who were unfamiliar with how to get published traditionally, who were too impatient to climb up the rungs of traditional publishing, who wanted to control their own publishing process, or (yes) who had written something that wasn’t ready for publication but wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
Self-publishing can be the perfect answer for people whose books are of interest to a limited audience or who want to be able to control the entire experience, but you need to do your homework when choosing the company that’s going to help you do that. (If you want a sickening look at the dregs of this industry, read Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell by former FBI agent Jim Fisher.)
After a while, it was still somewhat easy to tell who the self-publishing companies were. It became difficult when the less ethical companies changed names once they got a bad rep among writers. For example, did you know that AuthorHouse used to be 1st Books? Well, it turns out that Author Solutions owns a lot of the less-than-savory self-publishing companies: iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, xLibris. Many of us relied on sites like Preditors and Editors to keep track of who was on 1st and what they were calling themselves now.
Now the plot sickens. Simon & Schuster has entered the self-publishing business. And they’re partnering with Author Solutions to do it. David Gaughran describes it all in Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers.
I have to say that I’m not going to think of S&S the same way again. It would be as if I’d found out that Women Writing for a Change had acquired Hustler.