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Beware the Vanity Press in Sheep’s Clothing

Vanity presses like Author Solutions will do everything they can to hide the fact they are running a scam. Smaller operations will change their name so they can try to erase their history and attract new victims, while Author Solutions both recruits front companies and runs several websites as honeypot operations.

These honeypots appear to be independent and offer advice about publishing when in fact the sites only recommend Author Solutions’s overpriced marketing services. As the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) discovered earlier this week, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a legit advice site and one of Author Solutions’s traps.

On Wednesday the IBPA hosted a webinar where Keith Ogorek,  the president of a site called Author Learning Center, explained how to create an effective marketing plan.

At first glance ALC appears to be a membership site where authors can learn how to publish their book.  It claims to have launched in 2017, but Victoria Strauss notes that ALC belongs to Author Solutions and has been in operation since 2011.

The IBPA said they were caught unawares. They told me that they thought Ogorek left Author Solutions in 2016, and later they posted this statement on their site:

At the time of booking this webinar, and up through the webinar actually taking place, IBPA was unaware that the Author Learning Center and Author Solutions have the same ownership. IBPA was also unaware that the presenter was the SVP of Marketing for Author Solutions until 2017. This IBPA PubU Online webinar in no way constitutes an endorsement of Author Solutions.

They really should have been able to figure out something fishy was going on; Ogorek’s bio linked to two white papers on the Author Solutions website. That detail should have raised red flags and lead to further investigations which would have revealed that ALC actually belonged to Author Solutions.

All it would have taken would be to ask Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware one simple question about ALC, and Author Solutions’s sham would have been exposed.

Instead the IBPA made the mistake of talking to Ogorek, who first claimed he left Author Solutions in 2016 when in fact his LinkedIn profile said he was still a VP there as of yesterday afternoon (I checked). Ogorek then claimed to have left in 2017, and changed his LinkedIn profile to support that claim.

Given the timing, and the fact that ALC makes no mention of past ties to Author Solutions, it is reasonable to assume that the connection is current.

This conclusion is supported by various clues on ALC’s website. For example, their ToU page lists their street address as 1663 Liberty Dr, Bloomington, Indiana. That building is owned by Author Solutions, and it is the home address of both Author Solution and its companies as well as various front companies like WestBow Press (a HarperCollins subsidiary) and Archway (a Simon & Schuster subsidiary).

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Allen F September 14, 2018 um 1:52 pm

If the writer pays them for 'anything' it’s a vanity press.

As Victoria Strauss has said often enough, "Money flows towards the writer – not away."

Kathy Steinemann September 15, 2018 um 11:20 am

Thanks, Nate. The indie community needs to know about disreputable publishers.

I read on a blog somewhere that no legitimate publisher ever uses Google AdWords for advertising. I commented that it was an unfair generalization but was unable to locate specific examples of reputable publishing companies who did so. The bad guys showed up, of course, but if I were a new legit business, I’d probably advertise on Google.

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