This blog was featured on 08/30/2016
What's What----She Writes Press vs Author Solutions

A lot of She Writers have been contacting me to ask what the difference is between what we’re doing and how we compare to other self-publishing models.

I’m going to do a series over the next several posts, starting with Author Solutions (recently purchased by Penguin). I’ll be covering CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing entity), Lightning Source, and a few other hybrid options in weeks to come.

Like She Writes Press, Author Solutions offers packages. The primary difference here is that we offer one comprehensive package, and they offer usually up to six variations that range in price (and greatly in offerings) from $1000 to $7000.  You can recognize Author Solutions packages across their many imprints, which include AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and partnerships with traditional houses that include Hay House’s Balboa Press and Thomas Nelson’s Westbow Press.

Author Solutions is not particularly transparent about their offerings or their real value to their authors, and they have a reputation for taking advantage of authors by luring them into spending lots of money on marketing packages, book signing packages, book trailers, and other services that no author who’s just starting out needs. Newly self-published authors need to be educated about how the industry works, and how to reach their audiences. It’s going to be very difficult for a self-published author to compete against an established author from a big house.

What we hope to do at She Writes Press is equip authors with what they need to know to sell books, to earn out, and to exceed their expectations. Although it’s always possible that a self-published book will be a breakout success (as evidenced by Amanda Hocking and E.L. James), we are not in the business of trying to seduce our authors. We want them to be savvy about the publishing industry and to go into the business of publishing their books with their eyes wide open. Author Solutions has 150,000 authors who have published 190,000 books. That's a lot of books! We don't want our authors to be cast out into the world with no skills or understanding about viable next steps. Our authors will exceed their expectations because they will be educated, and because they will have a team of industry professionals who knows and loves books in their corner.

Author Solutions also claims to offer retail channel distribution, but they do not have traditional distribution. Their distribution, like most self-publishing companies, relies on Amazon and other online retailers. In some ways this makes sense, because the majority of sales happen online--UNLESS you already have a following and the capacity to sell books to an existing audience through your website or through speaking engagements. We feel it’s important to serve those authors who can sell more than five hundred copies a year by offering a print-run option, which is unique among self-publishing imprints. Printed books will give you the best return on your dollar.

By far the biggest difference between She Writes Press and Author Solutions is the team and community we have to offer. Author Solutions does not offer a personalized experience or a relationship with their team. They outsource much of their design work overseas, and they're in the business of creating a lot of books on a grand-scale level. Penguin is now claiming that they will take a look at the Author Solutions database of writers and titles to see if any are worthy of acquiring for the traditional publishing process (the same promise that’s been made by Hay House and Westbow--that the authors who go through their self-publishing arm will be closely monitored to see if they are worthy to be picked up for a traditional publishing deal)--but it remains to be seen how many books they will follow through on. I did find one press release from Balboa about an author who’d been offered a traditional contract; in general, however, I think this promise leads authors to believe that they are getting something more from self-publishing with Author Solutions than they actually are.

Self-publishing is the wild west of publishing. The publishing industry has long been struggling under a model that doesn’t make sense. Most small publishers haven’t been able to survive. Most books don’t earn out their advances. I think author-subsidized publishing makes sense. It makes us as authors put our money where our mouths are, and that’s a good thing in my opinion. I am publishing my own book on She Writes Press with the goal of earning back my investment and having a calling card and a book I can be proud of. I want to see and work with authors who are embarking upon their self-publishing experience with a real goal toward making money and understanding the industry they’re getting into. We also want to make sure that authors are ready, which is why we’re vetting our books. If your book isn't publish-ready, we will tell you, and we’ll give you an opportunity to get it there. The authors I’ve worked with over the years who’ve been the most regretful are those who published their books hastily. They spent money recklessly and were embarrassed by their books after the fact. No SWP author will ever have this experience.

Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss called Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions "a stamp of approval for the self-publishing sector." In my opinion, self-publishing has long had a stamp of approval, but it’s always been about the quality. Authors who know what they’re doing and who’ve been self-publishing well have been making money for years. They don’t need Penguin to give them legitimacy. She Writes Press is in the business of making sure authors publish well. We are transparent, accessible, and all about team and community. We are women supporting women to publish, reach their readers, and build upon their successes. I know from experience that women authors in particular want to work with a team of people who get and support their book. There are few self-publishing companies who are in the business of getting to know their authors. We are in that business, and we can’t wait to meet you.

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  • Lorna Collins

    Yep, Brookie, I've know  you since you were a very little girl. And I'm so proud of you!

    I was aware of the mergers and the Penguin acquisition. We were happy with iUniverse both times we used them, but I heard varying opinions of Author House. They were not known for quality. Unfortunately when they acquired iUniverse, the whole group took on the Author House model. Fortunately we were able to do a lot of our own work. (Larry did sketches for each story and wanted them embedded in the text for each. Most other publishers wouldn't have done it the way he wanted. That's why we used them for the second book. And Len & Lu Rugh used them for their book Promises Kept because, although they had gotten some positive response from other publishers and agents, they didn't want to take the years it sometimes requires to go the traditional route.

    What about She Writes? If you'd been around, would you have been willing to do the book the way Larry wanted, including the sketches?

    Are you doing distribution to all outlets? What about ebooks (Kindle, NOOK, etc.)? Print?

    If your model provides the level of author control we like, we might talk to you at a later time for our historical novel. Unfortunately, it may be another year or two before we finish that one.


  • Sandra Joseph

    Fantastic post, Brooke! Thank you for sharing your insight with us!

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for this perspective, Pamela!

  • Pamela Olson

    I've heard nothing but dreadful things about AuthorSolutions. See this, for example:

    I worked with CreateSpace to publish my first book, and it went well, but it was very impersonal, and their editing and marketing services were horrendous. (Luckily I didn't use them except for small things, and I complained and got my money back.) She Writes Press definitely fills a niche that I think many writers are looking for (whether they know it yet or not)!

  • Hi Nancy, I will follow up with an email! Thanks for the questions.

  • Nancy Beckett

    I am in the process of putting together a guided-writing journal series. Would SWP be willing to look at something like that?  Would SWP be attending the big bookfairs? Any gift shows? Or would it be better for me to contact retail reps myself and use SWP for printing and distribution? (Obviously Chronicle in SF has dominance in this market but if the self-publishing price margins are right would it be more profitable to have SWP involved?) If you would be more comfortable, I'll take my answer off the air ;)

    @ [email protected] Thank you.

  • Thanks for sharing this, @Emily!

  • Emily Suess

    Just as an FYI -- I've written a great deal about the other companies and why they should be avoided at Complete Index: Author Solutions & iUniverse Complaints, if anyone is interested. It's a topic that is close to my heart, and I've been working with lots of writers to point out just how the Author Solutions (now Penguin's baby) model works. 

  • Thanks for your support, @Claire. We appreciate it. And @Dawn, thank you, too. Good to see you here! :)

  • Claire McAlpine

    Great post, gotta love transparency, its the new way, and the only way - and we have already experienced how SheWrites is a community, the more we input and engage , the more we learn and more likely we are to meet with our own definition of success.  So many great quotes in this piece.

    the most regretful are those who published their books hastily

     We are transparent, accessible, and all about team and community.

    There are few self-publishing companies who are in the business of getting to know their authors. We are in that business

  • Hi Maureen, thanks for letting us know. I just posted a comment there. I think it's important that readers here know, too, that our submissions fee includes an assessment of the manuscript. The dialogue and questions are helpful for us. We want to make sure we're very clear about all of our services.


  • Maureen E. Doallas

    Members and readers of this post might be interested to know poet Diane Lock referenced the press today:

  • Dawn Novotny

    Hi Brooke, so good to see all of the exciting things that you are up to. Good luch with everything. Dawn Novotny