My writing journey has taken many twists and turns but, through the years, my constant companion has always been Writer’s Digest Magazine; and I was not alone. From the days of scribbling in college-ruled notebooks to the time when submissions were sent electronically instead of in padded envelopes, “Subscribe to Writer’s Digest,” was generally the first piece of advice given to any aspiring author. Every month, Writer’s Digest offered inspiration, instruction, insider views and the occasional chuckle as we navigated the long, lonely and tortuous path to publication. In good times and bad, Writer’s Digestwas there, with calm words and sage advice. Writer’s Digest was our friend; they were on our side.
Sadly, those days are gone. In truth, they have been gone for some time, but it was only this month that my subscription to Writer’s Digest ran out and I decided not to re-up, after 40 years of continuous loyalty.
The reasons for this are a bit complicated and intentionally obfuscated by the companies involved but the long and the short of it is this: Writer’s Digest is no longer interested in helping writers; they have devolved into an advertising rag for the scummiest, scammiest, most predatory vanity publisher on the planet.
The business of a vanity press is diametrically opposed to the business of writing. In the writing business, money goes from the publisher to the writer. End of. No exceptions. If money goes from the writer to the publisher, you are dealing with a vanity press, an entity not in the business of publishing books, but of bilking money out of authors.*
On a whole, writers tend to be, shall we say, more hopeful than other people. This is largely because their chosen vocation is a lonely one, and they suffer a great deal of rejection. So when a company says they will publish their (stunningly brilliant) manuscript and promises them the moon and many stars in the process, a lot of writers are willing to believe. But once the contract is signed, the fees begin to add up, and up, and up.
There are many vanity presses out there, but the largest, slipperiest and most voracious of them all is Author Solutions. Author Solutions—in its many incarnations—has been the bane of writers for many years. They are adept at luring writers in with promises of profit, then the fees and hidden charges kick in and soon the writer is out thousands of dollars/pounds only to find themselves with an error-ridden, sub-standard book that they can’t sell. At which point Author Solutions will offer to sell the writer a marketing package, with more fees and hidden charges…
I could go on.
Suffice it to say, Author Solutions and its various hydra-heads are so good at sucking writers in, pressure-selling them useless services, ratcheting up fees and delivering next to nothing that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against them and their parent company, Penguin Publishing.
I have known enough to stay away from Author Solutions for some time, and have become increasingly disappointed in Writer’s Digest as more and more ads for Author Solution companies have crept into their pages. The only justification I could muster on their behalf was that these are tough times and you take what advertising you can get. Little did I know, they were a just a puppet of Author Solutions.
FW Media owns Writer’s Digest. Writer’s Digest runs a disturbing number of ads for Abbott Press, which is a Vanity Press that uses the same model and methods as Author Solutions. Turns out, FW Media also owns Abbott Press. And, interestingly, Abbott Press has the same address as Author Solutions and all of its many offshoots:
|Source: Author Solutions website
|Source: Writer\’s Digest Magazine
It is clear, therefore, that in the incestuous world of corporations, FW Media is in bed with Author Solutions and that the numerous ads for vanity presses in Writer’s Digest is not a case of temporarily selling their soul in order to stay afloat during these bad economic times. The ads are, in fact, the main purpose of the magazine, which is to lure their readers into giving money to any one of the many vanity presses they advertise (it doesn’t matter which one, they are all owned by the same company).
Writer’s Digest has no soul to sell; they are a shill for Author Solutions.
And so I must continue this writing journey on my own, without my life-long friend and companion by my side. The realization leaves me hollow and bereft, and feeling more than a little bit betrayed. It’s the same feeling I might get if I discovered that a long-time and much-admired entertainer turned out to be a pedophile, thereby tainting all the shared moments stretching back over the years.
Thankfully, there is very little chance of that happening.
* Self-publishing is not to be confused with a vanity press. Self-publishers may need the services of an editor and/or graphic designer but these services are hired on an as-needed basis and paid for with a one-time fee. The author remains the publisher and receives 100% of the profits. A Vanity Press acquires the rights to the book, becomes the publisher and receives all the profits, and makes the author pay for the privilege. Many vanity presses advertise themselves as “self-publishing” companies, but that is an egregious diversion from the truth.