Authorhouse — authors beware: royalty ripoff
To my utter misfortune, I became acquainted and started to use the services offered by 1stBooks publishers now known as Authorhouse, and published my first two books in 2003. At the time, I detected no problem with their services and accepted that being my work was academic, would not sell many copies. I decided to publish my third book with them, a large 2 volume edition in 2008, and due to the reviews and publicity received, and the professors that contacted me personally, I became fully aware of the university libraries and public libraries who processed my work into their establishments, or were interested in my work.
However, I noticed the first major discrepancy in their promises was that if I turned my manuscript in within a certain time frame, I would receive fourteen free copies of my work when it was printed.
I e-mailed my text, and mailed my contract via snail-mail two weeks before the deadline, I know it arrived on time—I live in Europe, and mail does not take longer than 4 to 8 days to arrive in the US, however, they could not honour the free copy agreement as they hadn't received the contracts on time. They never mentioned the agreement included receiving the contracts, just the manuscript. I received just my usual free review copy of each volume. I decided to let the matter go.
Then, they have a very careless attitude with other aspects of their services. For example, their Press Wire program that sends your Press Release electronically to 14, 000 media outlets. Where did I find my academic books being promoted? In the financial sections of these media outlets, and not to my target audience found in the academic, history, biography, or even literature, areas.
(I also discovered my university level academic book on classical music categorised as a “children's book”.)
However, the major problems developed with royalty accounting. I began keeping a record of the copies available of my new two-volume work at Amazon US, UK, Canada, and their Marketplace vendors. (This is practically the only way you can discern how many books may be selling in the public domain.) Considering this is Print On Demand, when a number of available copies drops, you can expect it to be a sale since stores have no reason to keep raising and dropping the numbers unless they make a sale and then re-list the book. (For the record, I withdrew all my publications from Authorhouse June 14th 2010.)
Authorhouse's numbers were way below the daily tallies I kept from the Amazon numbers, they only reported between 10% and maybe up to 20% of the sales on any given quarter. Today for example, I received the worst report yet: they reported only 1 copy of Volume One sold in the second quarter (April 1 to June 14th, the time I withdrew my publications from them), and only 3 copies for Volume 2. According to my numbers from the Amazon rankings and marketplace sellers in the US, Canada and UK: 28 copies of Volume 1 sold, and 27 of Volume 2. Therefore they have reported only 4% of the sales, and they obviously are pocketing the rest. And this does not include other sales that may have been made through other sellers like Barnes and Noble, etc.
However, there is no way to be compensated for these discrepancies, Authorhouse demands you provide receipts of all sales as proof of your claim—how on earth do you track such receipts? Authorhouse knows it's an impossibility. Of course, Nielsen Book Scan offers sales report services, but you cannot use them to reclaim royalties, or display or disclose your sales report to any third party as Nielsen deems such action a breach of trademark confidentiality and would possible incur a lawsuit.
The simplest answer would be to cancel all contracts with Authourhouse, but this is not as easy as they make it out to be. To date, they continue to reassure me my books are no longer in print, but as I have discovered today (September 7), they are still listed with UK wholesale distributors as available within 5 days as Print on Demand, so they are technically still available by Authorhouse illegally.
1st Books / Authorhouse in my estimation is the most disreputable company allowed to carry on a business offering a sham service to the public, robbing authors of the fruits of their labours. Surely they are required to have a business license to operate as all other businesses? How can any state issue a license and continue to allow such a rogue business like this to continue? They are operating on such a large scale, and if they are doing this to every author, then one must consider the possibility they are committing grand larceny on a massive scale. They claim to have thousands of authors with their company.
Authors Beware: if you are considering publishing your book using Print On Demand, stay well away from this company. Even if they paid all the royalties, they do little or nothing to help promote your work, but expect you to pay additional hundreds and even thousands for various promotion packages that provide little if no results. For those of you poor authors who now hold a contract with Authorhouse publishing your work, my sympathies go out to all of you. --- E.A. Bucchianeri
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