Andrew Phillips officially took over as president and CEO of Author Solutions (AS) on July 1, 2013, just a few weeks after the company was hit by a lawsuit brought by three authors charging AS with fraud. Although Phillips said the lawsuit was not a major distraction during his first two years at the helm of AS, he is nonetheless happy to be able to focus entirely on growing the company’s business, following the dismissal of the original lawsuit and a related case in September.
The self-publishing industry has changed a great deal since the go-go years when AS was created in the merger of AuthorHouse and iUniverse in 2007. The company was bought by Pearson in July 2012 and became part of Penguin Random House when Penguin and Random House merged a year later.
Phillips said AS estimates that the self-publishing market will grow at about a 15%–20% clip going forward, and though that may not be as fast as years past, it still gives the company lots of opportunities to expand the business. AS has worked with more than 200,000 authors, helping them publish more than 250,000 titles. In Phillips’s view, since self-publishing became a major part of the publishing industry, the market has divided into two camps—supported self-publishing services like AS, and what Phillips terms do-it-yourself companies that provide authors the tools to create and publish a book but little support. According to Phillips, in today’s crowded self-publishing market, AS’s greatest value lies in offering authors a range of services, including cover design, editing, and marketing and publicity. Author Solutions’ marketing offerings were at the heart of the lawsuits, but Phillips said the company has increased its efforts to ensure that authors understand what they are signing up for. “We work with all our authors to set realistic expectations,” Phillips said in an interview at PW’s offices. “And we deliver the services we promise.”
In his first two years with the company, AS has instituted a range of measures to make sure “that our authors are happy,” Phillips said. There is a weekly staff meeting, for instance, in which all the correspondence from the week is discussed, and ways to solve any complaints are worked out. As part of its Author Care initiative, AS has also established a two-person Twitter team that will answer questions posted on Twitter within the hour, seven days a week during business hours.
Phillips believes the attention paid to helping authors has paid off. Despite more than two years of litigation, the percentage of authors who returned to AS for a second book rose by 30% since Phillips joined the company, he said. The company’s Better Business Bureau grade rose from A– to A+, and surveys of authors show satisfaction levels are especially high.
Given the competition in the self-publishing market, if AS did not treat its authors fairly, it would be in trouble, Phillips said. “Authors certainly can do their research about what the different companies offer,” he added.
Phillips said there are a number of reasons why people choose to self-publish a book: it is something they always wanted to do; it supports a cause or raises the profile of an issue: it is part of a larger business effort, such as public speaking; and the author is hoping to publish a bestseller. Any author looking to sell books to the public needs to invest in marketing, and that is what AS offers authors, Phillips said. “We give writers a menu of choices to help them get discovered in a cluttered market.” But as with marketing efforts that traditional publishers employ for their authors, not all campaigns produce the results authors are hoping for or expect. “We set out expectations as clearly as possible,” Phillips emphasized.
Phillips said the average initial package taken by authors is for under $1,000, and that the company has packages for as low as $299. (Booktango, Author Solutions’ DIY service, is free, but it offers various services that authors pay for.)
Phillips had been running Penguin International from Delhi, India, before he was named by Penguin’s then chairman John Makinson to succeed Kevin Weiss at AS. At Penguin International, Phillips oversaw the creation of AS in India in early 2013, and since his move to AS, international expansion remains a priority for the company. In the next year, Phillips will be enhancing existing AS operations in key English-language markets; expanding its Spanish-language imprint, the Barcelona-based Megustaescribir, to Spanish-speaking authors in the U.S. and Latin America; and opening new services in various European languages.
AS is also looking to add more publishing partnerships. Phillips noted that deals with Simon & Schuster (Archway Books) and Thomas Nelson (Westbow) get authors involved with different communities. Earlier this fall, AS signed a deal with Alliant International University to create Alliant Press. Phillips believes there is a role for AS to play in helping universities without a press establish a publishing arm.
With self-publishing now an established part of the book business, Phillips said AS is well positioned to help authors take more control of their careers, if that is what they want. “We present authors with choices, and they can choose what they want,” he added.
Author Solutions’ Bestselling Books
(Third Quarter 2008–Second Quarter 2015)
|House of Darkness House of Light||Andrea Perron||AuthorHouse||E-book|
|The 45 Second Presentation that Will Change Your Life||Don Failla||iUniverse|
|Time Killer||Todd M. Thiede||iUniverse||E-book|
|Research Strategies||William Badke||iUniverse|
|Children of Terror||Inge Auerbacher & B.U. Gilbride||iUniverse||E-book|