MANHATTAN (CN) - Penguin Group's self-publishing branch, Author Solutions, cheats writers of royalties and charges them to correct typos in manuscripts that the company itself inserted, three unhappy authors claim in a federal class action.
Kelvin James, Jodi Foster and Terry Hardy sued Penguin Group (USA) and Author Solutions, a Penguin company.
Author Solutions claims to have worked with 160,000 writers and created 200,000 books, according to the complaint.
(Plaintiff Jodi Foster has no relation to movie star Jodie Foster.)
Pearson PLC, a nonparty media and education company that owns Penguin, acquired Author Solutions on July 19, 2012.
"Author Solutions' revenues are estimated at $100 million per year," the complaint states. "Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or millions annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services ('services').
"Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.
"Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors' works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors - errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.
"Most of Author Solutions' earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing services. These services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.
"Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as '[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,' authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions it is not an 'indie publisher' at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them."
The writers say Authors Solutions also operates under the names AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Palibrio, Trafford, and Xlibris, to give customers a deceptive impression of variety.
"Many authors, in an effort to avoid republishing a second book with the same imprint, move onto another without realizing that it is simply the same Author Solutions operation under a different name," the complaint states.
The class includes New York and California residents who bought a package or services from Author Solutions, in the past three to four years, respectively.
The writers want $5 million in punitive damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, California unfair competition law, and New York general business law.
They are represented by Oren Giskan.
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