Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Authorhouse: Abusing the rights of authors

Just before Christmas I learnt that a self-publishing company called Authorhouse were infringing the copyright of my first novel.

The novel was originally published with them in January 2007 as Gabriele Caccini however I believe that the contract I signed meant that I retained all rights and only had to give them a month's notice in order to remove the book from sale.

Almost five years later I am still fighting that battle.

Authorhouse charge extortionate amounts of money to provide what they claim is a professional service to allow authors to publish and promote their own books. Knowing nothing of the industry at that time I fell foul of their advertising and hype and chose to go down the self-publishing route with them. I won't go into this process except to say that it was very, very expensive and the serviceI received was never as good as they promised it would be.

Fortunately though, in 2008, The House of Murky Depths took up the Vampire Gene series and my self-publishing days were over. All should have been fine except that Authorhouse continued to sell the book despite my requests that they cease. How do I know? Well, they sent me royalties.

You might think that at this time I would have nothing to complain about - I was receiving the royalties after all - but I realised by then that Authorhouse was taking a massive cut of the income whereas I, the person who had paid for everything in the first place and taken all the risks, was earning a measly 86 pence a book. They were charging £13 a copy, so that's a royalty of around 6.5% of the cover price. I went to their website, only to learn that my book was still active, despite my telling them to remove it. The book was still available through Amazon and other websites and after many letters, as well as phone calls to their head office in the USA, Authorhouse eventually agreed to remove the book from sale.

Authorhouse operates as a print on demand (POD) service. There was no stock. All books ordered were printed and sent as they were ordered. So it was clear to me that this would mean that NO MORE books would be printed or sold because I had given them notice in early 2008 that they were not allowed to sell the book from July 2008 onwards.

By late 2009 however the book was still being sold, and I was still getting royalty statements and cheques from them for one or two copies a time. 

When I asked them why the book was still showing as available on Amazon, the excuse they gave me was that they had no control what Amazon offered. And, they said, Amazon probably had stock of the book. Well - as I said earlier - I knew this was probably untrue as the book was POD only.

I let it go though because finally the royalty cheques stopped coming and the Authorhouse website now said the book was unavailable.

You can imagine my shock when I logged into my Amazon account only to be offered the kindle version of my own book. Authorhouse - no longer under any contract with me - had taken it upon themselves to create an ebook.

Since then, and after phoning them several times with absolutely no response, I resorted to going straight to Amazon with the complaint.

This is where my tale takes a happy turn. Amazon have just confirmed that the listing for Gabriele Caccini will be removed from their site. That they respect the intellectual property of authors and that the information I provided has proved to them that this is in fact an infringement of my rights as the author.

So, the moral of this tale is ...

Self-publishing is never a good idea - but a worse one if you get involved with a company like Authorhouse who don't respect your rights and will continue to sell your works even when you instruct them not to.

Contact Amazon if you do have an issue and make sure you provide all the evidence you can to prove you are right. But ultimately I'd recommend staying away from self-publishing companies who charge high prices and make promises that they can't keep. There is a 'rule' that in publishing - and by that I mean 'proper' publishing - the money only goes in one direction ... TO THE AUTHOR. Remember that only reputable publishers can get your books in bookstores and stocked by distributors.


Alwyn Ash said...

I'm very pleased to see that Amazon has taken this action. It is both unfair and illegal for Authorhouse to continue to profit from a book that was never theirs in the first place. Copyright has always been yours, Sam, both morally and legally. So this is certainly a positive step!

Sam Stone said...

You're right Al, and I must admit I was surprised that Amazon have acted so well in this situation.

Marys Daughter said...

It's four years since the last comment but I have a question: what about a class action lawsuit? AuthorHouse is in violation of the RICO Law. Look it up. If an attorney convenes a Grand Jury and that Grand Jury actually sits (whether or not its opinion is for or against), a civil lawsuit can then begin.