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Friday, July 20, 2012

Penguin buys a stake in the indie publishing game

Indie publishing is booming -- and Penguin wants in

Digital Book World reports that Penguin has acquired self-publishing platform Author Solutions from Bertram Capital, a San Mateo, Calif.-based venture-capital and private-equity firm, for $116 million, in a bid to take a leading position in the growing self-publishing market.

And it sounds as if they've come to the conclusion that dedicated indie publishing firms do it better.  The acquisition comes less than a year after Penguin launched its own self-publishing platform, Book Country, and at a time when self-publishing firms are jockeying for favor with authors by offering new features and lower prices.

Significantly, perhaps, the company statement about the acquisition did not mention Book Country.

“It’s early days. We haven’t thought in detail about Book Country,” said Penguin CEO John Makinson on a press conference call.

According to the company statement, Author Solutions generated $100 million in revenue in 2011 and has been growing at about 12% per year for the past three years. The company derives its revenues from self-publishing authors paying for publishing, marketing and distribution services — roughly one third of its revenue from each business. Author Solutions has 150,000 authors who have published 190,000 books. By comparison, competitor Smashwords claims to have published approximately 140,000 titles by about 40,000 authors.

If Author Solutions will do as well with a major traditional publisher overlooking the helm remains to be seen. Read the commentary on Publishers Lunch.


Rick Spilman said...

The new buzz word/phrase seems to be "curated self-publishing" which seems to mean to provide support to and establish standards for authors in a hybrid between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

What strikes me odd about this acquisition is that Penguin is paying a substantial sum of money for companies with highly unsavory reputations run by a private equity group. Many call Author Solutions and its subs an outright scam and claim that its business model is to rip off writers.

Will Penguin be able to turn the show around and use the technology to help authors sell books or was it just clueless as to what it was being sold? Time will tell.

Joan Druett said...

Fascinating! Thanks for that, Rick. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of Author Solutions before -- or if I had, it didn't register as significant. Smashwords seems to be the firm that everyone talks about now.