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Simon & Schuster launches vanity press POD line

Consider it the practical mixing of metaphors that sounds very impressive upon first blush, but really doesn’t make any sense the more you actually think about it: Publishing house Simon & Schuster has launched a new portal designed to take advantage of the self-publishing phenomenon that produced this year’s publishing story of the year (50 Shades of Grey and related sequels, by EL James) by providing authors tools to edit, design and market their work, while reassuring them that this doesn’t mean that they’re, you know, actually being published by Simon & Schuster.

The new offshoot is called Archway Publishing (The full name of the company, judging by the logo, appears to actually be “Archway Publishing From Simon & Schuster), and is actually a partnership between Simon & Schuster and Author Solutions, a self-publishing company purchased by Penguin parent company Pearson earlier this year. It describes itself as offering “a specialized approach to help every author reach his or her desired audience” by making available “the highest quality design, formatting, editorial, and marketing services provided by a team of specialists” using guidelines provided by Simon & Schuster. The publisher has also provided “certain unique self-publishing services [and] packages tailored to meet specific author objectives” as well as guidance in the development of the program.

Of course, such services don’t come cheap. Archway is offering four specific “packages” targeted at different types of books – Fiction, Non-Fiction, Business and Children’s – with each of those packages being available in multiple formats with increasing prices dependent on the services being offered. Basic packages (or “Foundation” packages, as they’re called by Archway) start at $1,999, with authors receiving paperback and digital copies of their work in addition to copy reviews, ISBN and Library of Congress number registration and distribution to booksellers, but authors could opt for more expensive packages like the “Visibility” package ($5,999, and offering “author reception at Book Expo America”) or the top-of-the-range “Connection” package ($14,999), which includes social media promotion and book trailer video.

Archway’s FAQs are very clear that it is neither an imprint of Simon & Schuster, nor does it mean that you would be published via Simon & Schuster. That doesn’t mean that there’s no value for the publisher in setting up the line in the first place, however; Simon & Schuster is described by Archway as “keep[ing] an eye out for titles that perform well in the marketplace,” noting that “Simon & Schuster is always on the lookout for fresh, new voices and they recognize a wealth of talent in Archway authors.” Translation: If you sign up for our services, you’ll become much more visible for a real publisher like Simon & Schuster. Whether that’ll be enough to convince newcomers to spend thousands of dollars, however, remains to be seen.

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