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Pearson/Penguin buys self-publishing service

23 July 2012

The purchase of Author Solutions Inc by Pearson this week for $116m marks the first significant investment by an established publisher in a self-publishing service. Author Solutions was formed in 2007 from the merging of iUniverse, AuthorHouse and other related self-publishing services. Perhaps surprisingly in view of the booming self-publishing market, the company had been put up for sale earlier this year.

It may be hard to see why Author Solutions was for sale, given the growth in self-publishing, but it’s easy to see why Pearson might want a slice of the cake. In a statement the publisher said that it: ‘gives Penguin a leading position in this fast-growing segment of the publishing industry and brings significant opportunity for the two companies to collaborate. Penguin will gain access to ASI's expertise in online marketing, consumer analytics, professional services and user-generated content’ while Author Solutions ‘will benefit from Penguin's design, editorial and sales skills, and its strong international presence as it looks to expand outside the US.’

Given the discomfort felt by the big publishers in relation to self-publishing, this move is a sign of self-publishing making its mark and being seen as an increasingly important source of big authors. Often the most successful of these authors have managed to establish themselves in the market already, making the job of any publisher who subsequently takes them on that much easier.

Penguin Group CEO John Makinson talked enthusiastically about ‘accessing the enormous author base’ of ASI as well as coming to ‘understand how rich and detailed their understanding of consumer data’ is and looks forward to ‘accessing their customer support and data analytic strategies.’

It is a big turnaround though for a publisher renowned for its high quality publishing, and very much a sign of the changing times.