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Penguin gets self-publisher Author Solutions for $116 million

Penguin CEO John Makinson made the announcement from Bloomington, Ind. That’s because it’s the home of Author Solutions, the self-publishing company that Penguin’s parent company, Pearson PLC, acquired Thursday for $116 million. Author Solutions, known as ASI, will be folded into the Penguin business unit where it will operate as a separate entity, writes the Wall Street Journal.

Makinson was joined by ASI CEO Kevin Weiss; together the two company heads said the deal marks the “mainstreaming” of self-publishing, Publishers Weekly reports. Makinson explained the deal, in part, by saying: “They have skills that can help us at Penguin. They’re moving globally and we can support that. It’s a natural convergence and its broadening our publishing and offering more choices for readers.”

Penguin has been one of the major publishers that has been open to incorporated self-publishing. In 2011, it launched Book Country, an online community for writers and readers designed to foster creative development that would lead to self-publishing, with the possibility of works bubbling up into Penguin proper. “Self-publishing is growing and converging with traditional publishing,” Makinson said Thursday. With the acquisition of ASI, that convergence is happening in a big way.

Authors have emerged from the crowded ranks of self-publishing to top bestseller lists, including Amanda Hocking, Darcie Chan, and JA Konrath. Some, like Hocking, have decided to sign with a traditional publisher; Konrath, on the other hand, is vocally devoted to self-publishing.

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Since its founding in 2007, ASI has published 190,000 books by 150,000 authors. The company had revenues of $100 million last year, which included selling self-publishing services to other publishers, including religious publisher Thomas Nelson. It expects to continue offering those services going forward.

Another key aspect of the deal are ASI’s robust customer analyticals. “This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future,” Penguin’s Makinson said.

ASI’s Weiss commented on the changing relationship between traditional publishers and self-publishing. “We have seen a rapid change,” he said. “When I got here four and a half years ago, we were still labeled as vanity publishing and we were somewhat the scourge of the industry.”


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