Simon & Schuster launches self-publishing arm with Author Solutions

Simon & Schuster (s CBS) is launching a self-publishing service called Archway with the Bloomington, Ind.–based Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI) Author Solutions is owned by Penguin but is run as a separate business.

With the launch of Archway, Simon & Schuster hopes to get a piece of the rapidly growing self-publishing market. According to Bowker, over 235,000 books are self-published annually — up 287 percent since 2006. (The actual figure is likely higher since Bowker only counts titles with ISBN identification codes. Titles published without them — like ebooks offered exclusively through Kindle (s AMZN) — are not included.)

Free self-publishing services, like Smashwords and Amazon’s KDP, focus on ebooks, while Author Solutions emphasizes print and retail distribution and has higher prices and lower ebook royalties. Archway’s “fiction” publishing package, for example, ranges in price from $1,999 to $14,999. That includes ebook distribution, but Archway authors can’t choose an ebook-only publishing option for now, though the company may add one later. Archway will pay an ebook royalty of 50 percent of net sales, so if an ebook is distributed to Kindle, for example, an Archway author would receive 50 percent of the sale minus Amazon’s 30 percent fee.

Archway is offering services like a “concierge” — “a dedicated publishing guide who will coordinate each step of the book production process” — and access to a speakers bureau. Archway titles will be included in the booksellers’ catalog Edelweiss. And Archway authors “will have the opportunity to create high-quality videos and book trailers for distribution” to the online video networks that Simon & Schuster works with, like Roku and Blinkx. Simon & Schuster is not hiring any staff; services like the “concierge” will be provided by Author Solutions.

Simon & Schuster will monitor the sales of Archway titles and may sign some authors for traditional publishing deals. In recent months, the publisher signed self-published romance authors Jamie McGuire and Colleen Hoover. “We’re excited that we’ll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing,” Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said in a statement.

Penguin acquired Author Solutions for $116 million in July, but the company continues to operate independently and “Penguin is not involved in any of our partnership businesses,” ASI CEO Kevin Weiss told me. ASI already operates white-label self-publishing services for Harlequin and HarperCollins’ Thomas Nelson, for example. “We have an agreement with [Penguin] that all of our partnership businesses are confidential,” Weiss said. “Prior to [a book] being in distribution,” Penguin can’t see it and it is “sealed off behind our firewall…I informed Penguin that we are launching this deal, but I did not get their permission.”