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I contacted self-publishing savant David Gaughran for his opinion on the recent developments at Random House Writers’ Academy, and its current “Creative Writing for Beginners” course, which aims to equip aspiring writers with the basic tools to begin realizing their vision – for £499 ($821). This was his response, and is published here with his agreement:

David GaughranI’m pretty dismayed by this development. It sounds pricey for an online course, but the real worry is the complete disregard Random House seems to have for conflict-of-interest issues.

It’s bad enough that Penguin Random House already owns the biggest vanity press in the world without starting an overpriced creative writing course to capture newbies at an even earlier juncture in their careers. Naturally, the worry is that Random House will dangle the prospect of a deal to get writers to pony up the additional £99 [$163] to get their work read by an editor. I thought the publishing business had learned from its previous experience with reading fees, but clearly the old ethical rules don’t apply anymore. I’d also worry that writers will be pushed towards Penguin Random House’s vanity operations.

I suppose it comes down to trust, and I’ve very little of that where Penguin Random House is concerned. When Penguin first bought Author Solutions in July 2011, many in the industry expressed a hope that Penguin would clean the swamp, but they’ve done nothing other than aggressively expand its operations. When Random House and Penguin merged, further hope was expressed that Random would clean house. But nothing has been done in the six months since (and I don’t expect it to happen either).

This is simply yet another way that large publishers are seeking to make money from authors instead of with authors. They’ve already attempted to monetize the slush pile with their vanity press operations, and now they are looking to squeeze money out of writers before they even get that far.

 
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