Austen Macauley is a publisher that advertises for manuscripts. They describe their set-up this way:
"Initially, our editors look at every new manuscript with a view to offer a Traditional Mainstream publishing deal. Once our editors have reviewed the work thoroughly, only then will we be able to decide which avenue would be more suitable for each individual book. A traditional partnership agreement entails the same benefits as a mainstream agreement. However, as the writer you may be asked to cover part of the cost of publishing the book. We follow all traditional mainstream etiquettes with regards to the promotion and marketing as well as all other avenues involved in the process."
Austin Macauley is only one of many publishers who have this two-mode system; there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Since I haven't had any personal experience with Austen Macauley, I decided to check with an expert who keeps tabs on writers' experiences with publishers.
WHAT DOES WRITER BEWARE SAY ABOUT AUSTIN MACAULEY?
I contacted Victoria Strauss, who runs the excellent "Writer Beware" blog to find out whether she knew anything about this operation. She told me, "I've gotten scores of complaints about Austin Macauley."
The Writer Beware "thumbs down" list has now added Ashwell Publishing, doing business as Olympia Publishing (has shared staff with Austin Macauley) (London UK).
AUSTIN MACAULEY'S LEGAL THREATS AND MONEY OFFER
I've had several letters from Austin Macauley threatening legal action over the previous version of this post.
First they accused me of being "a professional provider of self-publishing services" who therefore would benefit from making "disparaging references to publisher's work" (sic).
I don't provide any such services.
AUSTIN MACAULEY'S INTERESTING OFFER
Next, I had an email from an Austin Macauley consultant asking me "amicably" to remove this post. Here's what he wrote, using his spelling and punctuation:
No, Patrick and Austin Macauley, I don't post reviews for money, and I don't take them down for money.
THE LATEST LEGAL NOTICE
The most recent notice (September 9, 2015) accuses me of publishing defamatory material--namely, a fuller quote by Victoria Strauss, and the permalink for this post, which includes the words "how to avoid scams." So let me be clear:
Victoria's thoughts and experiences are her own. I've shortened her quote and invite you to make up your own mind about the Thumbs Down list at Writer Beware.
Secondly, the simple presence of the words "how to avoid scams" does not mean that any publisher mentioned in the article is being accused of scams.
Actually, my advice is to treat ALL publishers with caution, including Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pearson, Simon & Shuster, and all others, including Austen Macauley.
Many publishers are totally aboveboard, with contracts that are fair to authors. Some have contracts with provisions you may not find acceptable (and in some cases you may be able to negotiate changes). A small minority are scamming people.
When I use the phrase "how to avoid scams" I am advising you to do your own research, take a close look at the contract any publisher offers you, use the internet to check what other people's experiences have been, and only then make up your own mind before you sign up.
Just in case that's not clear enough for the solicitors that Austen Macauley is keeping busy: nothing in this post should be interpreted as an accusation that Austen Macauley is scamming people; instead, it suggests that those who read this post gather their own facts and come to their own conclusions, just as you would with any company before you sign a contract.