Friday, June 30, 2006

A.C. Crispin 57 - iUniverse's Publishing Program, and Placement in Barnes and Noble Stores (Revised)

Okay, folks, here, at long last, is the first part of my report on iUniverse's advertisement re: giving shelf space to books from their "Publisher's Choice" program in Barnes & Noble bookstores.

In this post, I'm going to answer, first of all, the basic question that was posed about iUniverse's "Premier Plus/Publisher's Choice" program. (There's another program iUniverse has called the "Star Program" that is also a possible way to get books on the shelves in B&N stories, but it's quite different, and I'll deal with that in my second post.)

First, a brief recap. A few months ago, a writer posted on Miss Snark's site that she had been handed a brochure and told by a B&N employee that if she just paid enough money to iUniverse, they would guarantee to put her book on the shelves in B&N stores. The writer wanted to know if what the clerk had told her about the iUniverse publishing programs called Publisher's Choice was, indeed, true.

The answer to this writer's question is, NO. It's not possible for a writer to "buy" her way onto the shelves in B&N stores via any of the iUniverse programs. The clerk evidently misunderstood what she'd seen in the brochure that was referenced, which I have a copy of right here.

Books self-published through iUniverse's Premier Plus plan are ELIGIBLE for the Publisher's Choice program, but not automatically guaranteed to get into it. Books that are made part of iUniverse's Publisher's Choice progam are guaranteed to be be placed on the "new releases" table in a B&N store of the author's choice (that's ONE STORE) for a minimum of 60 days.

I did a lot of research on this topic, and received assistance from both B&N and iUniverse itself. The President of iUniverse, Susan Driscoll, actually called me from the beach on her cell phone to tell me about these programs. I found this to be an encouraging sign, because when an actual scam is going on, the LAST thing scammers want to do is cooperate with a watchdog group.

The Premier Plus plan costs an author $1,099, (I gather they sometimes run "specials" that reduce that price) but authors can end up paying more than that. For example, the PP package contains what they call an "editorial evaluation," that's included in that price, but not copyediting, for which they charge extra. Other services are included, such as "a Thorough Design Concept, Evaluation and [IUniverse's] Cover Copy Polish service [and] a 'tune-up' of the all-important promotional text on your book's cover." How much these "extras" are actually worth is debatable. For the author that has written a poor book, no amount of "extras" will turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

What this all translates to, is that IF you pay the $1,099 for the Premier Plus package, you are then ELIGIBLE for the Publisher's Choice program, which guarantees that your book will be placed on the "new releases" display in ONE B&N bookstore of your choice, and it will be kept there for 60 days.

Note the word "eligible." It's important. Susan Driscoll explained that no Premier Plus books will be made Publisher's Choice books unless they have been read and approved by editors at iUniverse. Does this mean anything? Actually, it does. If you review the credentials of the iUniverse staff, you find that many of them actually have commerical publishing backgrounds. Susan Driscoll and the Editorial Director, Diane Gedymin, for example, both worked for commercial publishers, including HarperCollins, Penguin Putnam, and Holt. (Contrast that with PublishAmerica, for example, where no one in the driver's seat has ever worked for a commercial publishing house.)

So, in order to be made a Publisher's Choice book and placed on the display table at ONE B&N store of your choice, the author has to do the following:

1. Pay the $1,099 for the Premier Plus package

2. Have the book approved by the editorial staff at iUniverse so it is placed in the "Publisher's Choice" program.

So, not all Premier Plus books will be chosen for the Publisher's Choice program. And being chosen for that program doesn't really add up to all that much. Display in ONE bookstore of the author's choice? One bookstore might equate to several dozen sales, but hardly more than that. It does say that if the sales are promising iUniverse will consider placing the book in other stores. The program is too recent for this to have happened yet, if it ever does.

iUniverse sent me three of the books they've chosen for the Publisher's Choice program (the designation is on the back of the book). I skimmed all three of them. Two of them were what I would call "coming of age" slice-of-life books, one with a romance subplot. The third was a detective thriller featuring a supernatural/horror type villain. The first two books were written pretty well, though I didn't find either of the storylines particularly compelling. But the style flowed, and I've seen worse between the pages of books published by commercial publishers. The third book was not, in my opinion, commercially publishable. The style was awkward, the pacing uneven, the characterizations shallow, and the premise silly and not well executed.

In reading the iUniverse website or brochure about their publishing programs, the word that comes to mind is "spin." They put the best possible face on what they do, which they call "supported self publishing" instead of vanity publishing. However, any author with two brain cells to rub together can discover via their materials just how it works, so in their case, "spin" does NOT equate to the outright lies favored by the scam vanity publishers like PublishAmerica. iUniverse tells you right out that they publish 400 books each month. That's 4800 books per year. And they also tell you that 3-5 of the books they publish get picked up by commercial publishers every month. If you figure 4 as an average, that's 48 books per year. So...1 book out of 100 has a chance of being picked up.

Does PublishAmerica tell you this in black and white? No. They don't. IUniverse does, even if the reality is not emphasized and their few success stories are. Writer Beware has not gotten any complaints about iUniverse since shortly after they opened their doors. iUniverse is not deliberately misleading their authors in the way scam vanity presses do.

I have more to say about the iUniverse publishing programs, especially the "Star" program, which also promises authors that their books will get into B&N's, but this post is getting fairly long, so I'll address them in my next post.

Best,

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com


P.S. Does this mean I think all of you should immediately run out and sign on to become iUniverse authors? No, of course not. Writer Beware doesn't endorse any publishers or agents. BUT, if a writer told me she/he had decided, after doing his/her research, to publish POD and asked me to suggest some vanity POD publishers that I would personally consider using, if I wrote something that I knew had no commercial potential (for example a personal memoir, or a family history, or a poetry collection), the ones I would suggest would be (in alphabetical order): Booklocker.com, Infinity.com, Lulu.com, and iUniverse.com

P.P.S. Also for the record, I don't write memoirs, poetry, or family histories. Just novels. (grin)

***************

Edited to add: Since this post was written, iUniverse has been acquired by Author Solutions, the company that also owns AuthorHouse, a more problematic POD self-publishing service (see Victoria's post about the merger). We feared the merger might result in a deterioration of iUniverse's services, and based on the comments that follow the post, as well as complaints we've received, that does seem to be the case.

67 comments:

Shadow said...

Why on earth would you recommend BookLocker? They're the worst kind of vanity press: they have a prepublication approval process (because they "don't want to publish junk"; also, they "reject more than 90% of incoming proposals") and then they charge you for "POD setup" (unlike Lulu.) Sounds to me like the worst of both traditional and POD publishing. In fact, Angela Hoy sent me a nasty email when I wrote to ask her about it.

They talk about how "all our authors are family", and feature "testimonials from satisfied authors". Aren't those scam-ish red flags?

According to their website, the "major reasons [they] reject books":

1.) Spelling and grammatical errors.

2.) Poor writing.

3.) Low sales potential.

4.) Too religious in nature, contains poetry, sexual content that is too strong, or other content that we feel is inappropriate.

5.) Books that may contain libel, hate material, or anything that makes us uncomfortable and that may disturb or harm readers.

It's #3 that bothers me, and makes BookLocker sound like a bad idea for the kind of publishing you mentioned. For the record, I've had good experiences with Lulu, though none with Infinity.com or iUniverse.

Please, Ann, if I'm off base here, check out their web site more carefully and tell me so. By my reading they're a vanity press that's very selective about whose money they'll take.

Michaelc said...

You say that under some circumstances you would recommend iUniverse as a POD vanity press. Would you recommend their Premier Plus Program or their lowest priced service, which is $800 less? Do you think the "extras" in any way justify the price? Would you advise authors to pay extra for an iUniverse copyedit?

Shadow said...

Entering www.infinity.com into my browser redirects me to SunGard's "Trading, Treasure and Risk Management" page.

A. C. Crispin said...

I listed them because Writer Beware hasn't had complaints about them. I've never used any of these services, personally.

Here's Writer Beware's "official recommendation:"

You can quote me: "Writer Beware advises that authors who want to establish a career as a writer pursue every possible avenue of commerical publication. If the writer has done that and commercial publication is not possible, there is always POD to 'fall back' on if you really feel you must see your work in print at that time."

If asked which POD publishers I'd choose if I were going to POD, I name the ones that I named.

That's the official word. I'm going to remove the word "recommendation" from my post. It's not the right word.

I worked on that darned post for over three hours, and by the time I was finished with it, I was pretty tired and punchy. You can probably tell.

-Ann C. Crispin

P.S. If you want to register an official complaint with Writer Beware about any publisher, please write up a report and provide documentation. We consider all such reports received.

A. C. Crispin said...

To Michael C:

I wouldn't think that iUniverse's "Premier Plus" editorial evaluation would be worth more than having one's book read and critiqued by a good writing workshop group, critique group, or beta reader (or two).

For people who have absolutely NO way to get feedback on their work, it might be worthwhile to them, if they have a lot of money, to consider paying for a book doctor or editorial critique. Which I gather this is.

Personally, I'll stick to my beta readers.

-Ann C. Crispin

A. C. Crispin said...

To Shadow:

Wow. I have no idea what has happened to Infinity Publishing. These things do seem to come and go. I could also have gotten the web address wrong.

A computer savvy person, I am NOT.

That's Victoria's department.

Best,

-Ann C. Crispin

Michaelc said...

There's an infinitypublishing.com. Is that it?

A. C. Crispin said...

Yes, that's the one. Thank you, Michael C.

Catja (green_knight) said...

Placement in a single B&N store?

Does anyone know what the B&N policy is on this? If I take my five self-published novels to my local B&N store, and ask politely to speak to whoever is responsible, what are my chances of getting them in myself?

In other words, is this actually _worth_ anything?

And I'm not saying that there isn't a market for the subsegment of self-publishing (people with small audience) that could do with editorial services; but to me, this doesn't sound like a good deal.

peter liddle said...

Coming into this a little late, perhaps, but let me give you some insight on iUniverse from a former B&N employee perspective.

It's no secret that displays in B&N are purchased by publishers; the idea of the store employees knowing their customers and merching the store is verboten. There was a quote from the head buyer for B&N at the time I was there who said every inch of shelf space in the store is for sale. Not that that's ever happened, but it seems like it sometimes.

That said, store employees and management have a tought time staying on top of merch changes. Most of the prime space on tables and endcaps changes over every 14 days. The exceptions are those tables that are bought by publishers for longer periods of time, holiday displays and, naturally, those B&N publications that bear their name or the name of one of their imprints or those of their partners (Sterling, MJF, etc.).

Also, almost all the B&N's I've ever visited did not have the space or required numbers of tables to carry out every merchandising edict. Choices were then made based on availability of titles. This was actually a huge concern as titles often came in after the display was supposed to be up, causing a lot of daily shuffling of titles, which in turn made it difficult for employees to find books either because they weren't in the section (due to being on displays) or the displays moved so often no one could keep track of them.

Now you've got iUniverse. In our store the display was a top shelf in the reference section, probably because iUniverse is about self-publishing but that's where we were instructed to set it up. Mind you, iUniverse titles were displayed there regardless of their actual genre so it didn't matter if the author wrote fiction, biography or a cookbook, it wouldn't be shelved in those sections. Some stores had the luxury of moving their iUniverse display to a very small mission table at the end of a back aisle but, again, these titles were not kept shelved in their respective sections.

And we never sold a single iUniverse title in the four years I was there.

To answer catja's question about placement and walking into a B&N with their self-published books... sorry. Managers following the company line will need to see if your book is actually available to order via larger distributors like Ingram. If so, the book still needs to be listed as 'returnable' because any book that doesn't show a sales history in a given cycle gets purged and returned. POD's are almost always non-returnable and even most iUniverse titles are as well. (Or were when I was there). These things are watched by district managers who are monitoring that their stores don't drift too far from the company line. Ultimately, because the buyers purchase books for a store based on their known shelf space, non-returnable titles clogging the shelves become a problem requiring a quarterly purge that sends them to bargain tables where they are written off as a loss.

As always, exceptions exist, but the reasons are usually compelling. We had a local publisher arrange for us to carry two books of local history -- one of photos, the other of documents -- and were so bullish in their promotion that during the holidays we sold an average of 15 copies a day (more than most bestsellers, it should be noted). To their credit, the publishers lined up two radio interviews and local television coverage and placed ads in local papers. These books had to be treated with a special invoice that required advance approval. Any author that can convince any store manager -- B&N or otherwise -- that their book can sell that many copies can find space on a shelf in a bookstore.

For the record, I hated almost everything about my experience at B&N and it opened my eyes to one of the uglier sides of the business. I now work for a magazine publisher as an intern and see dozens of self-publsihed titles come through the mail for review by our editors. My instructions have been clear: dump 'em. Oh, I can give them a glance to see if somehow a gem had fallen through the cracks but I can say, so far, there hasn't been a single vanity/subsidy/POD title that didn't make me physically wince.

Not to end on a negative note, I think that iUniverse and a number of the other vanities and POD's have their place for things like family histories and cookbooks, oral histories, fieldbooks and manuals, things for a very limtied audience that might be spread across a wide area.

The sad part is that most of these publishers tend to word thier services in such a way that lead aspiring authors into believing publication equals automatic sales and money. An honest bookseller or librarian can tell you their favorite story of a publsihed "name" author who spent decades working day jobs until the writing started to pay off. iUniverse would have you believe that publicatiuon is the be-and-end-all.

Or is that the B&N all?

Anonymous said...

Peter: Thanks for your comment. Very enlightening!

And as always, thanks to Ann and Victoria for an excellent blog.

Kelly

John said...

Here is a web site pitching one Publisher's Choice iUniverse novel. It's pretty awful.

Anonymous said...

The Good I Stand On (the book mentioned in the previous comment) is an Editor's Choice title not Publisher's Choice. There's a difference.

A bad website does not necessarily equal a bad book.

Todd Nuke 'Em said...

Let me share something about what can happen at Barnes and Noble stores ... at least in the Salt Lake City area. My novel RATED F (by Todd C. Noker, iUniverse)ended up on the shelf in several Barnes and Noble locations. It was very surprising to see it right there on the shelf, because iUniverse had made no promises for such placement. I did a little investigating on my own, and found out that stores (at least 5 in the area) had opted to keep a couple copies on hand because customers were buying it.

Since then, RATED F has been re-released by iUniverse Star.

John F. Harnish said...

I’d like to offer a few points of clarification with regards to Infinity Publishing.

The correct URL is www.infinitypublishing.com with an addition URL at www.authorsconference.com that focuses on our annual “Express Yourself…” Authors’ Conference.

I don’t want to appear to be flying under false colors, I am the author of 3 books published and distributed by Infinity Publishing. “Enjoy Often!!!” is a collection of some of my wordsmithing pieces. Having previously been represented by an agent and published by traditional houses well into the ‘80’s, I knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I’d ever interest a mainstream house in publishing my collection of assorted offerings. I had also self-published very successfully in the early ‘70’s, but there was no way in the late ‘90’s I wanted to undertake all the hassle and huge expense of self-publishing again. I was 30 years older and a tad wiser.

However, I had a growing number of folks who had expressed interest in buying a book containing a collection of my work if I ever published one. I discovered I could publish my book just the way I wanted it to be with Infinity Publishing, I retained all rights, and my only cost was a one-time setup fee of a few hundred dollars to add my book into their unique book publishing system. Now it didn’t take me but an instant to figure out that a few hundred dollars for them to do the publishing and distribution of my book and then pay me monthly royalties on each book sold is a far more cost-effective than me paying out several thousand for an offset press run to produce a couple thousand books. I also did the math and figured out that if only half of the folks who said they’d buy actually bought my book I’d soon earn back the cost of the setup fee. Yes, ‘tis just simple math to figure out how many books it takes being sold to recover my setup production cost and show a profit.

One of the Infinity Publishing features that I really liked was I got to increase the price of my book over their suggested retail price based on page count. The suggested retail price for my 360 page trade paper back was $17.95, but I upped the price to $19.95 using their value added feature. It’s a real benefit to the author because of each dollar increase I get approximately 75% and that’s in addition to the base royalty paid on the selling price of the book. Too many authors have a problem with valuing their work – most undervalue it and bemoan that their trade paper back is priced too high to compete in the market place. Not so, most book buyers aren’t deterred from purchasing a book they’re interested in reading even if it costs a few bucks more.

As fate would have it, soon after publishing “Enjoy Often!!!” in March of 1999, Tom Gregory, the president of Infinity Publishing, made me a job offer to come on board and develop our Author’s Advocate program – authors helping authors to publish successfully in this evolving branch of book publishing. I’m proud to say that I’ve been a full time employee of Infinity Publishing since May of 1999. In my position as Special Projects Director, and the Infinity author of 3 books, I’m qualified to clarify a few points that you touched upon in your informative blog about iUniverse, their STAR program, and the saga of B&N.

We launched our Authors Who Make A Difference program (AWMAD) in March of 2003 at the Virginia Festival of the Book’s Publishers’ Day in Charlottesville, VA. We make it perfectly clear that the author is responsible for promoting and marketing their book; however, we also explain that when we see a book with steady monthly sales that we will take a look at how we can help the author do more of whatever they’re successfully doing to produce those sales. Bottom line is we earn our profit in the traditional way of publishing by selling books. AWMAD provides us with the guidelines to work directly with our authors who have a good book that’s selling well and receiving positive reader acclaim with regards to how one of our non-fiction titles provided real world help to improve the quality of their lives. We feel that unsolicited letters from readers who have benefited from a book speaks in volume beyond the vested voices of a panel of judgmental editors. The whole purpose of this program is to enable us to work closely with the author to create a great second edition of their book. Although we now have invested in the author’s book, the author still has the final say on every thing we might propose regarding their book. As it is with all of our titles, the author continues to own all rights because they are only granting us permission to publish and distribute their book in exchange for monthly royalties paid on each book sold.

Once upon a time before the Lightning Source / Ingram connection came to be, B & N ordered books directly from Infinity Publishing. From our start in 1997, we have enjoyed an excellent reputation for prompt deliveries on all book orders – most orders are shipped within 24 to 48 hours. We can do this because we produce all of our books in-house and we maintain an on-shelf micro inventory for each of our over 3.500+ titles. The only books not produced in-house are orders placed by bookstores though Ingram. Sadly, those orders for our titles from Ingram are filled with books produced by Lightning Source – we’ve been told by bookstore managers that the production quality of Infinity produced books are clearly superior. Our fruitless efforts to again sell directly to B & N are featured in the January 2006 issue of our Author’s Advocate newsletter archived at www.authorsconference.com.

Independent bookstores love our return policy that guarantees every Infinity Publishing produced book is returnable for a full refund, with no restocking fee, for one year from the invoice date. The only exceptions are those books produced by Lightning Source for Ingram to fill orders with. We pay royalties when the book is sold, and we consider a book sold when the invoice is rendered to the bookstore, even though the book is covered by our liberal return policy. This is all accomplished at no cost to our authors and any returns are balanced out with future royalties. Since launching our return policy for bookstores in 2003, complete details are in the November 2003 Author’s Advocate newsletter, the actual number of returns have been way less than were projected and orders from bookstores continue to be steady far higher than were projected.

Our annual “Express Yourself…” Authors’ Conference is open to all authors regardless of how or with whom they have published. We bring together leading experts in media promotions and book marketing to help authors learn successful ways to sell more books. Infinity Publishing underwrites the cost of producing the conference and this enables us to keep the registration fee as affordable as possible for authors. The $639 registration fee covers all conference activities, 2 nights lodging at the Sheraton, all meals, and a one-on-one consultation with the presenter or keynoter of their choice. This isn’t an weekend long infomercial for Infinity Publishing; however, we do offer tours of our West Conshohocken facility, which is just a short shuttle bus ride from Valley Forge, so authors can see how we produce books. We firmly believe that the best person to promote a book is the author and the focus for the weekend is to enable the author to be more effective with all of their promotional efforts.

Indeed it is most unfortunate that many of the POD publishing services have been long with their promises and short on delivery as promised to authors. These inconsiderate actions have been costly to once trusting authors, distasteful to booksellers and harmful to this evolving branch of the publishing industry. I dare say that I believe some are doing their best to make amends with their authors as they modify their publishing models to be more responsible to and respectful of their authors.

I believe that author-originated publishing going to be the most cost-effective and profitable method for authors to publish successful in the 21st century. You are already seeing an indication of this trend in Amazon.com’s financial report for 2005 that clearly showed that over 70% of their profits from all book sales came from the sale of niche market books. How ever you want to slice up the profit pie, that’s a significant number of number of books being sold by authors with books that fill the endless needs of niche topics. Digital content produced as a printed book, as an e-book for a handheld reader, and as an audio book ready for an iPod provide publishing options that will cause offset presses go the way of the letterpress by 2020 – or thereabouts. The ways of publishing are changing, and at long last the changes will benefit the author. I’m certain Ben Franklin would be pleased with the revolution that’s happening in the book publishing industry. I feel deeply honor to be able to play a part in helping to grow this new branch of publishing – both as an author and as a publisher. Take care and enjoy often…John

John F. Harnish
Special Projects Director
Infinity Publishing

john@infinitypublishing.com

www.authorsconference.com

E.D.Frazier said...

This is in response to Michaelc's question.

I preparing to publish through iUniverse as we speak. After a ton of review of many POD houses, I purchased the "premier plus" package from iUniverse.

I have to be honest when I tell you that the support, response and unbiased opinions have been priceless.

I'm sure you realize that I am an unpublished author and this is my first novel.

The "editorial evaluation" was the selling point for me. After receiving the evaluation, I was stunned. Now I am grateful. I have a completely different book now; same story, different structure. I can only imagine the...

When you consider the amount of time you put into the effort, the cost is minimal.

Anyway, an emphatic YES! It is well worth the additonal money. I don't regret it for a second.

Victoria Strauss said...

e.d. frazier, I'm curious to know why you decided to use a POD service to publish your first novel?

SA said...

I published my multicultural womens' fiction though iUniverse. With a baby and full time job, I didn't have time or patience to wait endlessly for traditional publishing process. In hindsight that was the best route for me.

Their process was superb but their editorial evaluation left a lot to be desired. It had vague generic comments in there. It was almost like the book was not completely read. Perhaps my genre is not the specialty of the editors at iUniverse.

I did my own marketing and was overwhelmed by the results. The book won a few awards, got great reviews and media coverage (newspaper and TV) and I even found an agent. For my second book, I am going traditional though. POD was a good way to get my name out. Now that I have that edge, editors are more receptive and interested.

Bunny said...

Shadow said: It's #3 that bothers me, and makes BookLocker sound like a bad idea for the kind of publishing you mentioned. For the record, I've had good experiences with Lulu, though none with Infinity.com or iUniverse.

Shadow, I would take this as a good sign. It means they make money off the book sales and not just the authors. If they were making money just from authors, they wouldn't care how well the book sold.

Bob Sanchez said...

Thanks for the iUniverse thread. I've signed on with them to publish my latest novel unsing their Premier Plus program, and so far I feel that they've treated me in an honest and businesslike manner. Their editorial evaluation was professionally done, and gave me issues to think about as I do my line edit. They've offered additional services such as developmental editing and proofreading, but I'm confident of being able to deal with any issues myself.

I have no illusiona about seeing a display of my books at B&N. As iUniverse makes pretty clear, the odds of getting that kind of exposure are slim. They also make it clear that the marketing is my responsibility, and my channel will not be bookstores.

Whether POD is a way to get noticed by an agent seems doubtful to me, and I am not convinced it matters. Over the years I have had three agents for various novels, but those novels remain unpublished. My goal goes beyond publishing for friends and family; I just want to reach as many people as possible, for total strangers to read my work. So if I make back the money I spend, or just most of it, then I'm happy. If only my friends buy, then I'm not. For this goal, iUniverse looks like a good vehicle.

Victoria Strauss said...

(This was received in private email, and is posted here with the permission of the author.)

I recently unearthed a blog by Ann C. with regard to her opinion on iUniverse's Publishers Choice distinction, which was quite informative. One thing I would add, as I am in the ninth inning as a customer of iUniverse's who has been given the coveted Editors Choice and Publishers Choice distinction is that I am under the impression that to be given Publishers Choice, there is actually a committee of higher arches who determine which books achieve PC. They also take into consideration the content, quality of writing and cover of your book prior to you receiving PC. As you will see on their web site they have only give 62 books this distinction, mine to follow, so it bodes towards the quality that they are looking for.

It has been a pleasure working with iUniverse as I have been impressed by their editors, proofreaders and my personal PSA. I will let you know when the book launches.

Michael Eliot Mehler (Title: Nice Jewish Felon "a memoir")

Victoria Strauss said...

Another note from me--iUniverse now has a similar program for Canadian writers with Chapters/Indigo of Canada.

P. Gill White, PhD said...

I was very pleased with iUniverse. My book won the Publisher's Choice award and did appear at my local B&N. After the period required to carry the book, they continued to order more copies and it is still on the shelves there. The book is Sibling Grief: Healing after the Death of a Sister or Brother by P. Gill White, PhD.

G. Lodovico said...

I opted to use I-Universe to publish my first non-fiction book. I intend to do a number of public speaking engagements and I need something to provide as part of the package cost to attend.

I also felt that traditional publishers, especially for the newcomers...unless of course you are the holy grail i.e. the next J.K. Rowlings, take too long to put your work out to the public. From what I understand this process could take up to two years.

Also, if an author has strong marketing saavy, with the internet and other mass media capabilities, the costs associated with reaching wide audiences can be quite reasonable if you are resourceful and creative. This was my reasoning to go the self publishing route...what are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I was going to write a book for myself on autism advocacy (I have autism) and they took my $600 and never did the book. I didn't like their services and wanted a partial refund after my publishing expert said I could have one but she left. All they did was put my text in a PDF file and called that production imstead of pre-production development.

It was from my social security disability income. I understand they put time into it but they shouldnt take all my money. I was going to return in a year after I re-wrote it with help with grammer becuase there services are to expensive for me. Now I've lost everything.

George said...

I've written 28 books over the years, mostly mystery. 24 were published by commercial houses, original paperbacks before they were all gobbled up. Of the latest four, three were POD through Xlibris, the latest - MAKING IT ON SOCIAL SECURITY - by iUniverse. I go into these projects with eyes wide open. What I expect from POD is my book printed and royalties paid on new books sold. The hundreds of books sold used pay me nothing. and that's where review copies end up. Any book store placements and marketing is up to me. Why go POD? Rejects, like 167 agents and publishers saying "no thanks" and over a year wasted - PER BOOK. I dumped xlibris and went with iUniverse mainly because of the quality of the books and getting unending phone calls with marketing schemes for a price. All this when I knew nobody at Xlibris had at any time read any of my books. They are printers. Period. iUniverse not only read my book but offered editorial suggestions that were mostly helpful. The implied threat was that if I didn't follow all the suggestions I would never see my book on the Star list. I didn't and it didn't. I place in small book stores, I avoid B&N, Borders, etc and the rest of that ilk like poison. Peddling my books is up to me, through little book stores, yard sales, flea markets and friendly taverns. Email campaign to clubs, organizations, stores is daily and ongoing. My next book, another mystery, will be sent right to iUniverse, instead of wasting time with agents and commercial publishers. I'm not getting rich but I pick up extra cash to keep going while I'm "making it on Social Security."
George Snyder

Anonymous said...

I'm an editorial evaluator for iUniverse and wanted to chime in on this topic.

First, the range of quality for the evaluations varies widely. Some reviewers don't do as thorough a job as others do. However, there are two important points here. First, if an author doesn't like the editorial evaluation (EE), they can request a different reviewer. In most cases, iU will agree to it. Also, every book that is recommended for the Editor's Choice program goes through a quality assurance process, where another reviewer looks at the book. So, in essence, EC books get an EE, usually some form of editing, and then a QA before publication.

Does this mean that all EC books are Oprah Book Club worthy? No. But, frankly, if you read Danielle Steele, or some of the other "famous" writers, their work leaves quite a bit to be desired.

The EC designation basically means that the book is at the same level as most traditionally published books. Frankly, I reject 90% of the books I read, because they are not well written enough for EC.

It's not about spelling and grammar--editing can fix those. It's about the quality of the ideas presented.

I am a firm and passionate believer in the POD industry. IMO, traditional publishing is nothing more than an "old boys network" and is archaic and slow. In addition, they have a LOT of editorial control over content. Often, authors won't even recognize their original book in the one published. With POD, you have exclusive editorial control over what you say, and how you say it.

Since most authors have to do so much publicity on their own, there (to me) seems to be no reason to go the traditional route.

Lance said...

My Wife has had a family memoir published through Iuniverse with their premier pro package. At first we were very happy with the fact that it was listed with lots of online bookstores especially some in New Zealand and Australia, who were going to promote her book and were supplied with signed copies to do this, lo and behold suddenly her book is no longer listed with these companies as it has been removed from the Baker and Taylor book feed from the US! Something Iuniverse says they can't sort out even though they supply them with the details!! It seems very convenient to only list books for a short space of time if that is what they are doing and probably cuts costs! We are still awaiting a response to do with this problem and so cannot recommend Iuniverse as they are not interested in helping you promote your book after you have payed them to publish it.

Anonymous said...

I am both disgusted and disapointed with iUniverse. They are not truthful. I too was asked to pay additional sums of up $2,700 over my PP fee of $1,099, IF, I wanted to get into their Pub Choice Program or even be considered for their Star Program. I was told I would never get into those programs without paying the extra "editorial fee's. ($2,700)" They put a gun to your head but it really doesn't matter as that does little for the marketing of your book anyway. It's a SCAM! As a result, they published a previous manuscript with tons of typos as what I think was retaliation. The cover art looked like a fifth grader pasted it together. I had to pay for my own design independently. I have their cover to prove the crap they put out. I have weritten four times to the president and never received an answer! Is this the way to run a business. No, because they are a viable candidate to publish anything professionally. Write me back and I'll prove it to you. info@focalpointbooks.com. iUniverse is a farce and a disgrace to people trying their best to write a book. TKP

Anonymous said...

I've published two books with iUniverse Publishing: Claude Henry, the Iditarod Mouse "The Adventures Begin" and Claude Henry, the Iditarod Mouse "And the Great South African Adventure." My third book will be sent to iUniverse very soon.

iUniverse has done an excellent job of helping me through the process of publishing and has arranged for my work to be on the Internet world-wide.

Sales have not been as I'd expected, but I'm learning, and folks who have read my books say their great, but I won't comment my own feelings. I leave that up to editors and the readers.

iUniverse made it relatively simple for me to go through the publishing process, and I learn many new things each time I work with them.

I first began with Publish America and found them to be less than truthful in many areas. I have a son that is an attorney and he viewed the contract for me as well, and he agreed that working with Publishe America was not the way to go.

If any of you have any questions that I might answer then please drop me a short note at; driftinag@yahoo.com and I will try to answer any questions as best I can. But please remember, I'm still learning the process as well.

I found also that Writer Beware is very helpful and I've learned new things that might protect me by reading it.

Thanks for the opportunity to speak out.

Driftin' AaronG
www.claude henry.com

Charlotte said...

I am in the very long process of publishing my 3rd novel with iUniverse. The first two times were smooth sailing, this time, since Authorhouse has taken the helm, has been a nightmare.

I began the submission process in
April 17,2008, it is now July 24 and the novel is just entering the proof stage.

I have encountered repeated unnecessary delays, non forwarding of files, extra charges which were not necessary, and most recently an incorrect cover designs (I submitted an original in proper format and lost an additional week plus while the desginers created a new cover for me.

The list of problems is long, and I shall spare you the details.

Just be aware that the iUniverse.Authorhouse has become an incompetent, unprofessional, and poor communicators.

The employees appear unaware of their own submission guidelines, and really mess up your submitted MS with all sorts of deletions and addtions, move paragrapsh blocks and eliminate pages and spacing (iUniverse guideline specifications, by the way).

I would recommend looking elsewhere for a POD publisher.

Anonymous said...

2008, two years on from this post, iUniverse are still very bad news. iUniverse are corrupt and dishonest, making money out of people keen to see their dream come – to become a published author. iUniverse employ staff who are not concerned about ethics, the majority are desperate for money and are only passing through. The staff turnover speaks for itself, it is horrendous.

iUniverse are not publishers. They are not recognised or members of any legally recognised publishing organisation or association. They do not belong to or are seen rubbing shoulders with the Al publishing conglomerates that authors dream to be published by, one day.

Would be debut authors are not debut authors when their books have been produced by iUniverse as, iUniverse arranges for the production of books using Lightening Source (LS), a company that boasts it takes 8 seconds to print a book due to the state- of-the-art-technology they are using - please note the word produce. By enlisting the services of iUniverse, would be debut authors are paying for their books to be produced on a POD (Print On Demand) basis by LS and, from then on, the authors are on their own regardless of what you read from the heaps of misleading marketing materials and literature produced by iUniverse.

One of many ideas that a go-it-alone debut author could adopt, after they've exhausted all their channels trying to get their book published through reputable agents and publishers, is to conduct a thorough research of the self-publishing industry to work out plans to approach marketing, selling, advertising and publicising their book and themselves, identifying the self-publishing company with a reputation of providing fair, just and honest, information, benefits and values.

Debut authors, opting to use the self-published route, should not confuse themselves that they will be recognised as published authors. This is something that iUniverse fail to point out instead, misleading and influential jargon is used in their literature to simply get you to release your hard work, which they do not respect, and money to them. From then on, a multitude of realised misconceptions and abuse takes place, by then it’s too late to pull when you start stumbling across the ugly truths.

There are so many things wrong with iUniverse that it would take a universal amount of time to list them all.

Would be authors beware! If you choose iUniverse, make sure you've got guts!

Anonymous said...

I just recently submitted to iUniverse. My manuscript moved through the editorial evaluation with amazing speed and received my comments. Based on the comments, I tried to send my manuscript through for a second evaluation. This is where the amazement stopped. My manuscript sat from the 19th to the 28th with nothing being done. A lady called me wanting to know if I had my manuscript ready to move on to the design process. When I told her I wanted a second evaluation, surprise! There was a fee that was never mentioned. So now my book will never get Editor's Choice. I have had lack of communication and, so far, a fee they wanted to spring on me. My mom gave me a cover idea I submitted to them. I guess I will see if anyone there uses it. I just want my book done. This has not been a fun process.

Anonymous said...

I submitted a poetry manuscript to iuniverse. That was 6 months ago. It has not gone beyond the 1st stage. They "copy" my mnuscrpt into their progam and when I submitted the errors to be corrected it has sit since. The PA sent me two copies which were suppose to be the corrected ones. I find that there was no corrections made. My guess is they do not make corrections and just pass off your book. I am currently asking for my money back and will take to court if I have too.

fran said...

I have had the same horrible experience with iUniverse. They may have been reliable before they moved to Bloomington, and I read some great reviews before their move, but I have had night mare experience and now that my book is finally out, they say there has not been any sales even though I know of friends and family who have bought my book. I would not reccomend them to anyone.

siliquey said...

I think this blog should be updated to help new authors find the most reliable and honest pod publsihers. iUniverse had a good reputation a couple years ago and this blog seems to reflect that. Most new authors are going to read the first half and not the 2008 comments and be horribly disapointed. iUniverse was a mistake from the first. Once they had my money they took their sweet time, made me learn advanced computer skills in order to deal with them and made it so incredibly difficult getting the photos in, that I finally left them out just out of sheer frustration. I did my own editing and even had to edit THEIR printing of my back page. In fact my book was out with "it" spelled "if" and some words left out. After three months of begging I got the printing redone but the whole experience was awful and the finished book cover was horrible. The front cover is so thin that if you lay another book on top of it the book leaves indentions. iUniverse could be barely tolerable I guess,... if they were free.

Victoria Strauss said...

There's an entire section of links on how to find, research, and compare POD self-publishing services at the Print-on-Demand page of the Writer Beware website.

Anonymous said...

It appears that reality has caught up with iUniverse and they are struggling to delay the inevitable fall. One article indicates that of some 18,000 titles they publish during the year, only 83 sell more than 500 copies.
At least some of their contract readers and editors are lacking in skill and even if you pay for an Editor's Choice package, the work is likely to be filled with typographical errors.
Last year, I cancelled publication of just such a work -due to poor production values. iUniverse is now selling that book on Amazon.com with no royalties paid. Even though I cancelled the book before it went to the printers, they are pretending that they are selling off material already in print at the time of the contract termination.

WaitinginMichigan said...

So Merry Christmas aspiring authors!!
Anyway I made what these last few contributers would undoubtedly consider a devestating mistake, that is, I submitted my memoir into the iUniverse premeir pro program on December the 4th. I guess I look at it this way. AT LEAST SOMEONE IS READING MY MANUSCRIPT! And believe me I've gone the route now for several decades, and the better I feel my writing is the less I'm able to find readers. I appreciated that comment earlier up, the one where one of you said you wanted someone who didn't even know you to appreciate your writing. That would also be my measure of success, and it wouldn't even have to be a lot of readers. I think maybe most of us unpublished authors might have the feeling that his or her writing has merit. But how can we know even know that? How can we know we're not basking in some sort of illusion? For myself I found some strength after seeing a documentary of Walt Whitman. It was incredilble. NOBODY was interested in Leaves of Grass. Nobody cared. Whitman had to make his own books and then peddle them himself. HIs first edition sold 37copies, and the later ones didn't do much better.

So anyway I figure I did what God wanted me to do in having my manuscript turned into a book.........that said I'm now a bit sorry I chose iUniverse.

BUT I ALREADY DID IT......and at least I'm getting messages from iUniverse to the effect that my manuscript is going through some process. So maybe the incompetent newbees in Bloomington, Indiana are a little farther along on their learning curve? I'm now at their QA stage. I'll see what develops. jjjjjim PS Appreciated all your insights. Also....I chose iUniverse after a strong recommendation from an iUniverse author who was published just this year. I read his book. It's good, It's available on the Internet at all the used book sites. It's called Land of Smiles, and my book is sort of like his (but much longer). He wouldn't tell me how many copies he sold, but he only paid $699.

Marcus Wilder said...

I am publishing my third book with iUniverse. With new ownership came new people and new policies. iUniverse may merit a new review. Caveat Emptor.

Oscar Bamuhigire said...

I am begining to doubt much of what you say on your blog. I chose iUniverse as my publisher because of your recommendations, and yet I have had a very hard time with them. I gave them my manuscript for formatting, and it came back with more than 300 mistakes. I then sent in a list of suggested corrections, and they promised to make those corrections in 1-1/2 weeks. After three weeks however, they sent me the same manuscript, with the same mistakes, for approval!!!

Is this not insanity? I have had to send them the same manuscript with the same suggestions for corrections, and I will not be surprised if they send it back, in the same condition, after three weeks!

Worse still, if you are having problems with your PSA, and would like to send a complaint to iUniverse, you have no one to turn to. the President/ CEO, Editors, and others officals, do not make their e mails available in any way! Is this the kind of publisher you rate so highly? Is your website a promotion forum for iUniverse? Are you a scam?

Victoria Strauss said...

Oscar also emailed me with his comment. Here's what I responded:

Dear Oscar,

As stated in the post above, Writer Beware doesn't "recommend" any publisher or self-publishing service. In fact, if you pay a visit to the Print on Demand page of the Writer Beware website, in which we provide an in-depth discussion of print-on-demand self-publishing services like iUniverse, you'll see that, while we acknowledge that self-publishing services can be appropriate in certain circumstances, we do warn that they aren't the best choice for most book writers.

The purpose of this post wasn't to "recommend" iUniverse, but rather to investigate whether iUniverse actually did what it claimed to do. We found, at the time, that it did.

However, the post was written when iUniverse was still an independent company. At the time, it did provide a reliable and cost-effective self-publishing service. It has since been taken over by the company that also owns AuthorHouse, a more problematic self-publishing service. This merger was covered in my blog post of September 2008, in which I mentioned the possibility of changes in service and quality. Unfortunately, iUniverse's service does seem to have deteriorated post-merger. See especially the comments from authors, some of whom have experienced problems similar to yours.

It was remiss of me not to provide a link to my post about the merger in our original post about iUniverse, and for that I apologize. I've remedied that error.

Sandra Farris said...

I just published my third book, Lady Ace, with iUniverse and it went through the process very quickly. The mistakes were corrected and back to me in a couple of weeks. I submitted my manuscript the first part of January and I received my sample copy February 6 and it was beautiful. My son designed the cover and they did a great job printing it. My one concern, however, is that they are having problems with the "sales activity" section of myuniverse and there is no way of tracking sales as one was able to in the past. They are also having trouble with the royalty page.

Annette said...

I self-published my first book through iUniverse in 2008 after unsuccessful attempts to get a mainstream publisher to sign me. Although iUniverse made me crazy at times with its delays and poor customer service, I must say it produced a very nice quality book. My book was very well received by the media and readers and became a bestseller on google.ca. A mainstream publisher saw how well it was doing and purchased the rights to the book and signed me for two more books. In my case, iUniverse played a crucial role in helping me launch my book writing career since it's virtually impossible for a new author to get signed by a publisher when he/she is starting out as an unknown. iUniverse gives new authors a chance they would not otherwise have. Having said that, it's nearly impossible for an author to make money while they're in the iUniverse program, so you need to move on to a mainstream publisher as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

iuniverse is an ugly place to start your career as a writer. They were rude and unprofessional and let google books display 1/4 of my book without my knowledge.

Oscar Bamuhigire said...

It pleases me to realise that there are other writers who have had an experience similar to mine, but I am also surprised that not enough is being said about iuniverse's poor servies. I am having a lot of problems with iuniverse and its poor services. Dealing with iuniverse is, like you said, very frustrating. I have one big problem after another in my dealings with them. When I thought all my troubles were over, I was shocked to receive two test copies, which had terrible book covers. I have never seen a book with such a bad cover. The colors were all mixed up, and the text, plus cover photo were misplaced! I would have expected this kind of thing to happen in the third world, but to be honest, books published in Uganda and Bangladesh are pf a much higher quality!

The worst part of dealing with iuniverse is that they are rude and unprofessional. I have written to the vice president, CEO, and many consultants about the poor covers of my books, and they have all ignored me. I have even written to the CEO/ Vice presidents of authorssolution, and authors house, but they are all silent about the issue.

And as if that were not bad enough, the only guy who had the courage to reply said that this was the first time they had ever had a problem like this!!!

It is obvious that what iuniverse writes on its website, is miles apart from what it actually offers. I would not advise any writer to risk invest his money in iuniverse. I wonder why no one had sued it yet! As a matter of fact, each of us who has had serious problems with iuniverse should not blame anyone for our suffering, because by choosing not to take any legal action against them, we are reinforcing their unprofessional behavior. So, I suggest, lets get together and take some serious legal action, seeking for compensatory and punitive damages.


Oscar Bamuhigire
E mail: obamuhigire@yahoo

zfan122 said...

Very interesting artical, hehe you should probably convince Iuniverse to publish this artical (along with all it's helpfull responses)in either ebook form or even on their "help" page.

As for me, I've looked at (VERY thoroughly I might add) the contracts of both Iuniverse and infinitypublishing. The thing that concernes me about Infinitypublishing is their one time start up fee. The only thing that concernes me about Iuniverse is that they have the right to "edit" the book in eformat. What does that mean, edit?

Other than that the contracts seem pretty sound, I'm currently working on gathering as much data as possible on BOTH companies before making my final decision. This is my first time publishing my work, and I'm not about to get scammed by anyone. That decision was made before reading this artical to be honest. It may be my first time, I may be 25 years old, I may be what some would classify as a "Nintendo Nutt". But I am NOT irrisponsible or just plain dumb when it comes to business affairs, particularly anything involving money.

When I do something new to me, I wanna do it right, and I usually make it a habbit to learn everything I possibly can learn about said company. BEFORE I actually sign anything or even before I submit my manuscript!(in fact I'm doing that now) I highly urge all first time authors to do the same before you even send said company your subbmission. Trust me, the extra work and research will build trust or break it with said company before you sign ANYTHING. Business is not something one should take lightly, even if it involvs getting one's dreams accomplished, look what happened when Hollywood didn't take making a Mario Bros movie seriously, or a Dragonball movie, yeah that sucked like crapp didn't it? It looks like their latest venture might work(An avatar the last airbender movie), but I'm not convinced from a single trailer.

In short make sure you, DO research everything you can about said company, DON'T sign off on ANYTHING unless you're absolutely positive you trust said company, DO take the time to read everything THOROUGHLY in said contract even the "fine print" at the bottom. Oh, and DON'T drink twelve red bulls before bed!(not that I've ever done it) lol Seriously though, do NOT sign ANYTHING unless you're absolutely sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Business of any kind can get messy if you're not careful, take it from someone whos taking the time to be patient instead of rushing to the local bookstore to see if they want to put a book they've written out on the shelves before it's even submitted to the publisher! xD

Anonymous said...

July 13, 2009
Evaluation of iuniverse

Preface: Without readers of this notice being able to analyze my E Mails and read iUniverse's numerous proofs (7 to 9)and my many correction sheets and many pleas, they will not fully fathom how iUniverse could have been so incompetent in publishing my book.
IUniverse received my manuscript on September 17, 2008. It had been edited by myself several times, my wife three times, and an English professor. It was relatively clean with little change required other than changing it from double-space (as recommended by style manuals and many publishers) to single-space. After twelve days, a publishing Services Associate (PSA)contacted me--a woman who would only communicate by E Mail, thus refusing to answer my telephone calls. Furthermore, she informed me that I could not have both Endnotes and then Footnotes (descriptor type). Refusing to work with someone who would not answer calls and not allow both Endnotes and Footnotes, a more personable young woman assumed the role of the first PSA.
At the end of November, after iUniverse had the manuscript since September 17, the first proof received had over one-hundred errors generated by the designer, plus some of my own minor errors. The second proof still had twenty-five errors generated by iUniverse, the third proof had at least twenty-five of their errors, the fourth proof had fouteen errors, and their error-loaded proofs continued through more and more proofs.
The designer(s)' ineptness and the associate's refusal or inability to critique the company's work required the necessity of my reading each word of each proof to catch their new errors and their oversight in correcting previously identified errors. In that authors cannot acess their program and directly make corrections, each of their errors not only had to be located, but then described and forwarded as to its location and needed change. With little doubt, I spent more time in locating, correcting and communicating their errors than the designer and PSA spent producing the proofs.
This was the most frustrating experience of this person's seventy-seven years largely because no supervisor or executive ever stepped in to insure efficiency. With the upmost sincerity, they were informed that astute fifth-graders would exhibit better editing and publishing astuteness and efficiency.
After receipt of the first proof, a survey form requesting an evaluation of their performance was received. Nothing improved after the evaluation. A second evaluation was forward requesting a reply from the CEO, but no reply was received.
One may think that a designer and/or his program could not continually create errors, but it happened at iUniverse. Types of errors varied: uinsolicited compounding of words, separation of words, spacing (vertically and horizontally of headings, subheadings, text lines, words), font sizes, footnote mistakes, alignments, inconsistencies in formatting, separating a table onto two pages, incorrect numbering, dropped letters, errors on charts, moving credit line of images to the following page, not following the author's directives, and numerous other kinds of errors. Hoping that the majority of the book's readers would not detect too many errors, the book was accepted in February--with their continuing errors such as starting some chapters on the left page, asterisk dropped, incorrect font, excessive spacing, and alignments. They wore me down!

The writer said...

After reading some of the comments here, I must say, I am not surprised. This company, (iuniverse) published my book all right. But they may as well have published a load of blank sheets. Their retail pricing is overkill. Well, it's sure going to kill me, thats for sure. Because Stephen King couldn't sell his books for the price they are quoting.
The situation though, is out of my hands.

But all is not lost, so take heart if you haven't decided yet. Spinetinglers publishing is a new publisher. A third of the price iuniverse charge, and a retail price people may actually go for.

My friend is publishing with them, and he claims they are great to work with. Too late for me on this book, but once bitten, twice shy, as they say.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I came upon this web site by accident and could not believe how many comments posted mirror my own problems with IUniverse! If misery loves company, I certainly found it with these postings. I have had nothing but frustrations and stress over their Editorial Department's sloppy work with so-called "corrected" proofs coming back to me with more mistakes than were in the original manuscript. My book is now in the production stage and I am holding my breath, crossing my fingers and saying a whole lot of prayers that the finished copy is worth the many dollars I've poured into this venture.

I have a future book in the works and would appreciate some input on a reliable, efficient, honest publishing house.

Gene Beley said...

It is sad to learn that i-Universe quality control has been eroded since their sale. In 2005 I worked with them to produce my unauthorized biography on author Ray Bradbury entitled Ray Bradbury Uncensored! I paid for their top plan and got quality work and dedication from the publishing coordinator, Cecilia Cuevas, and a top-flight editor, David Bernardi, whom I paid to go through it TWICE to make sure we had a quality product, knowing I would be criticized for going the POD route—regardless of its quality. I spent approximately $5,000 with i-Universe, Inc. to produce a hard cover, paperback and e-book.

So why did I go POD with i-Universe with a biography on an internationally known author like Ray Bradbury? I had already learned that Ray is what the publishing industry calls "a tough sell". First, I had self-published a 32-page bi-monthly newspaper in Morgan Hill, CA every two months for 16 years until I sold it in 2005 for six figures. I was accustomed to paying for an editor and about $4,000 for press services each time we printed. Secondly, I was already 65-years-old and didn't want to sit around for six months for every editor to give me a yes or no answer. I’ve always been a small entrepreneur control freak. To me, i-Universe seemed like a logical way to go, especially since I've sold advertising and have always been a good promoter in three different businesses I've owned in my business and journalism oriented career. From a sheer financial stand point, this cocky attitude to think I could conquer the book world like everything else I had tried in the past was mistake number one. Why? After the book was published, I began traveling and calling on bookstores to sell the manager on putting the book on the shelf. My slogan was "Seeing America one book store at a time!" I learned the managers of the chain bookstores have the authority to buy one book to test it, so I would say, "That's all I ask." And it worked at dozens of stores in the Western U.S., but has been pointed out, if the book did not sell quickly, corporate "shirts" were quickly yanking the book. I spent about $15,000 on travel (motels and food are not inexpensive on the road) before I realized this retirement money came from a reservoir of irreplaceable dollars. Since I sold under 400 books and got less than approximately $2 per book with i-Universe getting 80%. This was a different business model than owning my own newspaper racks for distribution and advertising checks coming directly to me. It is really sickening that the majority of the book money goes to the big dogs, and the author who did the work and paid for the publishing is lucky to get a crumb in this upside down business model. I got a quick lesson in the brutal book industry and came out of it with the philosophy that "life's tuition is very expensive” . I cut my losses and moved on in life. The following year I sold some January 13, 1968 Johnny Cash Folsom at Prison audio clips to a movie and the BBC for about $4,000 with little effort. (I told my wife that Johnny Cash paid our condo tax bill that year.) I sold single articles to boat magazines for about $1,500 each and one paid me a year in advance. So I do learn from experience.

Today I have HUGE questions about the honesty of these bottom feeder publishers' accounting systems. None of you bloggers have even touched on this possibility that these publishers may not be providing a completely honest accounting on actual sales. There are more questions than any of you have yet asked!

Am I the only one with these suspicions? Sorry, but in a Bernie Made-Off (with your money) Age, I'm suspicious. The doubting genes in my DNA hope, if there is any funny business going on, some insiders will blow the whistle to the U.S. government Attorney General and get the reward due them. If I'm wrong, I apologize for thinking such thoughts.
Gene Beley, Stockton, CA

Anonymous said...

I too published my first book with iUniverse. I was impressed and excited in the beginning. My cover was beautiful, I recommended my cover,and they did a beautiful job. I ran into problems too regarding shelving my book in stores, however that was my misunderstanding in the beginning. When I checked royalties I had a lot of problems and I even requested proof of printing. I never received a call back. I edited the book myself because I could not afford to pay them for a 740 page book. When it was printed I still found errors and I paid another $500.00 for a re-do. . .I thought. Apparently I was given the select package instead of a redo which caused a lot of problems with my other copy. I had to take out a whole chapter the second time because they said it was too long for the size of the book. I did that and now my book is not the same and people who have bought the first edition loved that missing chapter. Now on iUniverse, my new book is showing after several phone calls to get my hardcopy re done also because I had the Premier package in the beginning. They said because I had the Select package that I couldn't have a hard copy! I tried to explain that all I wanted was a redo! Now I have some royalties showing on my first addition, not as much as I know the book sold and I have not received a penny in over a year. My new book, the same edition of the last less a chapter shows no royalites at all. Amazon shows the book as best seller on snap-scan from US accross the board but no funds paid to me and when I ask I don't receive an answer. I have spoken to people who read the book and loved it and I know how many were sold in my area. I have a second saga now in the editing process, I am paying a professional editor this time and I am unsure who to give this new book to.
I felt as though I was just another book to them and I was surprised with the lack of communtiation and the empathy they provided. I worked long hard hours on my book and I feel cheated immensely by their lack of concern. Every time I called there was a new person and I had to go into detail each time explaining my problem.
iUniverse needs to think about changing the way they do business with new authors if they want them to stay. I am now in the process of cancelling my contract and republishing my first book on my own entirely. I have been burned and now I am scared to trust anyone.

Anonymous said...

Writer be warned. I tried to publish a book through i-universe. They did not honor their promises after they received the money. They never received the manuscript and I asked for my money back. It has been a year and they tell me now that they returned my money six months ago directly to my bank. My bank has not located any deposit. Be careful.

mesathinks said...

I see nothing wrong with unsuccessful writers having a place to print their work for their family and friends. Many I'm sure put a lot of work and effort into their projects and want to send it around for kicks if no one picks it up. If it comes down to that for me though, I am going to have enough class to pop for the finished book and slip a note in the jacket explaining that I had it printed and although it was not really published, I do hope they enjoy it as a fun read by someone they know. I will stress to not feel bad about it if they don't like it, a dozen big publishers felt the same way :-)

They are all nice people and I'm sure will just all say it was great. I would hope that all of this effort is at least producing something that will not embarrass me for having been read. I don't think what I'm writing is junk, at least I'm trying hard to get it as right as I'm capable of doing. I do assume that writers understand that just because one of the publishers does not sign on to my work, it may well still have merit and be readable.

The POD vanity numbers I have seen on various post and sites is around 65-70 books a writer and is spread around 5-6 big players, all putting out 3-4K books a year for maybe a total of 20-25K books sold to people who know writers or have a 'wannabe' in the family. That is not a lot in a world of 6-7 billion. I think most rejected manuscripts just get buried in the back closet. My finished one gets hauled out from under the desk corner every few years for that final re-write. I'm on version 9, although some of those were minor. At one point I had 400+ pages and sat down last night to 178 pretty decent pages to add another 25k words to.

Trust me, any writer that has a clue what they are trying to achieve gets the distinction that it's not the same thing as one of the regular publishers giving you a lot of money and signing you for your next book. All of that said, there are a few dozen goods books that have risen from the POD froth and did get picked up. Probably better odds than HS baseball catchers going Pro...

Regards,
Stephen White
Unpublished Writer

Chris Rao MD said...

My first book published through iUniverse went okay, "the MidLife Health Guide for Men." I had one PSA and they did what they said, only the editor made more mistakes than they corrected-more from formatting problems going from pDF to Adobe. Recently, tried doing the women's version and it's adifferent story. Many PSAs that don't know squat about you or the work, what stage you're at etc. Once they got the $1.5K, then they wanted another $500 because the book's size-about 300 pages. When I got the formatted book in Adobe, there were so many errors I couldn't really use a proof form; they said I could resubmit, and did. The book sat. Now they want another $750 about to correct 6/7 of their errors. This has been nothing like before. They don't return calls or offer any help. DON"T USE THEM!!!! Chris Rao, MD

Halleson said...

My first experience with iUniverse a number of years ago was acceptable, so I chose to use them again. My second book "Spare Them? No Profit. Remove Them? No Loss." was published this past February. I won both the Editors Choice and the Star awards from them. Nevertheless, the experience was mixed. Some things went very well, and other things needed constant supervision by me.
My problem now is two-fold: 1) The royalties that they report do not reflect accurate sales, because I know for a certainty that people are buying the book through Amazon and Barnes & Noble but I see no income from these sources. I am a professional marketer and have been marketing it heavily. 2) iUniverse/AuthorHouse personnel hound me to buy more things from them, marketing services, screenplays, advertising schemes, etc. My email box is filled with their solicitations and they call me on the phone every couple of weeks. I have told them again and again to stop, but they continue. The people who call seem to be very young and desperate to sell products. Something is very wrong with this company. I would like to see an investigation of their practices.

Gene Beley said...

Don't give in to the i-Universe sales pitches. If your net proceeds are about $1-$2 a book like mine, when they want to charge $5,000 for one of their services, that means you have to sell 5,000-10,000 books to break even--it is a lose, lose situation.

I agree that it would be great to have a governmental agency investigate the accounting practices of these book companies. The movie companies long ago were notorious for not paying the proper royalties, and I think we're all subject to the same today with any of these book companies. You might want to register a formal complaint with the Attorney General in their headquarters state if you have any proof. Personally, I'm resigned to not making any money, but it is available to people on the Internet worldwide so I've accomplished one goal to make it available to students and researchers in all forms (e-book, soft cover and hard cover).

Gene Beley, author, Ray Bradbury Uncensored!

Anonymous said...

Boy, you kinda slag us poets at the end of your first post. Are we really that much of a joke to you:)?

Vine Reviewer said...

I've published several books with Infinity and they are a class act from start to finish-- getting a hardcover done in 4 weeks average. Their prices are better than CreateSpace (Amazon) and their quality is superb. One thing not often mentioned is that if you have a good quality hardcover from an Infinity or CreateSpace, traditional publishers are often more apt to pick up the paperback rights if you sell 2,000 or more, even over a long period in which your name takes off. I'm also a Vine and LibraryPicks.com reviewer and if you are able to market your title on the web (for as little as a penny or two for niche keywords on Bing-- avoid Google!), you CAN make 30-40% with either of what I'd consider the "top three" in terms of ethics-- Lulu, CreateSpace and Infinity. For cost vs. value, I'd go with Infinity.

Anonymous said...

To date, I have published 23 books with IUniverse, one with PyblishAmerica and two with Trafford.
Over the years, I have seen IUniverse's services diminish, but my royalties arrive regularly. They used to include an Author's Promotion Kit (they stopped), but I never got motivated enough to bother. I will be promoting my novels with their kits this year, so we'll see what happens. Trafford offered me 2 for 1 deal and 1,500,000 targeted email campaign, so I went with them. I also like the covers and formatting. PublishAmerica is an experiment. They didn't charge me a cent, so I can't complain if they don't do anything. If real publishers would give non-name authors a fair shot, there would be no need for POD. But at least this way, my books will live forever in a data base and never be out of print. I also published with WordClay and IProclaim (free)just to see what would happen. You do get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

Spinetinglerspublishing say on your board at the top that they charge just a third of what iUniverse charge to self - publish your book. Have noting at all to do with them! i know of two people who were sickened by this self - publisher, one won some money in their Short Story competition for to be included in their Anthology, and another signed a contract that Spinetinglers broke by not publishing the book, after giving the person four release dates for their book before Spinetinglers reneged on their deal.

Anonymous said...

Spinetinglers Publishing very craftily latched onto your website when you pointed out certain facts about iUniverse, pointing out that they were a third cheaper than iUniverse. But they forgot to mention that they are not dependable, and a girl who had a story places in their Shoty Story competition and another who had four release dates for his book just walked over, leaving this guy in limbo when he had to withdraw his manuscript because the four release dates that he was given didn't materialise and he lost money while his book was deliberately held up and he had to withdraw his manuscript. The two people mentioned above, incidentally, complained to WRITERS BEWARE1 Check it out.

GIL said...

Dear A. C. Crispin,

I am publishing a book with iUniverse
and found that they did a very good job. I have paid a additional fee for
marketing and have to wait how good a job they will make of it.
Regardless of that, do I have the legal right to offer the book to another publisher? If I do, what form of file do I need to ask from iUniverse so that the a new publisher can use.

Regards, GIL

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I have to join the growing army of iUniverse bashers. Frankly, they are worse than useless, and anything more than their basic printing service is just throwing your money away.
Every person I have dealt with at iUniverse has mysteriously disappeared, with the immortal phrase, "They're no longer with the company" used each time as an excuse why three monthsm or more, passed by at each stage of production, without contact from them.
Their promise of "eligibility" for the various award programs is a scam from the start as they don't make clear anywhere that those categories are only for main stream fiction under 180,000 words...so, if you're a fantasy or historical writer, and churning out about 400-500K words, you will never be eligible even if you're writing like JRR Tolkien!
Likewise their Editorial Evaluation...you may as well just get a couple of semi-literate friends to read your work through for you. My "Editor" - and never have I used a word more loosely - couldn't even get the genders of the characters correct - sending me "corrections" that were, in themselves, completely wrong!
At every stage of the process I have had to chase iUniverse for information.
The promised cover artwork (that was paid for in the original contract) turned out to be possible usage of up to two photographs from a very limited selection of images, which could be manipulated by their "artists" - who were, I was told, unable to actually create art...implied, not stated on the contract...which resulted in my having to commission artwork at my own cost, because they couldn't produce anything suitable in-house at iUniverse.
My book has now been on the market since March. In fairness, the printing job was very nice, and I was pleased with the final product.
But wait...what about the promised marketing kit? The social media sites that were going to be set up? The e-mail marketing campaign?
The approvals for drafts of these things were given in May (when I received the drafts). To date (7/28/2011) nothing has arrived. I was quoted a two week turn round on the printed marketing kit!
I sent them an e-mail on 7/26 advising that if nothing was done, I would be taking legal advice. Surprize! They phoned yesterday...yes, you guessed it..."The person you were dealing with is no longer with the company." When I queried the marketing materials I was told they were showing unpaid - despite their being part of the original full package I paid over $2K for almost two years ago!
The young man ended the call, promising to call back today.
Of course, he didn't! Aren't you getting the idea by now?
No, I had a call today from a different young lady, who introduced herself as Senior Marketing Representative (but who was, sadly, obviously reading from a script). This sweet little thing wanted to upsell me onto an $875 package to have my book advertised in the New York Book Review - "and possibly have it seen by someone in Hollywood who reads this..."
Oh, come on now!
Having been railroaded thus far, do they really think I'm going to sink any more money into this shambles of a company?
All I want is what was promised - and legally contracted - then I will be out and clear of iUniverse...and will never, ever use them again.
You have been warned, dear reader.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone!

Toni Lane of iuniverse sent me quite a lot of Programs available at iuniverse, said she would call back next day! She did not! At any rate, I signed with iuniverse about 8-months past, to have them Publish my book Manucsript! However, Toni lane sent the Programs list to me, the Top one at $4500.00 reduced to 1/2 cost now, in January, 2012! After waiting for her call back that never came, I Emailed her and said Cancel everything! Including Contract I signed some time ago!
I felt some like an Idiot for even having talked with any of them times past!

KatherineNader said...

Ok, so I sent my book to a TLA1 agent who works for HarperCollins, and she recommneded I sign up with IUniverse. I learned more about them through Chapters/indigo/coles, and since I'm Canadian, they told me my first Novel will be published and released in these stores. I chose the Book Launch Premeire pro package, and my book is now going through a Quality Review, which is a second editorial evaluation. I made my own changes first after I paid for the Copy Editing Plus evaluation, all this began during the last week of February. I also chose pictures from their thinkstockphotos website, which ensures a good cover. I found some really good pictures on there that I told them to use in making my cover. I even sent them a detailed mock image of what I want the cover to look like. The evaluations started on March, 2nd, and the second evaluation started last week. I personally think it's been going well for me, as long as you know what you want. But you can't expect Iuniverse to do everything for you, you have to tell them exactly what you have in mind, otherwise they will pick something that you will not like.
I'm only having trouble choosing from Iuniverse's marketing services, and improving my publicity. I have a facebook page for my novel with 50 likes on there from all my friends and family, I also have accounts with tumblr, twitter, linked in, and pinterest. I work with Arbitrage Magazine, and they are really excited to interview me for there website, as well as advertise my novel. Reading about how Iuniverse only puts your book in stores for 60 days really upsets me though. I really want my first novel to be a success, i probably won't publish my next books with Iuniverse, but I want my first novel with iuniverse to help me get recognized. If you have any suggestions regarding Iuniverse's marketing services, or how to ensure my book's success other than the work itself being great, please let me know, this blog has been really helpful. Thank you.

Gene Beley said...

Before you spend any more money with iUniverse for promoting your book, buy 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer. Maybe even attend some writers' seminars where you will meet professionals representing each discipline needed. Each region has excellent writers' seminars--like the one in Santa Barbara each year.