My experience with iUniverse publishing

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What have you got to lose publishing with iUniverse?  A LOT!

Hi friends,

I haven’t been posting much in the last little while.  Sorry about that!  My time has been taken up with having my book, The Lion`s Den re-published through iUniverse Publishing.

You see, I had not been achieving the kind of sales I would like to see with the book, and being that over 3,500 new authors self-publish a book EVERY DAY, it is very difficult to achieve any visibility on or Goodreads, etc., where your rankings mean EVERYTHING in order to show up in the top 100 books in your genre.  And let`s be real here, would you go through more than 100 blurbs, hunting for the next book you want to read from the Kindle store?  Not likely.  That’s why we authors depend on READER’S REVIEWS to encourage other people to buy the book!


My Holy God!  What a saga! I was contacted some time ago by iUniverse, offering to help me re-publish my book.  They are a division of Penguin/Ramdom House and they provide a whole range of services for self-published authors, from editing, to cover design, to marketing, and you get to take advantage of their distribution channels.  “Great”, I thought, and I could take advantage of their “half price sale” on their packages to get an all-inclusive program of support for the low, low price of $2,800.  So, I says, “what have I got to lose?  My book is not making sales, so I’ll take a chance.”

Things were swinging along great.  I submitted my manuscript, and got the reply back that in order for iUniverse to publish it, the book would have to undergo an edit to “bring it up to their editing standard.”  For the low, low price of about $2,330, they could do a “line edit”  which just involves grammar, spelling, etc. or they could do a much more comprehensive “content edit” which would involve, basically tearing the book apart, possibly changing some of the time line, re-working the story line, along with grammar and spelling etc., This would cost quite a bit more!!  I figured that I had already paid a fortune to put the book through at least three professional edits, and I couldn’t face the idea of tearing it apart and re-working it, as much as it may make it better literature, so I went with the cheaper option.

About three weeks later, I got the manuscript back from the editor with minor suggestions on changing a few sentences grammatically.  Now, this was okay, because I learned that I need to be more clear in defining subject and predicate in my work to be sure the reader is clear on what I am referring to in certain instances, so it was a lesson learned, albeit an expensive one.  I also got a better idea of how to work the g’damn quotation marks, which can be quite challenging! So, having made the suggested edits, (Oh yes, you have to actually make the recommended changes yourself unless you want to pay more for an assistant to make them for you!) I sent the “clean” manuscript back and awaited the next phase of development.

Not long after, I was contacted by “Rey”, a representative from the iUniverse marketing team, who claimed to be all excited about my manuscript!  He was full of ideas about how they were going to promote my book.  They were going to get it on the USA Today list and Publishers Weekly in order to get it before traditional publishers who might be interested in picking it up.  They were going to hire me a publicist who would set up interviews and book signings all over the country, and I would make an iTunes video interview, talking about the book, etc etc. etc.  He even broached the idea of having a movie made from the manuscript!  My eyes just got wider and wider, until he dropped the price point for the “aggressive marketing plan” which was $18,000!  (which could, of course be paid in four equal installments of $4,500 each (US funds, of course!!!)) He was pressuring me to make the first installment immediately to get the ball rolling.  I, of course put the brakes on immediately, telling him that I would have to discuss this with my husband.

I thought I smelled a rat.  I had been under the impression that marketing services were included in the price of the package I had bought.  I was already pissed that the book had to be subjected to extra editing at extra cost, and it was starting to seem as if each phase of development came with another price tag attached.  A friend offered to have the iUniverse company checked out by someone he knew in literary publishing circles, so he sent off an email of inquiry.  Meanwhile, I called Paul and asked what he thought.  His scam detector immediately went up, and he told me to ask them for a complete breakdown of the proposed services  and a prospectus of the kind of profit that they felt the book would earn, utilizing this so called “aggressive marketing plan.”

When Rey called me back, he informed me that iUniverse did not break down the cost of the services, that they were sold as a package, and that the profit to be realized could not be determined, as I was not yet an established writer with a proven track record, and they could not release what other authors had done, due to privacy issues, but I could look at testimonials that iUniverse already had posted on their webpage.  Not a very satisfactory answer!  Rey kept trying to persuade me to go with it, so I told him to call Paul as we make all of our business decisions together.

Needless to say, Rey got nowhere with Paul, so about an hour later I got a phone call from Gloria somebody, claiming to be the marketing manager, and Rey’s boss, who insisted that my book was worth making the investment in, as it had tremendous potential to be quite successful.  I told her that we are business people, and that when we invoice people for our services, we always provide a cost breakdown of the work done on their vehicles.  We also expect the same of our suppliers to provide a detailed list of what we are purchasing from them.  In no instance do we pay a bill for a “package” price on something, especially when that something costs over $18,000.  She went on and on about what they were going to do for me, and the conversation was left at an impasse, as she was unwilling to provide the cost breakdown or the expected revenue information we required.

I never heard from anybody for a week.  That’s when I took another call from “Rey” telling me that they had worked out an alternative “less aggressive” marketing plan, in which they would do a pared-down version, for only $8,000.  I was still not impressed, and they were still unable to provide the cost breakdown we required, so I threw the ball back into their court.  This price could be paid out in monthly installments, so I knew that they thought that I was suffering from sticker shock, and by making the cost more reachable, that I would buy in.  Meanwhile, my friend’s buddy came back with a reply.

His first question was, “Had I signed away any of my rights to the book by purchasing this publishing package?”  The answer was no, although they have some restrictions on who I can sell the book through.  They have their own distribution channels, which, our friend says consists of the usual uploads to the Amazon and other e-book sites, and as for their Barnes and Noble stores, they have access to ONE B & N brick and mortar store!!!  All iUniverse is interested in, our friend says, is to sell services to authors.  They have little interest in how the book actually does, and apparently many authors have had trouble getting royalties from them after their books have been released!  Great!  says I.  Scammed again.

So, since the book is half-way to production, and iUniverse has committed to designing a new cover for it, which is included in the package price, I decided to proceed, since that money is already spent.  It didn’t hurt to have the additional edit, and the inside book design was also included in the price, so I figured what was the sense of pulling it, at this stage?  I had already recognized that I probably needed the cover re-designed to get better recognition in the romance genre, so presently they are working on that.  I had someone call me from the graphics department to feel me out about what I am looking for, and they will work up three designs that I can choose from.

In the mean time, Rey called me back the other night.  Apparently they did an unprecedented thing!  They had decided to “invest” in my book by further reducing the price of the “less aggressive” marketing plan to just $6,400!  What a bargain!  I told him that when I initially bought the package that I was under the impression that marketing services were included, and that I was shocked when they told me that additional fees were to be charged.  I told him that I was considering having my second book published through their services, but judging by what I had experienced with the first one, I was considering pulling the second.  So, he buggered off, and I haven’t heard anything from him since Wednesday night.  Nor have I heard anything from my “check in co-ordinator”, Andrea, whose job it is to oversee the whole project.

As it is the advice of a professional working in the publising industry to stay far away from iUniverse, I am regretting my decision to do business with them, yet, I will let this project go to completion and wait to see what sales generate from their distribution services, but I will not be allowing them to take on the second book.

There is ALWAYS somebody out there ready to cash in on your inexperience.  Many, many people have been burnt by these people, as I have read, since Googling the name on the internet, and while you  have doubts, you go on, thinking that, just maybe, your manuscript is as good as they tell you it is, and has all of this potential to do great, and the investment in the marketing plan is all it will take to jettison it into astronomical sales and recognition in the literary world!  Yeah………..they say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, to quote John Lennon.

So, hear I sit, waiting to see what comes next in the saga.  I am expecting a call anytime from Rey with further cost reduction in a “wimpy marketing plan” costing just $4,000, payable in equal weekly installments.  I think I will tell him to go stuff himself!!!

On a brighter note, our friend in publishing has suggested the name of a traditional publisher who, he feels, may have an interest in looking at my manuscript!  Hope springs eternal!

And how was your week?

Your (discouraged and downtrodden, yet hopeful) pal,

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Please consider writing a review!  In exchange, I will send you an electronic copy of the book!


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