Apparently You Can’t Even Give iUniverse Books Away

…Of course, my evidence is only anecdotal.

Kevin’s back. This time with a response to My Thoughts on iUniverse and a very generous offer. I am glad he stuck around to continue the conversation with me, but I am somewhat disheartened that he didn’t also address this comment left by a very unhappy iUniverse customer in the same thread. Ah well, time is limited for everyone. We’ll take what we can get, won’t we?

Kevin’s response:


I haven’t read the iUniverse title in question, so I can’t judge the quality of this book; but I find it troubling that you would judge a publisher’s entire library based on one or even a small selection of titles. Using this logic would mean that Simon & Schuster puts out books of questionable quality because one of its imprints, Gallery, published Snooki Polizzi’s book.

Your remark: “Regardless, throwing the blame back on the author—because they have the final say, after all—is to deny (or at the very least minimize) iUniverse’s role in polluting the market with utter crap,” is also puzzling to me. Are all iUniverse titles “utter crap” because they don’t receive the blessings of a gatekeeper?

If so, by this logic, all blogs would be “utter crap,” and WordPress would be polluting the Internet because unlike content produced by news organizations, blogs aren’t scrutinized by a gatekeeper. Readers judge if a blog is worth reading, and that determines its level of success.

I would be happy to send a sample of quality iUniverse titles for you to read. Please let me know your preferred genre and how I can get them to you. Thanks for providing this forum for dialog.

Kevin A. Gray

Oh, Kevin, I dare you to read Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit. Triple dog dare you.  But that’s kind of beside the point. Let’s get to the heart of your comment, shall we?

At no time have I ever judged iUniverse’s entire library. I was clear about my inability to do such a thing because I haven’t read all of your titles. See the original quote:

Now, I’m not saying everything that comes from iUniverse is crap, because I haven’t read everything from iUniverse. But I know for a fact that some of what comes from iUniverse is crap, because I’ve had the misfortune of reading it.

Likewise, I never labeled “all iUniverse titles ‘utter crap.'” You seem to have jumped to that conclusion all by yourself (and then subsequently gone off on some wild, fallacy-ridden tangent about WordPress and news organizations to boot).

I simply stated that because iUniverse does print some crap, it should be held accountable for its part in printing said crap. In the case of all given works of crap, the authors are responsible for writing them, for sure. But iUniverse is also culpable, as a result of its business model.

When questions of money vs. quality arise at iUniverse, I get the distinct impression that money always wins. You made that pretty clear to me when you pointed out that authors can push forward despite the professional advice of iUniverse reps.

There’s no need to be ashamed about any of that, I guess. We all understand that making money is what businesses do. But I feel iUniverse needs to do a better job of owning it and accepting that it does indeed contribute to market pollution. Now, having personally read a total of three different iUniverse titles recently and a total of zero good ones,  my personal opinion is that iUniverse probably puts out proportionately more crap than, say, Simon & Schuster (since you mention them).

As a book-loving consumer, I’m already done taking chances on iUniverse. So concerning your offer to send me more titles? Thanks, but no thanks.


0 thoughts on “Apparently You Can’t Even Give iUniverse Books Away

  1. karenataylor says:

    I loved your blogs about iUniverse and subsequent comments from Kevin Gray. I didn’t notice any comments from your readers about the poorly written comment from Kevin that appeared in the My Thoughts on iUniverse post. And they offer editing services?!  Yikes!

    • I was waiting for someone to notice! 🙂 I considered going down that road in a post, but I really wanted the focus of my posts to be about iUniverse and its business model.

      But you are so right. That comment in particular didn’t do much to help iUniverse’s reputation.

  2. Peter Bowerman says:

    Great post, Emily (came across it while I was grabbing the
    blog’s URL to insert in YOUR guest post on my blog coming up soon!)

    Quite funny that Kevin would say, “I find it troubling that you would
    judge a publisher’s entire library…” AS IF iUniverse is a
    “publisher” on the par with the publisher HE invokes (Simon &
    Schuster). But, that’s part of iUniverse’s (or any POD publisher’s problem:
    they’re fostering the Grand Illusion that their company is equivalent to a
    reputable publisher.

    Sure, if they’re asked the question directly, they’re unlikely to lie outright.
    But, if no one asks, they’re perfectly willing to let some naive author believe
    they’re a “publisher” like any other, and that that author has been
    “accepted” by iUniverse.


    And incidentally, the only reason these POD
    “publishers” can call themselves “publishers” is because,
    overwhelming, THEY own an author’s ISBN, and hence are the “publisher of
    record,” NOT the author. Ironic, no? Thanks to a net negative to the
    author (i.e., they’re not the publisher of record), they get to claim something
    that sounds like a positive to authors (i.e., “We’re a publisher!”)

    As you accurately point out, their business model is diametrically different
    than that of a conventional publisher: they collect money upfront from
    virtually ANY author willing to pay the freight. As opposed to going through a
    conventional publisher’s pretty brutal vetting process (after all, since the
    publisher is paying the freight, and they don’t make a dime until the book
    sells, they better pick mighty carefully). Bottom line, if you’re paying to be
    “published,” you’re not dealing with a real publisher. 


    So, given that model (which includes no manuscript vetting,
    no editing, and template-driven cover and interior layout design – unless
    you’re shelling out more bucks for something non-standard), by definition,
    infinitely more of their books will be utter crap than those put out by Simon
    & Schuster, whose business model forces them to be infinitely more
    selective in their choices, and infinitely more attentive to the manuscript
    once signed.


    not once in his note does Kevin draw any distinction between the POD model and
    the conventional publishing model. And that’s pretty amazing and pretty
    disingenuous. I’m with you: just be honest about who you are and what you do.

    PB, Author
    The Well-Fed Writer (
    The Well-Fed Self-Publisher

    • Hmm, but can’t you come to them with your own ISBN? Then you’re the publisher of record. Not sure why you’d want to do that, anyway, but in principle you can. 

      BTW, Peter, loved your books, and learned a lot from you. 

  3. Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Austin,

    Glad you found my work useful! And POD entities have their own rules, but most do operate on the model that has them as the holder of the ISBN, and hence the publisher of record.

    Which, incidentally, they can also use to ustify their decision to hold onto your produced files should you want to leave them. Meaning, if you come to them with, say, a Word doc, and they turn that into a book, lay out the text, design your cover, etc, and down the road you decide, I’m outta here, you leave with your Word doc, not that final product. Another question to ask… 😉  


    • Hmm, the way you describe it seems plausible, Peter. I did browse websites of such companies as I was preparing to publish. But the attitude turned me off. That, and customer complaints all over the web. 

      If what you describe is true (and it most probably is), then there’s no reason to go via POD houses whatsoever, unless one is too lazy or too busy for his own book. But then such writer shouldn’t be publishing, period.

      • Now you’ve gone and opened a can of worms! I sincerely feel that some of these POD authors need to be strapped to a chair and force-fed the truth–that they shouldn’t be publishing, period. In most cases that I’m familiar with their books were printed before they were truly ready, and in some cases the topics/ideas/story had no merit whatsoever.

        The POD world needs a Gordon Ramsey or a Simon Cowell, I do believe.

      • LOL, I thought that can of worms has been open for a while 🙂

        That’s why the indie book buying has become such an involved experience for me. I go as far as visiting an author’s website before shelling out my dollars. In Peter’s case, for example, I loved what I saw, and have become his loyal fan. With some writers… immediate blacklist. 

      • Well, maybe it’s been opened, but not far enough? LOL

        Clearly there are still some authors left out there who have been told by their mother or sister or husband or best friend or whoever that their story is fantastic and they need to publish it. (I think we need a new circle of hell for those people, btw.)

        But you make a good point. Visit the website. You’ll get all the information you need about whether to give the book a shot or not.

  4. Peter Bowerman says:

    I’m running out the door, but WILL revisit this later – great discussion! And thanks, Austin, for the kind words. Glad you’ve liked what you saw!


  5. Peter Bowerman says:

    You’re right. Most authors don’t have any business publishing
    a book if they’re operating under the delusion that the world is eagerly
    awaiting their unedited dreck. What’s interesting is that in all this new found
    “I-am-author-hear-me-roar” giddiness, as they flip the bird to the conventional
    publishing (“We don’t need no blinkin’ publisher!”), they forget that one of
    the things that traditional publishing DOES get right is putting out good products – well edited, well produced books. On top of
    being extraordinarily selective on the front end. Because they have to. Because
    they don’t make a dime until that final gem, that’s been through all their
    tender loving ministrations, actually starts earning its keep…. And in this POD/Kindle self-publishing world of ours, the old expression, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” was never truer. Say you put out crap your first time
    around, naively believing the world is just waiting for your masterpiece in its
    raw, unprocessed glory, and it flops. So, you learn your lesson, and for your
    next book, really put some time, thought and resources into it.


    What do you think that audience of yours (who bought
    your first book on a whim and was pretty disappointed) is going to say when
    they see you’ve got a new release? And
    when they’re surrounded by a zillion other books vying for their attention? “Hmmm,
    his first book sucked, but I’ll give him another try”? Not bloody likely. More like, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me
    twice, shame on me.”


    And given how wired and connected our world is now, if a
    book is lousy, readers won’t be shy about “going viral” with that piece of
    information. But, get it right and do a bang-up job, and those same folks will
    spread the good news at the same wildfire clip. Like anything else, it comes down to quality. It always comes down to quality.  

    But, don’t get me started…;)



  6. Albert Dell'Apa says:

    I published my novel, How to Win a Chestnut Fight, through iUniverse primarily because I work full time as a practicing lawyer and did not have the time or energy to pursue a traditional publisher. My novel has in fact received excellent critical reviews and was featured in national publications such as Canadian Living magazine. While I agree that there are many books published that should not see the light of day, we shouldn’t tar everything with the same brush!

    • Yeah, I’m pretty much done explaining how I didn’t “tar everything with the same brush” or similarly “judge iUniverse’s entire library.” Visitors can read the posts in their entirety along with the follow-up comments … or not.

  7. Lisa says:

    I would not buy a book from one of these companies because I’ve read too many complaints online that they never bother to pay the authors any meagre royalties they might have earned. They simply do not pay along with all their other scams according to so many of their victims. Also I’ve seen complaints online that if someone buys direct from one of their actual stores like Xlbiris they simply never send the book. Those are online complaints not from the writers, but from people who have paid Xlbiris online site for a book and it simply never arrives. But the money gets taken off their credit cards, of course it does.

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