OMFG, iUniverse Authors!

For an update on this story, read The iUniverse Rants: Coming Clean.

A couple of iUniverse authors are acting up again, and I thought I’d write about it today. While it might seem more humane just to let these folks fade into Internet oblivion, it’s a welcomed distraction for me. So let this be a lesson to anyone else out there who is thinking about a) sending me pitches for a self-published book disguised as a “real” social media conversation or b) writing comments on a months-old post without actually reading the post.

The lesson is: find out who you’re irritating first.

Oh wait, I should do one of those “previously on Suess’s Pieces” things, shouldn’t I?

The iUniverse Backstory

  1. I used to review books on this blog.
  2. Many were written by indie authors, several were published by iUniverse.
  3. Most of the books were shitty. I mean so shitty that when the iUniverse dude offered to send me a bunch more titles to prove some of them actually had merit, I was all, like, oh hell no!
  4. I began to feel the authors were expecting a little too much from me, the only girl in the world giving their tomes the time of day. When one author whose book was slated for a review asked me to take a picture of myself with her book at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I lost my shit.
  5. I effectively stopped doing book reviews by telling authors they now had to pay for my time, and I hoped beyond hope that the iUniverse people would finally leave me alone.

They did. For a while.

Then one day last week, this random comment shows up on one of those old iUniverse posts of mine. Joy of joys, it was from an iUniverse author who chastised me for tarring all iUniverse titles with the same brush.

Got right up in my craw, it did.

Tip for Authors: Want to sell me on the merits of your book? You’d have better luck sending me a review written by your mom.

I responded to the commenter a few days later, thinking I was done with that mess for another 6 months or so until the next poor soul decided to type “iUniverse reviews” in his favorite search engine. But then today I had the following exchange on Twitter with someone who turned out to be an iUniverse author.

At first, I thought she was genuine about her concern for the tradeswomen of Ohio. And because I’m a raging feminist who believes in things like the right to choose my own health care and the Fair Pay Act, I responded to her. I wanted to learn more about their cause, maybe offer them a little solidarity. (For someone as cynical as I am, I am still really stinking gullible sometimes.) Anyway, when she finally sent me the correct link, I landed on the front page of her blog, where every post is either about her or her iUniverse book.


Trying to trap me into discovering your book is not going to sell me; it’s going to anger me. If some PR “guru” suggested you promote your book in this fashion (or worse yet, if someone in PR is doing this on your behalf), congratulations!  You have officially been hosed.

The best part? Girlfriend only had 72 tweets on record at the time, so I decided to check out her tweet history and found half a dozen other tweets that were pretty much the same only with different @mentions tacked on the front.

The Moral of the Story

I kind of side-stepped this issue when it last came up because, although I knew I was being a bitch, I didn’t want to be that bitch. I didn’t want to be the one to wreck the dreams of everyone who thinks that self-actualization only comes with a publishing contract. But that last remaining scrap of goodwill is gone from me now, and I’m just going to come out and say what needs to be said:

If you have to pay someone to publish your book, odds are it isn’t marketable. And if it isn’t marketable, that’s probably because it sucks.

Now, maybe your whole book concept sucks. Or maybe it’s just not ready for general consumption yet. Maybe there’s potential, but you need to do more work? If that’s the case, rushing the publishing process by paying someone to ignore industry standards is the last thing you should do.

Authors who write well receive advances instead of paying deposits. Authors who have something worth publishing don’t pay extra for professional proofreading packages. Authors with great stories to sell don’t pay additional fees for mediocre cover art. And authors who write well don’t have to beg or trick people into helping them promote their books.

Good or bad, real publishers agree to print marketable books because that’s how they make money. And, good or bad, vanity presses agree to print unmarketable books for a fee because that’s how they make money.

Any questions?

0 thoughts on “OMFG, iUniverse Authors!

  1. I know of two authors who self-published (not with iUniverse), who paid to buy their ISBNs and released on ebook as well as limited printed copies (which they had to pay for, but sold for profit) who have since been asked to sign with publishing houses and who have made good money. Sometimes people just self publish to have more control over their work. Just because someone self-publishes doesn’t mean they don’t have good quality work. Unfortunately, they’re often hidden among the piles of crap that also gets self published… 
    This is one of the above mentioned authors, who I found on Reddit:

    • Hence my use of the word “good” in each instance of the phrase “good or bad” and the phrase “odds are it isn’t marketable.” But yeah, I know… self-published authors, self-publishers and their mothers ALWAYS remind me of this.

  2. Leigh Ann says:

    It seems odd that the commenter on the previous post states that he didn’t have time to pursue traditional publishing. I know it can be a lengthy, grueling process, but if it’s your dream, don’t you want to do it right?

    • “but if it’s your dream, don’t you want to do it right?”

      I think that’s precisely the difference between people like you and me and people who think there are shortcuts for everything.

  3. I love to see the passion that indie publishing is creating in people like your self, but I don’t know that I agree with all your conclusions or predispositions. To say that publishers are the only ones who can produce marketable books is a bit of a stretch. Certainly, their attention to detail is important, but if they could make every book “marketable”, they would not be in the process of remaking their business as they are doing even as we speak. The fact is, whether it is a publisher or an indie author, it takes the same things to make a marketable book; a clear picture of the audience; fresh writing; editing; good cover design, etc.

    Who pays for that is irrelevant. The fact is publishing is going where film and music have already been.  Authors, like film makers and musicians, now have the opportunity to invest in their work, get it distributed, and find an audience. That’s what is most important, because let’s face it, working with a big company does not assure success.

    James Patterson collected 30 rejection letters before he got published. Today, he would not have to endure that ridiculous wait. He would have found his audience a lot sooner and that is good for everybody.

    • First, let’s not forget that I wouldn’t even be writing about this again if the authors themselves weren’t metaphorically waving their crap in my face.

      Aside from that, I’ve always been speaking in likelihoods and odds. Only the commenters and authors insist that I say things absolutely like “publishers are the only ones who can produce marketable books.” 

      Not. My. Words.

      Since you’re Global Marketing Director at Author Solutions, I can appreciate your thoughts on the topic, but I’ve read a LOT of Indie books — more than most people who stick up for them. 

      I did actually review and enjoy one self-published work that went through the process from start to finish with care. It didn’t come from iUniverse, the author was never a pain in the butt, and I haven’t seen one like it since.

    • I find it interesting that you consider 30 rejection letters to be a lot. Hmmm, maybe it’s the expectations of the writing community that need adjusting.

      Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury received far more than 30 rejection letters before they were what we would consider today a “success.” And even after they had their work published, they still encountered rejection from publishers, blasting the theory that once you have an “in,” you’ll have it made.

      I don’t necessarily think that authors should have to suffer for their art, but I do think they have to actually work beyond simply setting pen to paper. And part of that work involves not assuming that if 3 or 4 publishers turn down your manuscript, it must be because they don’t understand your brilliance.

      I support independent art (music, film, literature, fashion, etc.), but not everyone in the indie community knows what they’re doing or even deserves a shot at being a success.

  4. Elisabeth Kauffman says:

    So my thought is, why NOT self-publish… IF you have a really strong platform and an excellent, well-edited manuscript? Of course if you have those things, you’re exactly what a traditional publisher is looking for anyhow… 

    • Exactly, Elisabeth. 

      None of the iUniverse authors that have harassed me have anything close to a strong platform. (If they did, why would they need to be deceptive about what’s actually on their blog to get me to click through?)  

      And as for excellent, well-edited manuscripts? Haven’t seen one from them yet. In fact, in at least one of my reviews, I was so irritated by the grammar and typos that I started citing them — proof that I’m not making this stuff up. 

      Overall quality is a real problem that seems to stem from iUniverse’s business model–where authors, not readers, are the customer. It’s not that the self-pub industry is incapable of producing better works, it’s just that they don’t.

  5. Mrs. L says:

    I have NEVER seen you this pissed off. I had to check to see that it was, in fact, YOU! I have an entire shelf just for books written by friends, some self-published, some not. From novels to cookbooks. The absolute worst is a self-published golf memoir that reads like it was transcribed, unedited, from tapes recorded during a drunken card game. But there’s also a stinker about a former director of the CIA, written by a one-time Washington reporter and published by a reputable house — mondo suckola — from bad grammar to bad proofing. My favorites are both self-published — a charming ranch cookbook and a personal growth book by a cancer survivor who also lost a son. I’ll be sending you my new full color coffee table book, Stains, as soon as it gets back from Shutterfly.  

  6. Vcashon says:

    hum…I wrote a story that turned into a lengthy self-important novel.  I don’t know if I’ll try to publish; maybe the act of completing it is enough. 

    I did see an ad for iUniverse and because it was 2 a.m., I typed in my info.  A representative called me the next day.  He sounded professional and knowledgable and intrigued me of this “pay up-front” jazz. 

    Tonight I sit and read horrible reviews and issues re: lost royalities as if people, sorry, AUTHORS, thought they would be stiking it rich?  I am having a hard time figuring out if these undiscoverd John Grisham’s are truly wronged or if they were just wrong to think the process was something it’s not.

    If iUniverse is as awful as a thumbtack sandwich then what is a good company to go with outside of securing an agent that will do anything other than take a risk on an unknown first time “author”.

    Thanks for any info you have.

    The Next So-Far Undiscovered Dennis Lehane

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