Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thoughts on the iUniverse Merger

Bob Sanchez recently published his comic crime novel, When Pigs Fly, with iUniverse, and so his remarks on the Internet Writing Workshop's Writing discussion list after AuthorHouse acquired iUniverse are of value to those who choose print-on-demand publication.

I found iUniverse to be quite upfront that the marketing of When Pigs Fly was completely my responsibility. They do have some bothersome faults, but I don't think dishonesty is one of them. They are a business, and as such they look out for themselves first. Investors will judge them by their profits, not be the number of happy authors they have. It is quite clear that their primary market is writers and not readers, but to me personally that point is no longer simply clear but blatant.

They didn't give my novel the Editor's Choice designation right away. Their primary basis for that is an editorial evaluation; their secondary method is for the author to give them evidence of positive, independent reviews. I followed the latter path and earned the designation, which they require for any other recognition.

Then I wanted their Publisher's Choice designation, which would allow me to sell the book through one of the Barnes & Noble retail outlets. They told me I was too late. I made a stink, pointing out that nowhere in the contract or in the advertising did they ever say a word about a deadline. So they said all right, as a special "favor" to me, they would allow me to apply for PC.

But for that they required that I cough up $400 for them to redo the cover. I said that's stupid; did they mean the cover they had just designed only a few months before was no good, and I had to pay so they'd get it right this time? My contact person clucked sympathetic noises, but the bottom line was that I could either hand over $400 or forget it. The math was pretty simple: I'd have to sell more books than I'd ever sold before simply to recoup the $400. Not being a complete and irredeemable nitwit, I decided to pass. I actually found that proffered "favor" an insult -- hand over your wallet, sucker -- but saw no need to fight with them.

Their advertising is blatantly optimistic. They are careful never to promise anything of the sort, but they make it sound as though you can sell 30 copies at a signing. Perhaps so, but with my best efforts, my max has been six. If I ever sell 10 at once, I'll fall over in a dead faint. In Albuquerque I gave a talk to well over 100 writers and later sold four copies to them at a 20% discount. So while iUniverse gets the benefit of the doubt from me as to their honesty, they obviously try to paint the brightest possible scenario and lead you to believe you can expect it to happen.

Learn more about Bob Sanchez and his writing.

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