A woman strode up to our Stories To Tell booth at the Miami Book Fair last month and asked, “Are you better than iUniverse?” She was the first of four people at the Fair to ask the same question in one form or another. Our booth was in the same aisle as the Author Solutions signing booth so dissatisfied authors who published with iUniverse (and other Author Solutions imprints like Author House, Xlibris, Tafford and others) were likely to find us. Nevertheless, the unhappy authors were vehement enough in their complaints to convince us that we should answer their questions in a way that would be available to other writers as well as those with whom we spoke. So, here’s our response:
Yes we are. That’s the short answer, but what’s really important for authors to understand is why, so let’s focus on the specific reasons.
Today we’ll discuss Independent Publishing vs. Assisted Self-Publishing. Our next two posts will address Author Services and Book Marketing.
INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING VS. ASSISTED SELF-PUBLISHING
According to its website, iUniverse “…represents a great alternative to traditional publishing as we offer a full range of affordable professional self-publishing services.”
To us, self-publishing, simply defined, means that the author acts as his or her own publisher. If that’s the case, iUniverse’s claim is questionable at best.
When an author publishes with iUniverse the author owns the copyright to the book, but the ISBN assigned to the book shows iUniverse as its publisher. (The International ISBN Agency explains that the 3rd component of an ISBN is the Registrant Element is up to seven digits which designate the publisher.)
The author paid to create the files used to print the book, but iUniverse owns those files. As Mark Levine, the author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, explains, “If you terminate your contract with the publisher, you will have ‘the right to purchase’ your digital filers in press-ready PDF format with the ISBN and iUniverse logo removed.” The price can be quite high.
Basic business decisions regarding the book, including its retail price, are made by iUniverse, not the author. Levine reports, “iUniverse sets the price for all its books [emphasis added]…” The price is determined on a loosely sliding scale based on number of pages which can put it at a disadvantage with comparable books.
Finally, as Levine says, iUniverse retains a royalty, often greater than the author’s, on every book it sells “…you should wonder why you pay them to publish your book and they end up making more on each sale than you do.”
None of this is self-publishing. iUniverse is the author’s publisher.
Stories To Tell
At Stories To Tell we believe in independent self-publishing. You as the author are your own publisher. You hire us to assist you in editing, designing and getting your book published. Everything we do, we do in your name. You own the copyright. The ISBN is in your name. You own the files and can take them anywhere you want anytime you want. You make all the important decisions about your book including its price. We do not take any part of the royalty on book sales. What your book earns is yours. After all it’s your book.