Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writing & Freelance

Is iUniverse a Reputable Publisher?*

The short answer to the question above is no. The longer, more descriptive answer is hell no.

In the last five days, search traffic on my blog has pretty much been all iUniverse all the time. There are, of course, a few instances of people searching for images of Keith Ogorek or people searching for iUniverse’s parent company, Author Solutions. But for the most part people are looking for the dirt on iUniverse. And I guess that makes sense; everything I’ve read points to that name having the most brand recognition and the most unhappy customers.

iuniverse complaints search
A sampling of search results leading readers to my series on Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints. (Click to enlarge)

I compiled a few screen shots of the stats for this blog in the image you see on the left. I’ve taken out locations, IP addresses and Host Names here and there. They aren’t relevant for one, but I also don’t want to risk giving away anything that would be an identifier for someone who just wants to browse the web in peace.

It’s not a complete list of search terms, and they’re not all in order. (Sorry, I got a little lazy with the cutting and pasting.) But I think it’s a representative sampling of what goes on in the minds of iUniverse customers. And, if you happen to be someone considering giving iUniverse your money, I think it gives you more than a little perspective. I think it tells you just about everything you need to know.

The following headers are actual search terms that lead people here to Suess’s Pieces. I’ve added a few notes (and links where appropriate) for those wanting more information.

Breach of Contract iUniverse

Earlier, we discussed the fact that parent company Author Solutions was not reporting royalties according to the terms of its contracts. Reports are repeatedly published late, and we have proof that royalty checks were backdated in an attempt to cover up that they were not disbursed on time. This is a breach of the iUniverse contract.

Who Can I Contact at iUniverse to Complain?

No one. You can call and talk to a different person every time, or you can email employees until your fingers fall off, but you’ll get no answer. Here’s the thing: the people of Author Solutions will tell you anything you want to hear on the phone, but they won’t stand by it. So odds are you’ll get fed up and switch to emailing them in order to resolve your issue. However, they’ll stop communicating with you when you do, because they don’t want you to have anything in writing.

When they tell you that you need to speak to Eugene Hopkins about your problem? That’s the kiss of death. That pretty much means you’ve been blacklisted as a customer and you’ll never hear a peep out of anyone again. Oh, he might make a half-hearted attempt to contact you, but he’ll pretend he doesn’t know anything about your situation. Still if you just want some email addresses, here you go:

kweiss@authorsolutions.com (Kevin Weiss, President and CEO)
kogorek@authorsolutions.com (Keith Ogorek, Marketing VP)
ehopkins@authorsolutions.com (Eugene Hopkins, Client Services Manager)

If you’re looking for more information about customer service at iUniverse and Author Solutions, I suggest reading all of the interviews on the Author Solutions & iUniverse Index page.

Why Does iUniverse Change Its Staff?

For an answer to this question, I point you to two articles: Author Solutions, Inc. Employee Cries ‘Scam’ and Even Employees Don’t Like iUniverse & Author Solutions. This gist of it is that turnover rates are always high at places where people don’t want to work. But it’s probably about more than just sheer turnover rate if you can’t get in touch with the same contact twice. iUniverse and Author Solutions toss you from one person to the next by design in the hopes you’ll get so confused and so frustrated you just give up.

Is Author Solutions Going Out of Business?

author solutions bloomington indiana
This picture was taken in May 2012 at ASI headquarters in Bloomington, IN. You can still see where the AuthorHouse name and logo had once been.

Not soon enough, in my opinion. Though I have a feeling companies like these don’t ever die, they just change their name(s) and start over. Just to be safe, I’d steer clear of anything associated with Bertram Capital (ASI’s holding company) and Kevin Weiss.

Others have suggested that the big guys running iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, et al. don’t know what their minions are up to. That people like Kevin Weiss, Keith Ogorek and Eugene Hopkins can only be guilty of hiring the incompetent.

Whatever. These people aren’t chancing the company’s future by unwittingly hiring college students that may or may not run the entire business into the ground. They know exactly who they’re using.

*For the sake of clarity: I am not and never will be an iUniverse customer. All information I have collected comes from continued research and the first-hand accounts of actual iUniverse customers. 

Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writing & Freelance

Jean Rikhoff Takes iUniverse & Author Solutions Complaints to Indiana Attorney General

By now the complaints against iUniverse and its parent company, Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, you may be getting a little weary of reading them. But here’s the thing: ASI and it’s vanity presses are deceitful and predatory companies. I can’t in good conscience stop writing about them, because authors shopping for a way to publish need access to real stories like the ones Lawrence, Joan, Mark, Philip, and Jodie have agreed to tell.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

Today Jean Rikhoff, author of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (iUniverse), has agreed to tell her story. Jean was born in 1928 and has also published two trilogies: the Timble Trilogy, made up of Dear Ones All, Voyage In, Voyage Out, and Rites of Passage, and the trilogy of the North Country, consisting of Buttes Landing, One of the Raymonds, and The Sweetwater.

Instead of the standard interview format I’ve used for previous authors, Jean has agreed to share correspondence with us. Her letters to the Indiana Attorney General are linked below. I’ve summarized and highlighted some of the details in those letters for you, but you can read the full-text PDFs by clicking on the links.

Complaint Against iUniverse of Bloomington, Indiana (December 10, 2011): Jean talks about the “good” iUniverse and the “bad” iUniverse, referring to the differences in the company’s practices before and after ASI became the owner of iUniverse. She has included email correspondence from representatives to support her statements. Some of Jean’s formal complaints include:

  • iUniverse assured her they could embed the pictures she wanted included in her book. They gave her a contract and took her money, but later told her their machines were not able to print her books as she had requested.
  • Once Jean was turned over to the editorial staff at iUniverse, she received numerous phone calls about services not covered under her initial package. They told her she would want to take them because she had been awarded Editor’s Choice, a tactic Jean charmingly refers to as a “buttering up for the skinning.”
  • Jean was sold copy editing services from iUniverse that she was told would cost close to $400. She agreed, and her credit card was charged $3,794.33. She disputed the charges with her credit card company.
  • She went over the “editing” iUniverse provided and found more than 100 errors.
  • Jean attempted to get resolution for her issues, but iUniverse employees stopped responding to her. She emailed at least four different employees. Finally someone named Joseph said he couldn’t help, but he’d try to get someone who could. Her original contact was gone, there was a “reorganization” within the company.
  • Jean eventually got a final proof that was riddled with formatting problems and copyediting errors, even though they’d charged her nearly $4,000 for editorial review. When she complained, the response from iUniverse was, “The designers do not go page by page looking at the formatting.”
  • Jean got a lawyer who spoke to Eugene Hopkins weekly and daily for a few weeks. He stopped talking to Jean’s lawyer until she threatened to take things to the next step. When he finally spoke to the attorney again, he pretended not to know anything about the lawyer, Jean, or her book.
  • Jean got one softcover and one hardcover book; she never received the remaining author copies she paid for as part of her initial publishing package.
  • They spelled her name wrong on the jacket, despite her correcting this on the proof numerous times.
  • Royalties were never paid.

iuniverse sucksLetter to Indiana Attorney General’s Office Re: December 10, 2011 iUniverse Complaint (January 27, 2012): Jean responds to communication from Fran Marburgh, a representative at Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office. It appears they misunderstood her complaint. Jean reiterates that since Author Solutions, Inc. took over iUniverse, she had not received royalty reports or payments on previously published works that the “good” iUniverse took over before the buyout.

Follow-up Letter to Indiana Attorney General’s Office Re: January 27, 2012 (February 22, 2012): Jean reminds Fran Marburgh that this is not a single case and that the attorney general’s responsibility is to investigate the claims of Author Solutions’ customers. Jean spells out her complaints again, including the following:

  • iUniverse admitted that the manuscript, when finished, was never checked by anyone.
  • iUniverse did not answer queries from either Jean or her lawyers for weeks at a time. Her lawyer had to phone them EVERY day to try to get answers.
  • Jean’s book was NOT listed on Amazon.com as iUniverse promised until Jean’s lawyer threatened to sue them.

Final Letter to Indiana Attorney General’s Office (March 4, 2012): Essentially, the Indiana Attorney General is treating Jean’s case as an isolated incident. However, we know that Author Solutions has violated the terms of their contract with authors by failing to report royalties on time and failing to make payments on time. Jean asks how many complaints are needed to move the inquiry from simple mediation to investigation.

As time permits, I will be attempting to help iUniverse authors submit their complaints formally to the Attorney General’s office. If you would like assistance with this process, please get in touch. If you want to submit a complaint electronically, use the Indiana Attorney General’s Online Complaint Form.

In the meantime, tell all your friends to avoid Author Solutions and all related companies. Here’s a list of associated brands for your convenience:

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]PARENT/HOLDING COMPANIES:
Bertram Capital
Author Solutions

BOOKS:
Author House
iUniverse
XLibris
Trafford
Palibrio
Publish in the USA
Abbott Press
Balboa  (Hay House-branded line)
WestBow  (Thomas Nelson-branded line)
Inspiring Voices  (Guideposts Magazine-branded line)
Legacy Keepers

MODERN MEDIA:
FuseFrame   (Previously Author Solutions Films)
Pitchfest   (Authors pay to come pitch their stories for film adaptations)
Author Learning Center  (Online learning tool hoping you’ll forget to cancel your credit card after the free trial ends)
WordClay  (Abandoned ebook imprint)
BookTango  (New ebook imprint)
AuthorHive (Book Marketing)

MISCELLANEOUS ASSOCIATIONS/PARTNERSHIPS:
Meredith Vieira Productions
Kirkus Reviews
Clarion ForeWord Reviews
BlueInk Reviews[/box]

Read the complete iUniverse Complaints Index