iUniverse Difficult and Unworthy Publisher

You’ve probably heard this story before, but you haven’t heard it from Lawson Brooks III, author of From the Waist Up. Like the other authors I’ve interviewed, he published with iUniverse and is left with nothing positive to say about the company. He says IUniverse is a difficult and unworthy conpany.

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In his own words:

“I had a book published by iUniverse that I’m going to relaunch in the fall for my own publishing company.  iUniverse has been a difficult and unworthy partner from the outset.

First, once your manuscript is submitted, rather than being able to access the PDF document to make changes, I had to by blocks of 25 edits for $100 to make changes.  And if a mistake was made by a staff member, I didn’t get any refunds or additional edits.

Secondly, from the time I signed the initial contract which was the [least expensive package], the up-selling was on.  I got calls and emails telling me that for x number of dollars they could do wonders with my book, although I knew the marketing person had not read it.  More over, with my book costing $16.99, the best discount that I got to buy my book was at 55%, and then I had to by such a volume that the costs were prohibitive.

Finally, as I stated, after staying low key for the required 18 months*, I’m going to re-launch my book under my own company.  Now iUniverse wants me to buy both my PDF and Cover for a fee although I paid for these services up front.”

*Lawson is referring to Schedule A, Section 9 of the contract, which says that production files will be given back to the author for a fee of $750 before 18 months have elapsed and $150 after 18 months have elapsed. So, basically, they rob you to make the files by charging exorbitant prices, and then—if you want to take your book and go home—they rob you again by making you pay for a PDF they already created. (This is the crux of Joan Moran’s iUniverse complaint.)

Not surprisingly, they provided for themselves Section 18, which states: “upon giving thirty (30) days advance written notice, PUBLISHER may terminate publication of the WORK without cause, at which point the rights to the WORK immediately revert to AUTHOR (emphasis mine).”

Is iUniverse a Reputable Publisher?*

The short answer to the question “Is iUniverse a Reputable Publisher?” is no. The longer, more descriptive answer is hell no.

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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.

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 redlisted 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?

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. 

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

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.

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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.

Letter 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:

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

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

iUniverse Complaints: Interview with Jodi Foster

Today I’m publicizing the story of Jodi Foster, author of Forgotten Burial: A Restless Spirit’s Plea for Justice. When we first started talking, Jodi informed me that iUniverse had asked her to stop airing her complaints and contacting other authors.


That’s when I knew I just had to publish her story here on Suess’s Pieces.

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Today’s interview is yet another call for iUniverse and other Author Solutions companies to be held accountable for their actions.

Like Jodi told me a couple of weeks ago,  “We as authors and consumers need to ban together and stand up for our rights as artists. We should not be bullied by iUniverse or be afraid.”

Jodi names names in her account. In most cases I have used only the first initial of the employee’s last name; for Eugene Hopkins I’ve made an exception. His name is already all over the internet and is suggested as a contact by former employees.

ES: At what point did you realize you’d been scammed?

Foster: iUniverse has some real good sales people that could sell ice water to an Eskimo. After writing my book and having it professionally edited by Meredith Cooper, Managing editor for Chico News and Review, I was ready for self-publishing. I researched and saw that iUniverse was number one in self-publishing on a Google search. However, after more research I realized that Xlibris, the other company I was looking at, was part of Author Solutions, the parent company that owned both publishers. Since iUniverse was number one, I chose to go with them. I am really sorry I did.

Kathy W. sold me on the Bookstore Premier Pro package, which I purchased for $1,499. This program qualified me for Rising Star and Editor’s Choice, supposedly two prestigious writing awards offered through iUniverse.  I thought the amount of money she was asking for seemed pricey. I told Kathy I was a low-income single mom with two kids, and it was going to be a stretch for me to pay this amount of money, but she was a convincing sales woman. I knew I had a great book on my hands that had been read and reviewed and edited by a newspaper editor, an elementary teacher, and a college professor. My book, Forgotten Burial: A Restless Spirit’s Plea for Justice, was even connected to a New York Times best seller, published by Random House. I asked Kathy if there would be any other future costs and she said no.  I went ahead and took my savings, and bought the package. Well guess what…iUniverse lied, I soon found out that there were other hidden costs.

After I sent the money I uploaded my manuscript to iUniverse. Two weeks later I got an e-mail that said they loved my book and it would qualify for their Editors Choice program; however, my manuscript needed a developmental edit. I said to Kathy, “My book has been professionally edited already and proofread three times.” Apparently I was going to have to spend more money to have iUniverse do it again.

She said,  “If you want to reach the Editor’s Choice, which I am sure you will, and have iUniverse get behind you to market your book, you will I have to buy a developmental edit for, $4196.26.


I said, “Are you kidding me? I already had my manuscript professionally edited.” She convinced me it was not good enough for these prestigious awards, and I soon found myself on a payment plan.

Stupid, naive me. This is when I realized I was being scammed.

After paying, I did receive these awards. I was promised my book was going to be promoted by iUniverse due to the fabulous content, nature and the remarkable writing.

Hummmm, weird, I thought because not much in the developmental edit had changed. My story was still the same, with only a few minor adjustments. I was mad that I had to spend so much money for such minor changes, but Kathy again and again promised me Marketing! Marketing! Marketing! And, now that I received Rising Star, iUniverse would be promoting and pitching my book to bigger publishing houses. This sounded good at first. However, once again I was misled.

Yes, I was given a marketing consultant, Brian H. He told me iUniverse has a bi-yearly magazine that features all the Rising Star Authors and that they would be pitching my book to agents who produced movies and TV shows. I was excited at first but, unfortunately, the only thing I actually got from Brian H. was another sales pitch to buy a marketing package for $3,999.

Grrr…. anger is a kind word for what I was feeling. Misled again.

I told Kathy W. there was already a lot of information out there regarding my story. If I had received Rising Star and Editor’s Choice, why did I have to pay more money for marketing? She said that her job with me was over and that it was no longer her job. My book was now in the  hands of Brian H. Well, Brian H. did absolutely nothing for me except try and sell me more unneeded BS.

All iUniverse did was print my book, give me a hard time, and exploit me for money. And if this wasn’t painful enough? After printing, I received the cost for each book. I was not expecting to sell as many books as I did. So I questioned iUniverse’s customer service about their prices and asked where all my money was being spent. Basically, an author only receives $1.60 per book, a topic not discussed when you are purchasing your POD package.  This is what I received from Sherry T., who apparently works under Pamela H., for costumer relations at iUniverse:


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