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

One More Reason to Stay the Hell Away From iUniverse

I know! Like you needed one of more reasons to stay the hell away from iUniverse, right?

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What you’ll find below is my first iUniverse-related hate mail. For the record, I have no way of verifying that this email, sent via my contact submission form, was indeed written by the author. After all, I know of at least two times Author Solutions people came to my blog and left comments pretending to be authors.

That said, I think it is genuine. And at any rate, with even a 1% chance that it was written by the actual author, I removed the contents of the review. What iUniverse did to her was way worse than what they did to me.

For what it’s worth, my opinion of the work hasn’t changed. I am sorry the review hurt the author, but it was and is my opinion as a reader. I say this to ALL authors, not just the one in question: If you can’t handle reviews, don’t ask for them. If you didn’t want reviews in the first place, fire the people requesting them for you.

If you care to know more about my response to her accusations, it’s already in this blog. The story hasn’t changed. Happy reading … if you’ve got the time.

I would like to draw special attention to one thing she writes for the benefit of any other author considering using iUniverse (or any of the scads of other Author Solutions brands):

“yes I was set up and I didn’t know you were approached to review my book”

If you need more reasons to avoid these companies, I recommend reading through the full list of iUniverse complaints.

Name: [redacted]

Email: xxxxxx@xxxxxxxx.com

Comments: Emily, I waited a year to let you know how cruel and vicious you are and your pathetic apology about your ex-husband setting you you up with reviewing iUniverse authors is also a half-baked attempt of clearing your conscience. I don’t know where to begin maybe it was your your pre-prejudiced crucifixion of my book…before you even read it, then getting your syncophants to agree with you is even more reprehensible I hope you find some typos so you can feel morally superior … I published through a traditional publsher a very popular interior design book several years ago. I taught brain damaged deaf children for ten years and even had my hero in [title redacted] overcome a stutter but no you just focused on the length of my book…and by the way there are a lot of classic books that are of the same length as mine, and the inconsistent Boston accent of a character. When did you ever publish a book? You get off by tearing down people to make yourself feel superior. How you decimated your relationship with [She uses the full name of my asshat ex-husband here. If you want to know what it is, email me.] on your blog for over two years is pretty disgusting but it did get you a faithful following of malcontents ..misery loves company. I digress yes I was set up and I didn’t know you were approached to review my book. Kf I had known I would never have given my permission since I wouldn’t have been impressed with your credentials in being a self-annointed book reviewer and then you having the audacity to charge people money* for your condescending insults. It’s one thing to offer constructive criticism but shame on you to voice your toxic opinions and to declare my book as polluting the the universe is utterly reprehensible and hate filled aside from being libelus. You don’t even deserve this e-mail and I can already hear your mind at work on how to get even with me when it is you who should apologize and even retract my review which I know you’ll never do because you are never wrong. Here’s to you and your lack of conscience. Instead of wondering what the consequences are to your actions and what your toxicity does to people maybe you should think about what if your church members knew how you mistreat people all in the name of Emily Suess’s sanctimonious and holier than thou attitude. You should be ashamed of yourself and take a long hard look at your actions and philosophy of life.

*To date no one has paid me a cent to review a book, certainly not iUniverse or any author. If iUniverse charged you a fee for my review, I recommend you sue them and then tell the whole world about it.

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

Author Solutions AdWords Scam Discovered

The folks at iUniverse and Author Solutions are being called out again. Only this time playwright Ian Walker discovers that an Author Solutions AdWords scam is part of their shenanigans. iUniverse sends a 20-page excerpt of Walker’s work to Google Books, and a finger-pointing game ensues as Walker discovers an AdWords campaign for his book. Once again, someone is pocketing the author’s cash, but of course it isn’t the author.

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If you have any interest at all in self-publishing, you should watch this video in its entirety. It’s well-articulated, it’s smart, and it’s just one more reason not to trust Bertram Capital, Author Solutions, Gene Hopkins or Kevin Weiss.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__jnJ5NdWCM]

From the YouTube description:

“Back in 2010 I discovered that Google Books—in cahoots with my publisher Author Solutions / iUniverse—was raising revenue on one of my books in secret.”

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

Open Letter to Author Solutions Veep Keith "Shiggles" Ogorek

Dear Keith,

Long time no see! Seems like only a month or so ago, you were eagerly dropping comments on this blog on behalf of everyone’s favorite vanity press, iUniverse. Where’d you go?

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You’re not mad at me are you? Kevin told me you were sulking the whole weekend because I hadn’t Photoshopped your mug shot or written you a letter. Well, situation remedied, big boy! I hope you like the pic and find it was worth the wait. Honestly? I think it’s the best one, and you can tell Kev I said so. There’s just something about yours that screams “I was a childhood bully!”

I dig that about you, Shiggles.

Anyway, remember that one comment you left me here on Suess’s Pieces where you were all like, “In the interest of fairness and for the benefit of your readers, would you like to interview someone from iUniverse?” You volunteered yourself, saying you looked forward to the questions I might give you. But then I hastily said, “Let-me-think-about-that-no!”

Well, sometimes a girl makes mistakes, Shiggles. And I regret that decision now, because I do have a few questions for you. I hope you will answer them.

  • As Marketing VP at Author Solutions and an upstanding member of Pretty White Church, do you feel like Jesus has called you to laugh at your customer’s books or do you find it’s just easier to compartmentalize your everyday behavior and your religion?
  • Which book titles on your office shelf provide the heartiest guffaws?
  • Are you more satisfied when your employees coax the life savings out of single moms or retirees?
  • I see you’re a writer too, and apparently a pretty good one. Three whole books! (Plus, I assume you’re practically famous by now, what with the outstanding marketing services of Author Solutions, Inc. at your dispos…oh, wait.) Back to the books. Do you know that 100% of your Amazon.com reviews for your children’s book Eli the Stable Boy are five star reviews? Do you also know that 18% of those reviewers have the last name Ogorek? And do you know that of the 11 people that wrote a review for Eli, 73% never reviewed another thing on Amazon.com again, ever?
  • Since you’ve written a book for a men’s Bible study on worldview, I’d like to talk a little bit about your own worldview and how it has shaped your career. Would you say that a lifetime of Biblical misogynistic teaching is the reason why you gave Lawrence Fisher his money back while refusing to even return the emails of Joan Moran and Jodi Foster? If not, how would you explain the differences in treatment?

You can send me an email at emily at emilysuess dot com with your reply, or you can just put your interview responses in the comments here. Either way, I can’t wait to hear from you.

xoxox,

Emily

P.S. If a box of What Would Shiggles Do bracelets gets shipped to Author Solutions HQ, it wasn’t me. But please send one to my P.O. Box.

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

Open Letter to Author Solutions Prezzy Kevin "Backdating" Weiss

My open letter to Author Solutions

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Dear Kevin,

Has anyone ever told you that in your photos you kind of resemble George W. Bush? At first I thought it might be the self-aggrandizing smirk you’re always sporting, but the longer I look, the more I think it might be just your oddly wavy hair and small, close-set eyes.

Oh, yeah—surprise!—I made this mug shot for you. Now, I know my Photoshop skills are world-class, so I added the facial hair to keep people from thinking it was a real mug shot. Even though you were exonerated for that whole stock option backdating scandal that blew up at McAfee in 2006, I can see how some silly people might wonder if you could be guilty of some other fancy, white-collar crimes. We don’t want people wondering that do we?

I’m rambling now, but my real purpose for writing is to ask what you’ve been up to lately. I mean, besides instructing the fine folks at Author Solutions, Inc. to backdate authors’ royalty checks and then draft them in the wrong amounts. Related question: where does that money go? The stuff you’re supposed to pay to authors but don’t?

Someone suggested you were cooking the books to make yourself richer, but I was all, “Nuh-uh! Kevin got a nice parting gift from McAfee and he doesn’t need to risk his career for that chump change.” I told them that IF you were taking money, you were probably diverting it to a nice charity.

Speaking of backdated things, though, are you guys also getting ready to cut backdated refund checks for Joan Moran and Jodi Foster? Despite your missing the 60-day cutoff for royalty statements and checks, you should know that all the authors out there are really going to appreciate what you’ve done for them.

I mean, breaching your contract with them? Genius, dawg!  You’ve given them a way to pull their books from iUniverse without having to pay up to $750 for a worthless PDF of their own hard work.

Schedule A, Section 6:

6. Refunds
If AUTHOR terminates this agreement for any reason other than a breach of contract by PUBLISHER, all third party licenses and obligations shall remain in effect…

You guys breached the contract on purpose didn’t you? Just to nullify all licenses and obligations and give people like Joan Moran their money back. You’re my hero!

Shh. It’s not important that there was an easier way, Kev. It doesn’t matter anymore that honest business dealings would’ve kept you from this whole mess in the first place. What’s important is that you finally did the right thing. I promise I won’t tell majority owners, Bertram Capital, about this if you won’t.

That reminds me! Someone told me that your people were still refusing to talk to the customers you’d wronged, and I was all like, “No way, man. Not on Kevin’s watch!” But then Joan said no one was answering her and Jodi told me that you guys wouldn’t let her talk to anyone but Eugene Hopkins. Kev, I’m going to tell you this because we’re friends, okay? When you do that, it looks like you’ve got even more to hide and you’re buying time to come up with an excuse.

Just sayin’!

xoxox,

Emily

P.S. Don’t let that 11% approval rating at Glassdoor.com get you down. I know you’re just misunderstood.

P.P.S. Please make more YouTube videos. They are sooooooo sessy.

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

Let Me Fix That For You: iUniverse Mail

More on those Author Solutions, Inc. contracts coming your way shortly. In the meantime, how about a little light reading? Got some great iUniverse mail for you.

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Remember on May 25 when I interviewed Philip Reed and he mentioned that iUniverse still relentlessly tries to sell additional products and services to him? Well, we’ve got a lovely little example of that for you today.

Overbearing salespeople are one of the things customers hate most about Author Solutions’ imprints, and their pushiness is one of the top complaints against iUniverse. Phone calls are the company’s favorite, but spamming your inbox ranks a close second.

On Monday, June 4, Phil sent the email you see below. “Speak of the devil,” he wrote to me, and then he pointed out that little bit in Lea’s disclaimer that stipulates “Discount applies for orders within April 2012 only.”

Besides getting the dates right next time, I have to suggest another revision. To protect the integrity of your fine vanity presses, I think the last sentence of this mass email should be amended to read:

For General Inquiry, Sales & Royalty concerns kindly email customersupport@iuniverse.com or call ext. 5045 unless your name is Jodi Foster. We don’t fucking answer inquiries from Jodi Foster anymore.

From: Phil [mailto:xxxxx@yahoo.com] Sent: Monday, June 04, 2012 1:33 PM To: Philip Reed Subject: Fw: June Book Orders Specials!

—– Forwarded Message —– From: Lea G. To: xxxxx@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, June 4, 2012 1:31 PM Subject: June Book Orders Specials!

Pre Summer Book Orders Specials!

+5 % Extra Discount for 50 COPIES and Up!

Place your orders on or before June 15, 2012 1.877.820.5395 / 1.800.288.4677 extension 8131

Greater discounts await greater orders. Secure your Order Now.

Disclaimer: This Book Order Special is valid for single purchases of the same title and format and shipped to a single address. Discount is calculated against the actual retail price. This is royalty exclusive and nonreturnable. Shipping charges are not included and will be paid for by the buying party unless otherwise specified. Offer is subject to further terms and conditions, and may change without prior notice. Other restrictions may apply. Discount applies for orders within April 2012 only.

Questions regarding Book Ordering process, promotions and Authors’ Volume Discount? Let us know so we may assist you.

Available every 10AM – 7PM Eastern, Mondays to Fridays and last Saturdays of the month. For General Inquiry, Sales & Royalty concerns kindly email customersupport@iuniverse.com or call ext. 5045.

Sincerely,

Lea G. Book Consultant

Phone : 1-877-820-5395 Ext. 8131 Toll-free : 1-800-AUTHORS (288-4677) FAX : 812-355-4085 International : 00-1-402-323-7800 xxxxx@iuniverse.com / www.iUniverse.com

Have a sales story, email, or voicemail from iUniverse you’d like to share? Submit it to me at emily at emilysuess dot com or use the contact form on this site.

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

More Author Solutions, iUniverse Scam Details Surface

In a move that (once again) makes the people at iUniverse’s parent company Author Solutions look like total douche bags, author Jodi Foster has now been told she can’t talk to anyone in the company except Eugene Hopkins. And Mr. Hopkins, oddly enough, is never available to talk. Total iUniverse scam.

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Apparently the people of Author Solutions are punishing their own customer for daring to hold them accountable. In an email yesterday, Jodi wrote to me, “Customer service says that my account is locked to them.”

What kind of company does this to any customer, let alone one that has paid thousands and thousands of dollars? I can’t decide if the executive team at Author Solutions is just that ignorant or that evil. But I lean toward evil, given everything else I know about them.

iUniverse Scam Royalty Reports are Inaccurate

Jodi found out about the customer service lockout when she tried to contact someone regarding the royalty check she received for her book’s first quarter sales. “The check is for $41.92,” she wrote. “Apparently they withheld taxes of $16.30, which I asked them not to do months ago.”

But this is about more than their failure to get a customer’s tax withholding right. When Jodi received her check yesterday, she immediately compared it to her royalty report. Her official iUniverse royalty report says she earned $81.93 in the first quarter for sales of her books in all formats.They weren’t supposed to take out taxes per Jodi’s request, but they did. So let’s do some quick math to figure out how much she should have been paid after the taxes were removed from the equation:

$81.93 – $16.30 = $65.63

Jodi should have received a check for $65.63, but she did not. Instead they sent her a check for $41.92. Where’s that additional $23.71? We may never know because they won’t talk to her. Maybe instead of just printing books, iUniverse has been cooking them too?

iUniverse Breaches Own Contract

Another interesting dilemma Kevin Weiss, Keith Ogorek and Eugene Hopkins are going to have a difficult time explaining away involves the very contract they use with their clients. Number 8 on the iUniverse Select Program Publishing Agreement states:

8. Royalty Payment
PUBLISHER will make four royalty payments per year, if earned, to AUTHOR within sixty (60) days of the end of each calendar quarter and shall post related royalty statements on PUBLISHER’s website. If the royalty payment due in a single calendar quarter is less than twenty-five U.S. Dollars ($25) the balance will be applied to the next calendar quarter until the royalty payment due equals or exceeds twenty-five U.S. Dollars ($25), at which time PUBLISHER shall make the appropriate royalty payment to AUTHOR.

Additionally, the FAQ page on their own website addresses the issue of timely royalty payment and reporting:

iUniverse will process your royalty payment, according to our publishing agreement, 60 days after the end of each quarter. For example, in the first quarter (January 1 – March 31), we will post your royalty statement and send your payment by May 31. View the royalty disbursement schedule by logging in to your myUniverse account.

Not counting the end date, 60 calendar days from March 31 is May 30 and NOT May 31. That means these two statements from Author Solutions don’t quite jibe. I am arguably splitting hairs over this one, but we are talking about a legally binding contract here. You’d think they’d set terms they could abide by. You’d think someone there could count.

Here’s how it breaks down by quarter for the full calendar year:

Author Solutions Customers: Check Statement and Payment Availability & Report Violations

Nonetheless, we checked amongst ourselves at the end of last week and discovered several instances of royalty reports not being available to authors within the specified 60 days, which violates the terms of the contract. From this point forward, I recommend that all Author Solutions authors (that includes any who have published on their many imprints Author House, Xlibris, Trafford, WordClay and iUniverse, etc.) document when reports are available to them. If you discover that Author Solutions et al have not reported on time, you should:

  1. Write Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and report Author Solutions and the specific imprint or brand you used for breach of contract.
  2. File a complaint with the Central Indiana BBB making note of the breach of contract and requesting a full refund.

I realize that there are plenty of reasons to believe taking these steps won’t get you anywhere. I’ve read the accusations about Zoeller and I know that BBB accreditation is only awarded to companies that pay for it, BUT both Zoeller and the BBB have reputations to protect. Don’t let them ignore this.

iUniverse Backdating Checks to Cover Its Ass

Jodi reports more dubious details about her royalty check. Yesterday she wrote: “I find it funny that the royalty check says it was posted 5/29/12. When I tried to talk to customer service last week regarding the check, three different people said there was no info available and it wouldn’t be available until June 9. So how did I get a check today (June 4) that was supposedly posted on 5/29/12?”

In light of this information, I also urge iUniverse scam victims and Author Solutions customers to report royalty checks that have not been delivered within the 60 day timeframe. Keep comparing their reports with your check amount and officially report the discrepancies every quarter.

Related Stories:

Author Solutions, Inc. Employee Cries ‘Scam’
iUniverse ‘Trifecta’ Book Review Services a Huge Ripoff
iUniverse Complaints: Interview with Philip J. Reed
5 Ways Author Solutions, Inc. Limits Writers & Authors
Even Employees Don’t Like iUniverse & Author Solutions 

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

5 Ways Author Solutions Limits Writers & Authors

Although Kevin Weiss, Keith Ogorek and Eugene Hopkins might try to tell you differently, Author Solutions is a company that severely limits what authors can do with a manuscript, both in terms of finished product and sales. Here are 5 ways Author Solutions limits writers.

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Yeah, I know there are a few happy stories out there about writers who’ve worked with them and done better than all right. Those stories are really, really hard to come by, and I’m not exactly convinced they aren’t complete fabrications.

1. Author Solutions doesn’t take no for an answer.

I’ve published a few interviews already that illustrate pushy sales tactics are the norm at Author Solutions’ vanity presses. Philip J. Reed gets annoying phone calls years after the fact. Jodi Foster gets hard-sell emails to buy her own books with happy promises of a larger profit margin the more she buys. But do a search and you’ll find tons more stories from Pissedconsumer.com, Complaintsboard.com, and Ripoffreport.com.

That’s because pushy salesmanship is a way of life at Author Solutions. Consider the current job description for the position of Marketing Consultant. Notice the employee’s responsibilities will be to “call current authors to proactively sell promotional and editorial services to newly contracted authors” and “proactively call authors previously live to sell same services.” That “previously live” bit really gets me. Trying to get away from iUniverse or any Author Solutions publisher reminds me of that catchy Eagles’ tune…

...you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!

Aside from that, 80 (eighty! eight-oh!) percent of the job’s duties are making 50 or more outbound phone calls a day to current authors. Good heavens that’s a lot of time on the horn for one little ol’ salesman marketing consultant. I wonder what would happen if they let that one person spend, say, 30 percent of his time returning the calls of angry customers.

2. Author Solutions owns a confusing number of vanity press brands.

Click on that job description thumbnail if you haven’t already, and take a close look at the logos sprawled across the top of that page. Smart shoppers with the best of intentions think they’re really doing their homework when they compare ratings and prices of companies including Author House, Trafford Publishing, Xlibris, iUniverse and Word Clay. But what’s with all those brands?

They’ve purchased a number of previously independent vanity presses to give you the illusion of choice while actually limiting your choices. Don’t be fooled though; you get the same absurdly overpriced junk and shit customer service no matter which of those Author Solutions brands you choose.

See this comment for a full list of associated brands.

3. Their disorganization adversely effects customer service.

Customers frequently complain that they get passed along from person to person when trying to get help from Author Solutions. Remember the employee who said, “So many departments throw clients back and forth to so many different people it’s no wonder they get so upset by the time they reach you?” In the company’s defense, it’s hard not to pass off customers when employees are so miserable they jump at the first opportunity to quit.

4. Author Solutions royalty reports are inconsistent.

It’s difficult to say which complaints are brought up most frequently by iUniverse and Author Solutions writers. There are three that I see over and over and over and over again: pushy salespeople, failure to deliver on overpriced marketing services, and inaccurate royalty reporting.

I find the royalty issue particularly disturbing. I mean forget about making a living from publishing this way, what if an author just wants to recoup expenses?

As Jodi explained in yesterday’s post, she asked for royalty reports on her book from three different iUniverse employees, and all three reports were different. When she confronted them about it, someone blamed the Author Solutions IT department for the discrepancies.

Even with their own inadequacies staring them right in the face, Eugene Hopkins had the nerve to insist Jodi be the one to provide proof of sales. Lawrence Fisher made similar complaints, and in response Author Solutions Marketing VP Keith Ogorek wrote in a comment on Fisher’s blog:

“Again, if you have any paperwork that shows sales through Amazon that Amazon has not reported, please provide that and we will gladly pay you the royalty on that sale. That’s all we are asking for. Some supporting documentation so that we can have justification for paying out the royalty. We offered you the opportunity to show us if we missed anything. To date we have not received that. We look forward to receiving the support for your claims.”

Writers may want to sell their books or maybe even start writing a new one after publishing with Author Solutions. Instead, they’ll find themselves copying receipts and sales documentation to prove the royalty reporting at iUniverse is a shambles. It’s that or keep losing money.

5. Author Solutions brands stigmatize writers.

Publishing with iUniverse or Trafford or whoever isn’t necessarily going to end your writing career and force you to live out the rest of your life begging for alms, but you should know that publishing with a vanity press leaves a mark. First, there are the all-too-common editing errors and the lame covers.

But also, reviewers are much less likely to peel back the cover of your book unless you pay them. And readers—if you can get them to even look at your cover—think that if you have Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice emblems you paid for them. (And let’s be honest, you have paid. Dearly.)

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

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