Frankly, I’m surprised that so many self-publishers use a service like iUniverse. I’m an advocate of using a self-publisher that doesn’t call attention to the fact that it’s a self-publisher. Though many people familiar with self-publishing immediately know the difference between iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Lulu, and so on, there are many more people who do not know the difference – especially readers who are not also writers.
Your least savvy reader is going to know that a publishing entity called iUniverse is not your typical press. It has something to do with printing a book via a computer. Right off, it sounds less legitimate. The names AuthorHouse or Mill City Press do not have the same issue. But iUniverse is one of the best known self-publishing services, so it is one of the most widely used.
The cost of publishing with iUniverse isn’t much different than the other subsidy services that fall under the Author Solutions umbrella: AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and Xlibris being the top three Author Solutions’ services.
- At iUniverse the cheapest package is $599. The most expensive is $2099
- AuthorHouse: $598 – $1298
- Xlibris: $299 – $12,999 (not a typo)
Let’s set aside Xlibris’s most expensive package, which includes 250 copies of the book, postcards, bookmarks, and other promo materials. It’s likely out of most people’s price range. So what do you get for the cheaper package with iUniverse that you don’t get with the other services?
Xlibris’s cheapest package is very bare bones – a book cover that looks like a pre-made template, interior design template, and ISBN. Useful if you don’t want to do any work and don’t care what the book looks like. The better comparison is between the cheapest packages at AuthorHouse and iUniverse, which are priced identically.
With both AuthorHouse and iUniverse you get: One-on-one author support (even the terminology is the same on both sites), custom cover, ISBN, and online distribution – the basics. With AuthorHouse you get custom interior design. With iUniverse you get 5 free copies.
What iUniverse does have is it’s Editor’s Choice and Rising Star programs. Being that these programs are paid for based on the cost of the package, the jury is out how much booksellers take these designations into consideration. There’s an argument that iUniverse books are branded immediately as being self-published, so the Editor’s Choice may not carry as much weight.
However, the quality of iUniverse books cannot be in dispute. The cover designers at iUniverse generally design non-generic covers and the books are printed professionally, with no blurred images and with good interior design. And Barnes & Noble’s comments about the Star Program are enticing:
“iUniverse has a thorough screening process to identify promising new writers, and then invests real dollars in promoting their books,” says Barnes and Noble Chief Executive Officer Steve Riggio. “Their editorial review process greatly enhances the quality of the books they publish. We see the Star Program as a great opportunity to discover new authors and bring them to market.”
That said, being a part of the Star program is no guarantee, and once in the program, there’s no guarantee of being picked up by a major chain. Keep in mind also that Star designation is not available for those who choose the least expensive package. Overall, the distribution will likely be the same with iUniverse as AuthorHouse, even if the Star program gives the impression of reaching interested buyers. There are certainly other subsidy publishers available, but Author Solutions has the cheapest packages available, so if you’re looking to cut costs, this is mostly likely where you’re going to start. Personally, if I were looking into a subsidy house and I had $600 to spend, I would go with AuthorHouse, as it could avoid being tarnished with the stigma of self-publishing.
About the Author: Henry Baum
I’m the author of The American Book of the Dead. The novel won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." I'm also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Visit henrybaum.com for more information. I’m the editor of Self-Publishing Review.