The Authors Guild Doesn’t Serve Writers

It’s official: the Authors Guild has lost the plot. In their (seemingly endless) quest to smear Amazon, they don’t care who they wheel out as an injured party. Spoiler alert: it’s PublishAmerica. Yep, you read that right.

But before we get to that, how did we get into this mess?

At the beginning of March, The President of the Authors Guild – Scott Turow – called for the Department of Justice to drop their unfinished investigation into e-book price-fixing.

That call, of course, went unheeded, the investigation continued, and a suit was filed. A settlement was agreed with three of the Price Fix Six (with the rest electing to go to trial), but that settlement had yet to be approved by the court. Meanwhile, a wave of news stories appeared bashing a company not alleged to have participated in that price-fixing: Amazon.

The allegations against Amazon were successively absurd, culminating in a ridiculous story which claimed that Amazon’s charitable donations were a nefarious attempt to co-opt critics. It was quite clear at that point that we were witnessing a concerted PR campaign to sully Amazon – with reporters openly admitting that these stories were being fed to them by publishing executives.

The next step was a series of disingenuous open letters to the Department of Justice from various publishing industry professionals, prompting me to write my own letter, which was co-signed by around 200 fellow writers, and mailed a few weeks back (thank you again).

The reason for all these letters flying around is that, pursuant to the Tunney Act, the Department of Justice is compelled to accept comments from the public on the proposed settlement for a period of 60 days, and then both publish them and file them with the court.

On Monday of last week, just before the deadline for public submissions expired, Paul Aiken (the Executive Director of the Authors Guild) published his own open letter to the Department of Justice on the Authors Guild website, furnishing some of the aforementioned news stories as “evidence.”

Unsurprisingly, the Authors Guild’s letter barely mentions the voluminous (actual) evidence that the Department of Justice have compiled in relation to the price-fixing allegations, but instead focuses on a company not named as a defendant in this case: Amazon.

The letter is quite long, and worth reading – if only to get an idea of the mindset at the helm of the leading writers’ organization in America. I’m not going to go through the entire letter, but I will highlight a typical passage to show I’m not dismissing it out of hand.

(At this point, I should remind everyone that I’m not a lawyer. While I once pretended to be a law student to gain access to a college photocopier, none of the small-talk around the machines centered on US anti-trust law.)

How Amazon Captured 90% of the Market

From the AG’s letter:

It was precisely this practice – selling frontlist e-books at below cost to discourage and destroy competition – that helped Amazon capture a commanding 90% of the U.S. e-book market.

Completely untrue. When Amazon released the first Kindle in November 2007, there was no real e-book market to speak of. According to the American Association of Publishers, e-books were only responsible for 0.6% of trade book sales at the time. The market was tiny and Amazon’s only competition was a half-hearted offering from Sony, which was plagued with supply problems and limited title selection.

Amazon essentially created the e-book market in America. By the time Apple and Barnes & Noble had woken up to the fact that there was real money to be made in e-books, the market had grown by 600% (to 3.2% of all trade books sold) – with most of those new customers buying Kindles.

In short, Amazon got to (an estimated) 90% of the market because they were the only ones really playing the game, and the market was so small that a focused offering could make serious inroads.

The Authors Guild & PublishAmerica

The rest of the letter is just as bad, and I’m not going to waste time going through it all. I’ve dealt with most of these arguments already (and anyway, the commenters on The Passive Voice have done a pretty good job of dissecting the numerous fallacies, and there are a few zingers over at Digital Book World).

Instead, I want to focus on one particular section – the Authors Guild’s summary of the tactics Amazon used to establish CreateSpace (formerly known as BookSurge, who Amazon purchased in 2005).

Quoting from the original letter:

More importantly and profitably to Amazon, by forcing iUniverse and other author centered on-demand service providers to use BookSurge, Amazon severely constrained effective competition for its own author centered on-demand service provider, which became known as CreateSpace in 2009. Amazon’s vertical integration of on-demand printing eliminated the ability of iUniverse, PublishAmerica, XLibris and others to offer authors better royalties when selling through Amazon. CreateSpace appears to have thrived ever since. [Emphasis mine]

The first time I read that, I was in shock. The Authors Guild are so desperate to tar Amazon that they are willing to roll out PublishAmerica as a victim. And the more I think about it, the more mad I get. Really? PublishAmerica? Are you serious?

For those unaware of the checkered history of PublishAmerica, a quick summary:

1. They are one of only two organizations to earn the dubious honor of having their own sub-forum on Absolute Write’s Bewares & Background Checks (the other being Robert Fletcher’s infamous web of companies).

2. Preditors and Editors have a lengthy entry warning writers away.

3. The Better Business Bureau rates PublishAmerica as an “F”.

4. The leading industry watchdog – Writer Beware – regularly cover PublishAmerica’s various attempts to squeeze money out of their writers (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, and here – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg).

5. PublishAmerica are now the subject of a class-action suit, the allegations being very familiar to anyone who has followed the company (full complaint can be read here).

In short, PublishAmerica is probably the last place I would recommend to a writer.

However, the Authors Guild feels that PublishAmerica’s rights have been trampled upon. If Amazon hadn’t been such a bully, PublishAmerica could have gained more customers. Will Amazon stop at nothing in their evil quest to take over the world?

BackInPrint.com

PublishAmerica wasn’t the only company that the Authors Guild sprang to the defense of; to be fair, the letter spends more time talking about iUniverse.

Question for lawyer types: shouldn’t the Authors Guild disclose their relationship with iUniverse when writing about them?

That relationship, of course, is the Authors Guild Back In Print program, which is run by iUniverse (and promoted heavily on the Authors Guild site). If you are a member of the Authors Guild, this service will get your book back in print, for free.

The catch is that you have to assign print rights to iUniverse. In exchange, when they sell a copy of your book, iUniverse pay writers around 15% of their list price. (Authors may terminate their relationship with iUniverse with 30 days notice, but iUniverse will retain a non-exclusive right to sell that book for a further ten months.)

The first question I have for the Authors Guild is this: do you benefit financially (or otherwise) from this partnership? And, even if Authors Guild doesn’t benefit financially (or otherwise), shouldn’t this relationship be mentioned when writing about iUniverse (and especially when writing a letter to the Department of Justice regarding a proposed settlement)?

More importantly, however, I would like to ask the Authors Guild whether they genuinely believe that the Back In Print program is the best way for writers to get their reverted titles published? Additionally, I would like to know if the Authors Guild feel that iUniverse provides a good service – both to Guild members using the Back In Print program and to writers in general?

I ask because I know how I feel about iUniverse.

For those who don’t know, iUniverse was purchased by Author Solutions in 2007 (who also own AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford, among others). Since then, industry watchdogs such as Writer Beware have received a litany of complaints regarding their service (summarized here).

Aside from flogging overpriced and ineffective services to writers, iUniverse also pays terrible royalty rates. To give you an example, CreateSpace pays me $5 every time someone buys the paperback edition of Let’s Get Digital from Amazon. Had I published that edition through iUniverse, I would receive just over $2. (And the rates for the Authors Guild Back in Print program are no better.)

I can’t conceive of a rational argument for choosing iUniverse over CreateSpace. I find it sad that an organization which is supposed to represent writers is delivering them into the clutches of a company with an inferior service and terrible royalty rates.

But hey, it’s only print rights. All the money is in e-books these days, right? Unfortunately, iUniverse has come to the same conclusion.

Just before Christmas, iUniverse mailed their existing customers (and presumably those Authors Guild members who availed of the Back in Print program) with a very special deal. They offered to turn their customers print books into e-books and upload them to the various retailers FOR FREE!!!

The catch – and it’s a doozy – is that you have to fork over half your e-book royalties to iUniverse. That’s right: 50%. (Don’t panic if you missed out! This astonishing deal is also available to new customers.)

This kind of gouging should be roundly condemned by everyone. But do you recall the stinging rebuke from the Authors Guild? Do you remember the blog post written by Scott Turow or Paul Aiken advising Guild members to use alternative services?

Nope. Neither do I.

The Authors Guild seems more concerned with defending the rights of Author Solutions and PublishAmerica than its own members. And they seem so desperate to tar Amazon, that they don’t care how they do it.

They are so blinded by their hatred of Amazon that instead of advising writers how to take advantage of the excellent free services provided by Createspace and KDP to get their books back in print (which will also leave their royalties intact), they are pushing them towards a company with a terrible service record and awful royalty rates.

The Authors Guild should be ashamed of themselves.

About davidgaughran

David Gaughran is an Irish writer, living in London, the author of "Mercenary" and "A Storm Hits Valparaiso" as well as "Let's Get Digital" and "Let's Get Visible."
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76 Responses to The Authors Guild Doesn’t Serve Writers

  1. J.D.Hughes says:

    As usual, a concise and informative post with which I am in absolute agreement.

    It’s not a surprise that there would be this sort of backlash, and it may be only the first of its kind. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, as someone important once said.

    • Thanks JD.

      Personally, what I would hope to achieve from this is some sort of change from the Authors Guild. I don’t expect them to stop railing against Amazon overnight – I think that’s in the DNA of the guys at the top. However, some writers may consider voting with their feet by not renewing their memberships or, even better perhaps, voting with their ballot papers at the next election for a candidate who actually has writers’ interests at heart.

      A good start would be this: instead of pushing writers towards a crappy deal with iUniverse, give them a breakdown of all the options:

      1. A full service company like iUniverse which charges high fees and pays low royalties.
      2. A flat-fee service company (e.g. BookBaby, but there are lots more) which charge nominal fees for things like formatting, and don’t touch your royalties.
      3. DIY with KDP, Createspace, Smashwords, B&N and Apple.

      The biggest problem I have with pushing writers towards iUniverse exclusively, is that there is no warning of the really really crappy 50% (net!) e-book royalty rate – which really means you will be getting 35% for every sale in the Kindle Store instead of 70%.

  2. Brian says:

    When I first came on board at my current workplace (I’m a programmer by day) the old guard had a way of doing things; it was prone to error with a high failure rate, but they had “their way”. They were given the opportunity to get on board with the new guard, but they vehemently resisted, petrified of losing their power and afraid to embrace new and better methodologies.

    None of them are there anymore.

    We’re seeing a similar change of guard in publishing. The reactionaries are in their death throes and they’re making an ugly scene as they desperately try to hold on to a bygone time. Print’s not going away, but its stranglehold on publishing is. The old guard can feel their power slipping away more every day. All this rabble is a distraction from that reality as they try to stave off the inevitable.

    The reason none of their arguments makes sense is because these creatures of habit are desperate. Ultimately this will all shake out and a happy medium will ensue. Until then we can expect more nonsense like this from desperate reactionaries unwilling to adapt and embrace the future.

  3. The Authors Guild must think, or at least hope, that writers are stupid.

  4. RDoug says:

    Well, so much for anything to do with Authors Guild. I certainly won’t be touching them with a 10-foot pole.

    Really good article, David. But, check the word “serious” in line one of paragraph six. You might want to change that.

  5. Pingback: The Authors Guild Doesn’t Serve Writers | The Passive Voice

  6. Thanks, as usual, David, for your useful and thorough sharing of publishing news. I’d bet that Paul Aiken knows nothing about PublishAmerica, and was just piling up names of outfits that can get (hapless) writers in print. What I’ve found more and more is that those on the other side of the publishing “divide” often get their information from sources with an agenda — no doubt they would accuse us of the same thing. Except that we’re right. ;-}

  7. Thanks for the information, I have joined the lawsuit against Publish America, they have had my book for almost two years and have done nothing except ask for money to promote it, I told them last year that it was overpriced at $19.99 for a childrens 68 page black and white book + freight to UK was ridiculous, I have since printed a similar book for less than £2, I didn’t cash their $50 cheque they send to all authors, because I didn’t trust them then and I still don’t, they refuse to give my manuscript back and say they will willingly collaborate with a publisher in this country that wants to use the manuscript on my behalf, but they will not back down on the pricing?
    Hope something gets done here, great blog as usual.
    Best Wishes
    Baarbaara

  8. Karen Ranney says:

    I was once a member of The Author’s Guild. After reading their website, their publication, and their missives, I ended my membership. Now, if they could only stop sending me solicitation mail, I’d be a happy camper.

    I sat in on the conference calls about Google Books, too, and they were all for authors opting in on that.

    One of the things about their “magazine” that always startled me was that it read almost like a very old school publication. As if they were pretending it was 1950 and look – women are writing. Who knew? But I was willing to overlook the impression of “good old boy” stuff if I could have dismissed the feeling that they were bordering on the edge of being Luddites.

    • I remember reading some of the testimony from Paul Aiken regarding Google Books. He described the settlement – when speaking before the House Judiciary Committee – along the lines of (paraphrasing from memory) “the opportunity we have been waiting for to help authors profit from out-of-print books.” Well, that didn’t work out to well, did it? Meanwhile, the Authors Guild completely missed the boat on an actually viable way to profit (to a much greater extent) from those out-of-print books: digital self-publishing.

  9. Stephen King says:

    Wonderful post. I have such a horrible memory that when I first read your quote from the AG letter I wasn’t sure what you were getting at. Sure enough, though, you’re spot on in your criticism. Nicely put.

  10. Margaret Y. says:

    Thank you for the excellent summary with extremely useful liks. Bookmarking!

  11. jakeescholl says:

    I think it’s silly they are trying to defend vanity press. iUniverse charges a lot to get a book ready, but that doesn’t include editing.

    • From a cursory glance at their packages – which range from $899 to a staggering $4499 – http://www.iuniverse.com/Packages/PackageCompare.aspx – they are all massively overpriced.

      While Createspace does have optional add-on services which may provide questionable value (although some of their covers can be really nice) – the point is that they are *optional*, and an author can publish for free without choosing any of them.

  12. Great links and a cogent article, as usual, nice work!

    B.

  13. I was pretty sure the Author’s Guild could do nothing further to surprise me, but I read at least half of your post with my mouth hanging open (Fortunately, my desk faces away from my co-workers.). There truly seems to be no bottom to this rabbit-hole of irrelevance and stupidity. How anyone can continue to respect or defend the AG is beyond me.

    Thanks for another brilliant article, David!

  14. Stant Litore says:

    I thought AG was off their rocker before. But now I am utterly speechless. This is beyond mere farce.

  15. Jaye says:

    I dunno. Kind of makes perfect sense to me. AG pushes its members to “self-publish” with iUniverse and others of that ilk, and those books disappear into a black hole of despair, never to be seen again. That accomplishes two things: One, fewer books that traditionally published AG members have to compete with on the open market; Two, it gives self-publishing a very bad rep with all those burned writers saying, “See! There is no money to be made in self-publishing, so let’s all keep the Big 6 in business and protect it against that evil Amazon.”

    Excellent summary and explanation, as usual, David.

    • But they would never use the dreaded word “self-publish” – even though that’s exactly what it is, which says a lot really.

      Quite frankly, I think its a dereliction of duty on the part of the Authors Guild not to go through *all* the options available to writers who wish to publish their out-of-print books.

      And to push them to iUniverse exclusively… well, I don’t know what to say. I would like an answer to the question whether the Authors Guild (or, I suppose, any of its officers) benefit financially or otherwise from the link with iUniverse. I should point out that I don’t suspect that’s the case, but I would like clarification.

  16. You have probably seen Ken Auletta’s article in the New Yorker about the Apple/publishers antitrust suit (June 25, 2012, Annals of Communications, Paper Trail). It is worth reading, as is your post above. Both are illuminating.

    • Kat says:

      I read that article and was astounded by some of the information. Greed and fear does amazing things to people. I know that the traditional publishing industry is panicking because e-books and digital are the future. It means less book stores, less traditional print books, etc. so how are they going to make their money? Instead of working hard to come up with ways to compete with Amazon, they file lawsuits, collude on pricing, etc. to try and take Amazon down. It reminds me of an article I just read in the New Yorker (May 14, 2012) about Clayton Christensen, titled “When Giants Fall.” The question Christensen began with 20 years ago was “Why was success so difficult to sustain? How was it that big, rich companies, admired and emulated by everyone, could one year be at the peak of their power and, just a few years later, be struggling in the middle of the pack or just plain gone?” I wonder if the same thoughts could be applied to the publishing industry.

      Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/05/14/120514fa_fact_macfarquhar#ixzz20ttIOnqo

  17. annerallen says:

    ” selling frontlist e-books at below cost to discourage and destroy competition – that helped Amazon capture a commanding 90% of the U.S. e-book market.”

    Now scroll back about 15 years and substitute “Barnes and Noble” for “Amazon” and “book” for “ebook”. Barnes and Noble put indie bookstores out of business all over the US with exactly this tactic. None of us indies could match their prices on bestsellers, because they sold below cost. Now we’re supposed to feel sorry for poor little Barnes and Noble.

    ..and poor little PublishAmerica? Pu-leez!

    • You might also remember the case in the 90s – the ABA’s suit about publishers (illegally) offering deeper discounts to B&N, and refusing to make those same discounts available to indie stores. They won that case too.

      I should also point out that this is common practice in the UK (where it is not illegal), and a particular bugbear of indie stores here. And, of course, the publishers practicing this are the UK arms of the same US publishers.

  18. Dustin Wood says:

    The Authors Guild should really rename itself to something more appropriate and descriptive for the work they’ve done lately. I would suggest, “Shrilling for The Six” or some other title. They certainly don’t seem to be giving two cents worth of care for writers as of late.

  19. Rob Cornell says:

    The “Authors Guild” needs to come on over, read this, follow some links, and get a freakin’ reality check. Unbelievable.

  20. Well said. I’m putting a link to this blog on my Faebook page.

  21. Mira says:

    Outstanding, David. This is terrific, as usual. You do a service for writers by taking such a solid stand here, thank you!

  22. D.L.Shutter says:

    Great post Dave! Thankfully, when it comes to things like this, I can read a good fisking by you and skip the nauseating, scrolling lines of a giant turd like this statement. I know as an aspiring professional, indie, I should always take the time to read “stuff” like this, but this one was just too difficult: Bullsh!t on top of bullsh!t.

    I’d be interested to see what the changes are to the membership of the AG in light of blatant, hypocritical, Big-6, shilling like this.

    Are you telling me there every member is a stay at home, top 1% earner, who dreads the loss of the old system? There’s no successful indies out there, with guild membership cards, that are taking issue with whose side the AG obviously stands on?

  23. Werner says:

    This reads like a screenplay similar to ‘Barbarians At The Gate’. Once the dust settles, I think it’ll make a good movie.

  24. Fantastic post, Dave. The surest sign someone is losing ground (and in this case their marbles) is when their claims become more and more outrageous and demonstrably false.
    I’m sure there will be more preposterous articles like this one.

  25. Guilds and unions often start out with good intentions, but usually end up promoting the interests of their leaders at the expense of their members. As the Authors’ Guild continues to promote the interests of publishers and book stores over those of authors, it starts to look more and more as though it’s reached that point… I certainly have no intention of joining them.

  26. Reblogged this on Armand Rosamilia and commented:
    Further Out of Touch: The Author’s Guild

  27. Nola Stone says:

    I never got $50 from Publish America for my two books???????

  28. Excellent article. I have been a member of the Authors Guild since 1990 and my late husband joined in 1972 or 1973. At one time the Guild was helpful to him during a court case. Twelve years ago I went for the Back in Print program for a dozen of my husband’s books and then published several more with iUniverse. Their royalty reporting was terrible. When I discovered that iUniverse had put two of our books out as ebooks without my permission, that did it, and I ended all my association with iUniverse.

    In 2010, I published a number of books with Amazon Kindle and Createspace. It has been an excellent business move. I am very pleased with Amazon. Not only have sales been good, but it is great receiving decent and timely royalties.

    I do not like the stand the Authors Guild has taken on this issue, which is a smear campaign against Amazon. Every time the Guild sends out another article from Scott Turow, and now from the Executive Director of the Guild, I become more irritated.

    I will not be renewing my membership with the Authors Guild. I now believe they have nothing to offer authors.

    • Hi Linda,

      Sorry to hear about your experience with iUniverse – but I can’t say I’m surprised. Could you share any more details about them publishing your e-books without permission? I’m particularly interested in hearing more about that (from you or anyone else with that experience).

      Dave

    • Alexandra says:

      Linda’s comment confirms what I suspected. I’m a newbie to eBook publishing, having just written a guide to Wellfleet, on Cape Cod. Not having read this post and this comment, I contacted Author’s Guild about membership, because I was interested in the legal advice offered. I was told no, that a self-published eBook does not qualify me but change is under consideration. ” By the Guild’s former eligibility requirements, you do not appear to qualify for regular membership, due to your being self-published. However, changes are taking place that will affect your options as an applicant. Our members voted at last month’s annual meeting to open Guild membership to authors who do not qualify for membership by the Guild’s traditional standards. All of the rules aren’t in place yet, but authors who earn at least $500 in writing income in the 18 months prior to applying do qualify for associate membership.” So I qualified for associate membership in 2000 according to this rule, but now run an inn and no longer write freelance. I blog instead. And, don’t qualify to join the private club. I wrote to explain this. No go. I feel quite disgusted by these policies. Author’s Guild needs to join the 21st century. This experience convinced me that AG doesn’t serve writers, as you remarked, David. Does any alternative organization exist?

      • The Authors Guild isn’t alone in excluding self-published writers – most of the big orgs do – but I think that policy is completely outdated. I want to be clear, though, none of the above is motivated by that. Personally, I wouldn’t take a free membership if it was offered.

        As to alternative organizations, there are some big names behind The Alliance of Independent Authors – http://allianceindependentauthors.org/about.html

        I haven’t looked into the details too closely myself, but I’m familiar with some of the people involved – they are all smart people – and it might be worth having a nose around the site to see if they suit your needs.

  29. M.J. Rose says:

    Astonishing that AG would mention Publish America as anything other than a company to avoid. Truly astonishing!

  30. RD Meyer says:

    The name implies that the Authors Guild represents the interests of writers. Its actions show it represents the interests of publishers. What a joke.

  31. unspywriter says:

    Very informative article. I was one of the iUniverse authors offered an ebook deal, and I refused it. iUniverse did the conversion any way without my knowledge or permission. However, when I requested that both the print book and the ebook go out of print, they complied immediately.

    • Thank you for this information. Can you tell me if they put the e-book on sale without your permission?

      • unspywriter says:

        They did. I wanted the rights back so I could edit my original collection of short stories and re-publish it as two ebooks. When I called them on doing the ebook without my permission, they basically said they hadn’t heard from me and assumed it would be all right, which was a lie because I had refused the ebook deal. However, they were prompt in returning me the rights for both the print and ebook.

      • That’s pretty shocking. If you could forward that correspondence to me, I would be very interested to see it.

  32. John says:

    David – see your third para – ‘Author’s Guild – Scott Turow’ – do you mean it is just for Turow?
    :-)

    Couldn’t resist.

  33. Hi David,
    I think it is not so much a case of iUniverse’s 50% royalty rate being excessive as much a case of what you get for it. My maths are usually sound but maybe you could check my figures on an eBook selling through Amazon at 70% royalty.
    1. Big six author royalty = 17.5% of eBook retail price.
    2. iUniverse author royalty = 35% of eBook retail price
    3. Indie self-pub royalty = 70% of eBook retail price.
    Now the indie has to either do all the publication work (formatting, uploading and so on) themselves or effectively take a cut on royalty in publishing.
    If you agree with my maths, I would like to hear your comments on the three scenarios above.
    Cheers

    • You’re not alone in expressing this view, and maybe I should have teased that point out a little more.

      What do you get in exchange for handing over 50% of your e-book royalties to iUniverse? Formatting and uploading. Formatting is either something you can learn and do yourself, or outsource to a pro for a nominal fee. I haven’t seen the quality of iUniverse’s formatting, so I can’t comment on that, but there are pros out there doing a fantastic job for prices between $50 and $200. For someone who knows what they are doing, formatting a standard novel will only take a couple of hours.

      As for uploading, you really don’t want to hand over control of that to anyone else, as they will then control your account. That means you won’t have access to your sales figures, and will struggle to understand the impact of your promotional efforts. Also, that means your Amazon royalty payments will be going to iUniverse instead of you. I know there have been reports on Writer Beware and elsewhere regarding problems with getting paid from some of the Author Solutions companies, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that has also been the case with iUniverse.

      In any event, formatting and uploading are trivial jobs, and there is no good reason why anyone (whether that’s Book Country, iUniverse, or whoever) should charge more than a (reasonable) flat fee for that service. Taking 50% of a writer’s hard-earned royalties for that task is, quite simply, a rip-off.

      As for comparing your three options, that’s apples and oranges and views may differ dramatically. To self-publish or seek a traditional publisher is a very different question – and that argument will rumble on for some time. The relevant (IMO) comparison here is between 2) and 3).

      While I’m a big fan of taking control of the entire process and doing everything yourself (outsourcing where necessary, of course), I understand that there’s a segment of writers who don’t want to do that. However, in that case, I would still recommend avoiding a company like iUniverse who have a questionable service record, and charge way too much for what they offer (and dip their hand in your wallet a second time when it comes to royalties). There are plenty of companies out there who will provide all required services for a reasonable fee and leave your royalties intact. If you don’t want to do everything yourself, choose one of them, and stay away from iUniverse.

      • Excellent summary, David. As a small publisher, I am grappling with what is a fair return for an eBook author when I cover costs such as editing, cover, ISBN, formatting and marketing. I only have one ( very promising new) author on the books at the moment. and we agreed on a royalty at 50% which I suspect is more favourable to the writer than to me. What I am doing is probably closer to the Big Six service, without my having developed their experience or skill. Still, I suspect there are quite a few indies out there who would be happier just writing and they do need honest and ethical alternatives to the shonks out there. I also assist other writers in short print runs locally under my imprint. I only charge for the ISBN (No, I do not wish to expand this free service). The authors meet the print costs and get 100% return on the books which they sell themselves. I have no idea what is a fair deal if I assist an author through CreateSpace when an eBook inspires a print run. I guess I am part of the new cottage industries springing up to service indie writers.

  34. radicalrog says:

    Being a former publisher’s agent I totally agree with the above. Amazon captured 90% of the market by being the first substantial player into the e.book market. The various ‘we will publish your book’ companies see e.books as a challenge to their market because author’s don’t need them. They then develop their own e.book franchise, but being late to the market they have to do something to challenge Amazon, so make spurious accusations. Sounds like a plot for a book!

  35. JF Brown says:

    Re: unspywriter says:
    July 3, 2012 at 11:39 am
    Very informative article. I was one of the iUniverse authors offered an ebook deal, and I refused it. iUniverse did the conversion any way without my knowledge or permission. However, when I requested that both the print book and the ebook go out of print, they complied immediately.

    LOL! No kidding they complied IMMEDIATELY. Can you spell “Slam Dunk Lawsuit”? And BIG punitive damages, too.

    And can’t help but wonder if they’ve done this with other authors, and just hoped these shenanigans flew under the radar. Yup, eternal vigilance…

  36. Pingback: Self-Publishing News: Ebook Sales and Resales, Losing the Plot, Fighting for Libraries | Self-Publishing Review

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  38. Dear sweet Jesus… I had no idea that it was even possible for the Author’s Guild, of all organizations, to come to the defense of PublishAmerica, the bin Laden of publishers. Truly, I am staggered.

  39. Marsha Ward says:

    David, I used iUniverse when things were good at that company and it was the best of the type available, because I was told I very probably had a dreaded fatal disease and should wrap up my affairs. I wanted to publish my existing novel manuscripts (making the rounds and getting good comments from Tradpubs but no offers), so I used iU for three novels. The first two had contracts that clearly restricted iUniverse’s license from me to a print edition. By the time the third came out and my medical outlook had improved 100%, the contract included an ebook license as well as a print one.

    After a few years, I created indie ebooks of the first two novels, later adding my third by request of readers who weren’t finding the ebook only available at iU for $6 USD. Having played around with prices, I finally set them at $4.99 USD.

    Imagine my surprise when iUniverse announced in an email to me that for the price of FREE, FREE, FREE, iU was going to convert my first two novels to ebooks as a tremendous favor to me. I was given a link to a special FAQ section, and told I could not contact anyone concerning this project because everybody was busy doing the work I didn’t consent to, and for which they had no legal license.

    At the time, I was recovering from major emergency surgery, so had better things to concentrate my energy on. When I got well, I expressed my displeasure to iU, which I finally had to do in words of one syllable. They still didn’t get it.

    One of my chief concerns, besides the copyright infringements, is that Amazon is undercutting the price of one of the the unauthorized editions on my own ebook version. In other words, Amazon is selling MY ebooks for less than the price iUniverse has set, not my intended, higher price. I am no longer a happy iU customer, and have involved an attorney.

    Marsha Ward
    Westerns with Heart & Grit

    • Marsha Ward says:

      BTW, my fourth novel is coming out this year through CreateSpace. I no longer make any attempt to go with tradpubs, as it is much faster to get books directly to my readers by using the indie process.

    • Marsha, have you TALkED to Amazon about changing the price? i’m sure they’d be sympathetic to you. I’m not an author, I’m an Amazon Associate, but I’ve found that they are willing to listen over there.

  40. Fortunately I discovered Smashwords (for non-Amazon distribution), kdp and createspace long before I heard of this mob. Starting book number 7 (while 6 spends a month or so with beta readers) and all so far have been easy to get to the world.

    I’m a member of AiA (or will be as soon as I pay the annual renewal) and while I’m not hugely active with them, they are very supportive and not at all predatory.

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  46. Cecilia Barrie says:

    My 7 year contract with Publish America finished this year but they wanted $199 to buy it back but I hardly got any royalties (the book price was extortionate) so I never paid this money. I did not sign to let the book go on to Kimble or ebook. Any idea what I can do?

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