Adventures in Self-Publishing Part 6: Getting in Print!

If there’s one thing a POD publisher will seduce you with initially, it’s the instant gratification and overwhelming pleasure of holding your completed novel for the first time. Just look at the ads: they trumpet a quick turnaround time on the fulfillment of your dreams. Who can resist being a published author in 90 days or even sooner?

Well, it happened to me. Not in 90 days, mind you. I submitted Raincloud  in late August and cracked open the first box of the completed novel the following May. Still, nine months is better than your average traditional publisher, and I think I could have the book even sooner if I hadn’t invested so much in editing and iUniverse hadn’t moved offices midway through.

But one fine day, there was the cardboard box. My first 20 books, clean and warm and all mine. Pretty speedy delivery too, which I later found to be the norm with iUniverse. They budget for about 14 business days for printing and delivery but each subsequent order I placed arrived much sooner than that. 

It was somewhat bittersweet, this child of mine no longer in need of my attention and nurturing. And then comes what must be the author’s version of empty nest syndrome: what will I do now? Well, iUniverse helps you with that too. They provide templates for some pretty cool custom posters, bookmarks, and postcards. Although they serve just as much as a commercial for iUniverse as for your book, they do look very professional and help you garner positive attention when you’re out promoting. They also provide a Press Release template, which too came in handy.

Those first 20 books were already paid for as part of my Publishing Package but, as stated above, as time went on I found the need to order more. The pricing was a little much though, especially considering that I bankrolled the entire project in the first place. I later discovered that iUniverse outsources printing to a company called Lightning Source and then inflates the printing price back to its authors. As a result, the tiered author discount rate is quite miserly if you order less than 100 books.  I’m afraid that just like anywhere else, the publishing business is just that: a business.

The things we do for love…

Tip of the Week:  iUniverse offers “Special Event” pricing of 45% off the cover price with no quantitiy minimums. Take advantage of it. You need all the breaks you can get. Bonus Tip: You’re a published author now. Go out and celebrate!

The timing of my intial shipment of Raincloud was quite fortuitous as I was scheduled to appear at the Toronto Small Press Book Fair that very weekend. Now the real work could begin: marketing, promoting, and (hopefully) selling. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected.

Coming soon: Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Seven: Author, Sell Thyself.

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Adventures in Self-Publishing Part 5 – How my PA Got Me Really PO’d

 First of all, let me say that I consider myself a pretty reasonable consumer. I only expect a fair deal and don’t make excessive demands. Even if things go awry, I will patiently work with the other party to get back on track – because I believe (probably naively) that all things can be worked out with cooperation and respect.

Was I put to test with iUniverse.

Let me explain their business model. Authors work with a Publishing Assistant (what iUniverse calls a “PA”) and rarely have direct contact with any editors or graphic designers. All communication is done through the PA. I had experienced this type of thing before with Scribendi, where editors are given numbers and you never learn their name.

As I’ve said in a previous post, my first PA was a fellow named Michael. He was a great help and seemed as enthusiastic as I was to see Raincloud in print. Michael returned phone calls and emails in a timely fashion and always treated me with courtesy and respect.

He advised me on the best route to take with regard to editing and made sure I was in the loop at every step. When I received my Developmental Edit back, to which I was to accept or reject the editor’s line-by-line changes and also consider the plot and character suggestions put forth, I complimeted Michael on the job’s thoroughness. I happily went through my manuscript, later returning the completed document to iUniverse. Things were going along quite well, and I was excited at the prospect of the next step. 

But of course my good fortune wouldn’t last. The rude awkening started when I received an email from a young lady named Katie, advising that Michael had been moved to different project and she would now serve as my new PA.

My inital dismay quickly gave way to acceptance. After all, these things do happen. When I was considering going with AuthorHouse, my contact had been promoted during the negotiations and I had to deal with someone else. Besides, if Katie was anything like Michael she would be another shining star. I thought I’d give her a chance. What choice did I have anyway?

Katie called me to introduce herself and was fairly accessible via email but she wasn’t around long.  After several unanswered emails and phone calls she was suddenly yanked from me and replaced with someone named Rachel.  I began to wonder what was going on there, and very soon after Rachel signed on I found out what was brewing.

As it turns out iUniverse operations were relocating from Lincoln, Nebraska to Bloominton, Indiana. It would take a lot of loyalty for an employee to follow a company across a few states and I wasn’t convinced that was the case with iUniverse. I work full time for a pretty good marketing company, but I don’t think I would follow them out of the city. I began to worry about how the move was going to affect the smooth flow of my project.

As it turned my concern was warranted; service went downhill almost immediately. I know that recruiting and training in a new city isn’t easy, and smooth account transitions can be a challenge as well, but really, I paid for this service. I wanted my novel!

Instead, I got yet another PA. Rachel was around for such a short time that I don’t even remember anything about her. After the move was complete I recieved an email from Janet, one of the iUniverse supervisors, advising that a young man named Kyle would see my book through to the end. She assured me that Kyle was a very experienced and knowledgable PA. Then I spoke to him on the phone. He had only been there two weeks.

Suddenly I missed Michael a whole lot.

Nothing personal against Kyle; I would guess that he was dropped into the middle of a situation that he wasn’t properly prepared for. Emails went unanswered. Phone calls were unreturned. Three times I was sent the wrong files for proofing. Everything was going wrong and I had nowhere to turn. It took a stern email to Janet to set things back on track.

Finally, things began to come together and in the end I got my novel, which I’ll cover in the next post.

I would hope that iUniverse usually provides service that parallels what I received in the beginning, and that any lapses on their part were due to the move.  But there again, it was funny how I was treated so well during the up-sell stage and then afterwards, not so much.

 Tip of the Week: It’s your money! If you’re paying for your project you need to keep on your POD publisher.  When things went south with my project I told iUniverse that if anyone ever asked me about my POD experience, my opinion would be less than complimentary. Call, email, whatever it takes. The best scenario would be if they were located just down the road.

Overall, the experience with iUniverse was satisfactory, despite the large bump in the road towards the end. Maybe my timing was just bad. As for Kyle, he stayed on with iUniverse for a brief time after Raincloud was published but eventually left. Perhaps publishing wasn’t his calling. I wish him well.

Coming soon: Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Six: Getting in Print!

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The Morning X Live – Video

Follow this link to the video of my March 9th, 2009 appearance on ‘The Morning X Live’: . The interview, during which I discuss my novel Raincloud,  the state of the publishing industry, and my self-publishing experience, starts at about 26 minutes in.



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