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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Author: Richard S. Todd

Pro copywriter. Expressive voice artist. Award-winning public speaker.

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