This seems to be POD/Self-Publishing day on my blog. Pod-dy Mouth hosts a lengthy Q&A with iUniverse CEO Susan Driscoll. There are quite few interesting quotes. Here’s one:
If an author isn’t traditionally published then his/her title is not likely to get stocked nationally on bookstore shelves. Anyone who tells an author otherwise isn’t telling the truth.
You have to admire her honesty on that score. As she did in her letter to my blog, Susan once again tries to sell iUniverse as "a stepping stone to traditional publishing" success rather than a "vanity press" for people who can’t get their work published any other way.
iUniverse gives authors a way to quickly and affordably publish a book so that
the author can test market the book and can determine whether he/she likes doing
the marketing. Those that succeed will get picked up by bookstores and perhaps
by traditional publishers.
That’s where she loses me. I don’t buy that reasoning for paying hundreds of dollars to self-publish your book. She calls it the "all-important author platform," which is her attempt to refresh and re-imagine the age-old vanity press come-on/false hope: the very slim possibility that you can become a bestseller on your own or that you will attract a "real publisher" with your self-published book.
Sure, it happens. People occasionally win the lottery, too.
All her talk about the importance of author self-marketing is essentially saying this: iUniverse prints your book… and that’s it. You have to do all the rest. You have to create awareness and demand. And if you manage, against all odds, to somehow sell thousands of copies of your vanity press book, then a real publisher might take notice.
That isn’t the "all-important" first step or, as she calls it, "author platform."
Writing a good book is the all-important first step. The second one is finding an
agent. The third one is selling the book. The fourth is getting out and marketing it as best you can (very different, by the way, than the kind of marketing you have to do to move a vanity press POD title that isn’t available in bookstores). The fifth is starting to write your next book. The combination of those five steps is what I would call "the author platform."
In my opinion, self-publishing your novel is a frantic and foolhardy last
resort… a desperate gamble with very, very, very little chance of success. It’s not a platform…it’s another charge on your credit card bill.
That said, I think iUniverse has a lot to offer someone interested in self-publishing non-fiction or self-help books. In that case, I think you have a realistic potential for success, especially if publishing your book goes hand-in-hand with giving seminars and teaching classes.
I also think iUniverse is a great way for instructors to provide their own "textbooks" for their students as opposed to having them buy bound xerox copies of their articles and essays.
And iUniverse offers a second lease on life for previously-published books that have fallen out-of-print. It’s not lucrative…but it offers readers hard-to-find books in handsome new editions and provides a few extra dollars to the authors that they wouldn’t otherwise see from used book sales.