I received the email below from Susan Driscoll, CEO of iUniverse. It is presented here unedited. She has also kindly offered to let me interview her for a Q&A to be posted here in the future. If you have any questions you would like me to ask her (in addition to whatever occurs to me), please share them in the "Comments" to this post. Thanks!
I’ve been reading your recent postings regarding iUniverse. Having lived on both sides of the publishing
world-from my experience in traditional publishing and now as CEO of a self-publishing service provider-I have a unique perspective on the publishing business.
One very important correction to your recent posting (and I know that others have pointed this out): the number of iUniverse Star titles is 83 but the number of titles that have sold over 500
copies is many thousands. To qualify for the iUniverse Star program, authors must have sold 500 copies of their book, at least 50% of those through retail channels. If authors are committed to marketing their books and feel that the Star Program will help them enhance those marketing plans and increase book sales, they then apply. When considering titles, we ask
the same key questions that every editor and traditional publisher asks. Is it good? Will it sell? But beyond that we only select the titles that we feel will benefit from the advantages of being in the program. You can see that there are many criteria-promising levels of retail sales, the author application and commitment, and careful consideration by the Star Review Board. That means that there are far fewer books that reach Star than that sell 500 copies.
The reality of ALL publishing today is that authors are expected to be aggressively involved in marketing.
Traditional publishers will rarely pick up a non-fiction author who doesn’t have
a "platform," and new fiction titles have to be exceptional to even be
considered. By helping authors to self-publish their books, iUniverse gives them
a way to begin building a platform and honing their writing skills. The majority
of authors soon decide that they don’t want to play the marketing game and
that’s fine–they still have the enormous satisfaction of seeing their book in
print. Those authors won’t likely ever get a traditional book contract nor will
many care. It might sound corny, but
there are few accomplishments as great as writing a book and seeing it
iUniverse provides a fully democratic alternative. Although some books are simply better than others, all authors have an equal chance to succeed. And even if they don’t make it
in the big time, I think every author deserves the chance to see a work in print.
Now, about quality. There’s no question that democracy isn’t perfect. Although there are many books published with the iUniverse imprint that don’t meet industry standards, there are many more good ones. It’s important to differentiate them. In fact, a disservice is done to the host of professional quality books we publish by sending the message that all iUniverse books are poor quality.
I’m well aware of the argument that writers should keep working at their craft until they’re good enough to land a book contract with a traditional publishing house but the reality is that most writers will never get that far. I also fully agree that writers should keep working on their books until they are the best they can be. So why not use a POD version of the book to garner constructive criticism in order to become a better writer? That’s one reason why we place such a huge emphasis on the importance of
iUniverse is the only services provider with a full-time editorial director and that offers a complete range of professional editorial services. We start with an editorial evaluation that assesses a manuscript, but we don’t stop there. We don’t just tell authors what needs work in their books; we provide writers with the tools and services to help them improve their manuscripts with editorial services. These range from copyediting all the way to ghostwriting; our prices are based on industry standards or less; and, we use
the same editorial service providers that are used by traditional publishers. The result is higher quality books that iUniverse recognizes through Editor’s Choice, Reader’s Choice, and ultimately Star.
With the realities of publishing today and the increasing difficulties in finding an agent and landing a contract from a traditional publisher, should talented writers sit with unpublished manuscripts and a pile of rejection letters? I think there’s a better way. With smaller advances and non-existent marketing budgets from mainstream publishers, and a host of outlets for sales outside the
brick-and-mortar stores, authors need to take more control of the publishing
iUniverse provides both a stepping stone to traditional publishing for those authors who are absolutely committed to marketing but need a way to prove themselves, and an affordable, speedy,
professional way for authors who simply want to see their book published. We’re also ideal for back in print titles, and for authors who are writing for a specialized or niche audience. Friends and family books are indeed a niche, but there are many other niche markets and the Web is a perfect vehicle for
authors to reach their target audience.
We’re certainly not Random House and we don’t pretend to be. Having said that, we know quite well what it takes to get noticed by traditional publishers: a quality book with a market-savvy author and an already built-in market. Authors who don’t fit that profile need to figure out a different way to achieve their publishing dreams and need an alternative pathway to success.
iUniverse provides one such alternative.
President and CEO