The Mail I Get

I got this email today:

Who the hell you are indeed!
Happened to come across
your website and couldn’t believe all the crap you have written about
iuniverse. I did publish with them not because I had a choice, but
because none of the so called legitimate publishers would take a look
at anything that is written by a person like me.   
Why am
I bothering writing to you? Because, indirectly, you are raining on my
parade. And I do not like it!

It’s not my problem that you have a hard time facing the truth. iUniverse is a vanity press, pure and simple.  iUniverse isn’t a publisher. They are a printer. They will print anything from anyone as long as the customer has a credit card. You still haven’t been published, you have merely gone to the online equivalent of Kinkos to have your manuscript printed in something resembling a paperback book.

Of course you "had a choice."  When genuine publishers declined to publish your manuscript, you chose to pay to have it printed by an online printing company rather than rewrite it, or stick it in a drawer, or move on to something else. 

The fact is, you still haven’t been published. You are deluding yourself if you think otherwise. In all likelihood, you will never get anything close to your investment back. That is the reality.

UPDATE: For the heck of it, I looked up the author’s POD book. Not only did she pay iUniverse to print it, she also paid to give her a positive review. How sad.

UPDATE 5-17-08: She wrote to me again. She wrote, in part:

What you are stating is from the point of view of
someone seeking recognition and making a living from writing. However, there are
people like me who do not share your ambitions. As long as my book gets in the
library, on the shelve of a bookstore, or is available through thousands of
retailers all over the world so people who share my concerns on particular
issues can buy my books, I have achieved my goal.

I replied, in part:

That’s the fallacy.
iUniverse books DON’T get into libraries, on the shelves of bookstores, or into
thousands of retailers all over the world. They have no distribution. They are not available in brick-and-mortar stores. Your book
can be found at web sites like iUniverse (and who shops there??) and Amazon, though even that will be ending soon, since they will stop carrying POD
titles that they don’t print themselves. The fact is, 99% of booksellers and libraries won’t touch a
print-on-demand, vanity press title.

I am glad you are a happy
customer of iUniverse…that’s great. But that doesn’t negate any of the things
I have said about them or the vanity press industry…or how they prey on the
desperation and gullibility of aspiring authors, whether you want to make a
living as one or not.

She also wrote:

All that speculations about my personal circumstances are nothing more
than a demonstration of pointless arrogance. I did not sent you an email to
seek some sort of validation from you, to ask your advice or to open my eyes to
the "truth". It was the  fact that in your obsessive–smart ass attitude
towards  iuniverse–you forgot, or failed to make the distinction between the
institution and the people who benefit from its existence. It shows certain lack
of imagination when one can’t separate one from the other. Pissing on people’s
parade (I have been too generous in using the conventional metaphor) is not
the right way to get even with iuniverse or any other ‘vanity press’.
Thank Goodness, we do not share the same perception of reality, for I do
not live in your bubble.

11 thoughts on “The Mail I Get”

  1. She’s being dishonest with you and herself. If she wasn’t looking for validation, she wouldn’t have felt that your posts about iUniverse “pissed on her parade.”

  2. “you forgot, or failed to make the distinction between the institution and the people who benefit from its existence.”
    Vanity publishers help provide their customers with the illusion or delusion that they’re actually published auhors. I suppose that’s the only benefit the writers derive from it. I suppose it functions as a form of therapy for them.

  3. Lee,
    I checked with a friend of mine who had a positive review of a book of his posted on the website. He said that he had not paid for the review and it was one that had been cross-posted at by the reviewer. Was my friend lying or can you get a review at that site without making payment?

  4. Your friend is probably telling you the truth. I just looked myself up on and, lo and behold, found many of my books reviewed there…all by Harriet Klausner.
    It seems that Klausner’s reviews are cross-posted there as well as on a dozen other sites and blogs. I suspect your friend was reviewed by her as well.
    However, her reviews on Amazon are credited to her, NOT When the reviews are posted on Amazon, “” is usually noted as the reviewer. reviews are not taken seriously by anyone because of their reputation of being bought-and-paid-for…and thus worthless.
    I quote from the site:
    “Get your book listed on!
    Our Express Review Service guarantees that your book is placed at the top of the reviewers’ pile. At a cost of $125 per book, this service guarantees that one of our professional reviewers will read and review your book within 15 business days of receiving it. The review will be posted on as well as and will be eligible to become a Book of the Month. Please send bound books only. No .pdf files or unbound manuscripts.
    Once the review is completed, you are free to use any part of it in your promotional materials as long as is credited.
    Publishers, Publicists and Literary Agents can click here to check out our Bulk Discount Program.
    Do I have to purchase an Express Review in order to appear in your database?
    No. You can submit your book through our regular review channels. We receive hundreds of books each day and can give attention to only a small fraction of them. Simply submitting your book does not guarantee that it will be read and having your book read by one of our reviewers does not guarantee a review. Only purchasing an Express Review guarantees a review.
    [..]Some hints for new authors:
    1. Our reviewers love collecting autographed books. Sign your book before sending it and you’ll have a much better chance of getting read.
    2. Please don’t send us a loose manuscript. Convert it to Palm Reader format and send it via email if you haven’t got a bound version. Or take it to a Kinko’s and have them bind it for you.
    3. If you’ve submitted your book correctly and you haven’t seen a review posted after a month, feel free to email us. If you still don’t see a review, it is likely that your book didn’t inspire the reviewer who chose it. If you’d like us to pass it on to another reviewer, you can email us the request. Remember, we prefer not to post negative reviews, so if we don’t like it, we probably won’t review it.
    4. If you passionately believe in your book, and you are having trouble getting it reviewed, please check out our New Author Listing and Express Review Service. ”
    What’s interesting is that even though you can buy a review…and in BULK… they still pretend to be objective and unbiased. This is how, in part, they describe themselves collectively in their Amazon reviewer profile:
    “[..]We pledge to offer unbiased reviews of books from a variety of publishers on a multitude of subjects and genres. Established in 1996, we also offer Express Review Service and New Author Listings”
    Funny, they don’t mention when touting their lack of bias that you can buy a review for $125…but that’s because they don’t see an ethical problem with paying for a review, as they explain in their FAQ:
    “Does purchase of an Express Review guarantee a good review?
    No. Our reputation was built on honest, straightforward reviews and we will not compromise our integrity by posting false reviews. Please use our Express Review service only if you believe deeply in your work.
    Will anyone know I’ve purchased a review?
    No. You are paying for the right to go to the top of the review pile. Your review will be as unbiased as any other review on our site, so there is no reason to flag it as a “paid” review.”
    The writer who emailed me, and criticized my stance on iUniverse, was not reviewed by Klausner…but by, which would indicate that it was probably purchased. That said, I suppose there is a slim possibility that the review was not purchased…in which case, I owe her an apology.

  5. Lee, I couldn’t agree more with your scathing (and completely justified) indictment of the vanity press industry. They are the snake-oil salespeople of the book world. And the author who accused you of “raining on my parade” failed to grasp one simple concept: if a real publisher wouldn’t pay her for her book, why does she think anyone else would?

  6. When she says publishers won’t look at submissions from “people like me,” what does she mean exactly? People who can’t write to the professional standards of agents and publishers?


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