iUniverse Review: Should You Avoid iUniverse Publishing Packages?

POSTED ON Apr 24, 2020

Scott Allan

Written by Scott Allan

Home > Blog > Reviews > iUniverse Review: Should You Avoid iUniverse Publishing Packages?

In the self-publishing universe, before a well-known platform called Amazon came along and offered authors self-publishing through KDP, there was a band of “publishing companies” labeled vanity publishers.

These companies—Balboa Press, Dog Ear Publishing and Xlibris to name a few—sold a service that essentially made authors pay to publish their book. 

iUniverse is one of those publishers. In this post we’ll provide you with a complete review of the iUniverse publishing packages and services.

If you are writing a book and looking for a simple and efficient method to get published fast, give us ten minutes by reading this article first before making a decision to go with iUniverse. It could be the most important ten minutes you spend.

Related: How to Become an Author

On our journey to provide industry education and create thorough review guides on the best (and worst) self-publishing companies, we’re always staying up-to-date with the top publishers for authors. In our effort to do so, we spent some time researching iUniverse, and have compiled our findings in this complete review.

A Note To Our Readers:

We want you to make informed decisions when it comes to how and where to invest your money. That’s why our mission is to help educate authors on the various self-publishing companies and services that are on the market today.

Our reviews are meant to be unbiased, 3rd party reviews, but we will speak up if there is a scam or a clearly better option.

In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about iUniverse, so that you can decide if working with them is in your best interest…or not.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this iUniverse Review:

  1. What is iUniverse Publishing?
  2. Packages and pricing
  3. iUniverse review: pros andcCons
  4. Is iUniverse for you?
  5. Other iUniverse reviews
  6. Alternatives to iUniverse Publishing
  7. Final rating

What is iUniverse?

iUniverse’s core business focuses on print-on-demand self-publishing and offers publishing packages as a service the company refers to as “assisted self-publishing.” 

For many critics and authors, this refers to a publishing company that is indicative of being a vanity publisher.

In September 2007, iUniverse was purchased by Author Solutions, the parent company of hedge fund-owned rival AuthorHouse.

If you’re unfamiliar with Author Solutions, it’s the parent company for several of the big name vanity publishers, but they don’t use this term to describe their publishing business. It would be like creating a business model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services and calling yourself a “pyramid scheme.” But yes, iUniverse—founded in October, 1999—is a part of the Author Solutions “family” of publishing companies in addition to Xlibris, Palibrio, AuthorHouse, and Book Tango.

iUniverse now has over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, and has said to have published over 30,000 titles

iUniverse success stories

As we mentioned earlier, iUniverse is under the control of AuthorSolutions, a company with a less-than-reputable name in the publishing industry.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. In fact, iUniverse may be one of the better companies in terms of vanity publishing, as several authors have been picked up by traditional publishers.

But keep in mind, this kind of success can happen to self-published or indie authors without signing up and spending thousands of dollars. It’s a lot of work to become a successful author, and just because you spend lots of money to get your book published isn’t a guarantee that it will sell.

We always recommend to new authors the best thing you can do for your author career is to learn everything you can about book publishing. Learn to do it yourself and you will be able to run your own book business from home.

Here are a few authors that iUniverse pays tribute to on their website. But remember: These are the rare success stories. Have you heard of any of these books?

Iuniverse 2016 Success Stories
Iuniverse 2013 Success Stories
Iuniverse 2009 Success Stories

To remove any notions of becoming a New York Times bestselling author, or getting noticed by a traditional publisher, requires more work than might be “mentioned” on the iUniverse site. 

This goes for any publishing company. They can advertise that their “authors” made it to the big time, but there are still tens of thousands of books out there that never sold more than fifty copies.

By 2001—almost a decade before self-publishing became the industry standard thanks to Amazon—iUniverse had sold over 500,000 titles and published close to 10,000.

Packages and pricing

While it has become easy to self-publish a book these days—and for less than $2,000—there are a lot of stepping stones a self-publisher must get right before having a book ready to print.

This is why you need one of two things:

1. A done-for-you service to take your book by the reigns and control and oversee the entire process (which is pricier and more limiting), or;
2. A self-publishing course or education program that shows you the step by step process to go from blank page to published author in as few steps as is necessary.

iUniverse falls under the first category, which of course is pricer and has more limitations for the author. 

Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the products, programs, and services iUniverse currently has on the market.

iUniverse has 7 “black and white” publishing packages to choose from. We won’t cover every detail included in each package but to give you a general overview. You can visit the webpage here to get more details if needed.

The black & white iUniverse publishing packages are: 

  1. Select: $999
  2. Premier Package: $1699
  3. Premier Pro Package: $2299
  4. Bookstore Premier Pro Package: $2999
  5. Book Launch Premier Pro Package: $4899
  6. Broadcast Package: $6299
  7. Broadcast Pro Package: $7699

Each of these packages includes a wide range of publishing services to get you published.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to mainly focus this iUniverse review on the most popular publishing package, which is the Premier Pro Package. 

The Premier Pro Package from iUniverse costs $2,299.

Here’s what’s included in the price: 

  1. Cover design (including back cover)
  2. ISBN assignment
  3. Global distribution
  4. Formatting for eBook and print
  5. “Look Inside” features on Amazon and other book retailers
  6. 10 free paperback books
  7. Copyright registration
  8. Library of Congress control number
  9. Editorial evaluation
  10. Set up guide for social media

If your book requires color printing, iUniverse has color packages.

Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this company before diving into what real customer reviews are saying. 

iUniverse review: pros and cons

When weighing the good vs. the bad, there are a few points to keep in mind with companies like iUniverse:

  1. This is not a traditional publisher. Many new authors mistake vanity publishers for appearing as “real publishing houses.” They’re not real publishers.
  2. You CAN do it yourself. Yes, you can! The key marketing drive that makes these companies successful is this: They do it all for you and remove the hassle and uncertainty. As long as you understand that you’re paying a self-publishing company over twice the amount you need to in order to publish your book.

At Self-Publishing School, we train our authors to do the work so they can save money and put out more books while maximizing on royalties.

The major advantage to using iUniverse is the same as hiring any of these vanity publishers—including Balboa Press—is that you can essentially pay them to publish your book, if you have the money to spend on this, and don’t mind not having full creative control over your book production process. If you are technically challenged and have the budget, iUniverse’s done-for-you packages might be the better choice. 

In our research efforts to review iUniverse, we determined the pros and cons to using this publishing company. 

iUniverse pros

  1. Offers 3 levels of vibrant color packages
  2. Offers a unique package for Canadian authors only
  3. Offers direct access to all publishing services—editorial, cover design, marketing, formats and all forms of production.
  4. Publishing packages are cheaper compared to other vanity publishers “Balboa Press.”
  5. It’s all done for you…but you still have to market your own book

iUniverse cons

  1. ALLi advisory warning: Listed as a company to avoid by the Alliance of Independent Authors watchdog Desk advisory. This should be enough here to warn authors to stay clear.
  2. Vanity publisher. iUniverse is under ownership of Author Solutions and, If you couldn’t tell, we don’t like vanity publishing or the image they represent. We feel that many authors are misinformed about the publishing process, and vanity publishing companies take advantage of that by charging ridiculously high prices for low-quality work. 
  3. Overpriced print costs: Print cost per paperback unit is almost double of what you would pay through KDP. 
  4. Quarterly sales report: This is totally unacceptable. You don’t find out how many books you sold until months later? Amazon’s KDP provides daily (and hourly) reporting.
  5. Overpriced pricing: Check out the pricing for any book published through a vanity publisher and you’ll cry—especially if it’s your book. The author has no say here. The average ebook is around $7.99, and I’ve seen them as high as $18.00. The paperback was over $20.00.
  6. Impossible to market: How can you market a self-published book that you paid someone else to publish? You have little to no control over distribution, pricing, or otherwise.

When it comes to vanity publishers, they squeeze you for everything. You pay exorbitant prices for services you’d pay half for anywhere else. This is how they make their money. We have worked with many authors who cut ties with companies such as Dog Ear Publishing or iUniverse due to the fact they could not sell any books.

In fact, the most common complaint we’ve heard is: “I invested $7000 in a book that has never sold. I never saw one royalty check.”

So now we ask you…

Is iUniverse for you?

You’ve seen the publishing packages offered by iUniverse. You might still be on the fence as to whether or not you should pay someone to do it all for you, or take the challenge and dive into self-publishing as an actual indie author.

We’ll say it again for those in the back…

iUniverse is NOT a traditional publisher. Your book will be self-published through iUniverse, and for sale and distribution in their bookstore.

Your book will not be placed in traditional bookstores but has the potential to be sold on many big retailer sites. However, it does not have any more potential if it were self-published through a different company. If anyone tells you that, we would advise you to take caution when deciding.

Related: Self-Publishing VS Traditional Publishing

iUniverse is for authors that want to leave everything up to a company. But you still have to learn how to write the book! Besides, if you are thinking about creating a series of books, you definitely want the know-how to learn the process for self-publishing. It’s work but worth it!

Be aware of the realistic expectations around self-publishing. Although iUniverse does state:

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Keep in mind that there are thousands of other books and authors out there all trying for the same thing. Your book has the “potential” to become a New York Times bestseller too, but that doesn’t mean it will be. The more control YOU have over the marketing side of the business, the better you’ll be able to leverage success as an author.

If you actually do hire a hybrid or vanity publisher to do everything for you, have realistic expectations. Always do your research first and don’t believe everything that appears too good to be true.

Yes, there are a lot of steps to getting a book published, but thousands of authors are doing it everyday with the help of online education and coaching. 

Other iUniverse reviews

Wait! Put your wallet away and don’t buy anything just yet. As we stated earlier (and will continue to do so), know what you’re getting into before you pay.

There’s an abundance of reviews online, so take a look yourself and use what you learn to make an informed decision.

In our research, we found a bagged mix of good and bad reviews. We will show you a few of these and the source page, and you can investigate more.

Here are several reviews from TrustPilot, an online site for reviewing company services. Overall, as you can see by the review volume, iUniverse scores 53% for excellent, and only 9% for bad service. Before you decide to sign up, keep reading.

Iuniverse Review Volume On Trustpilot

Here are a few reviews from TrustPilot:

Iuniverse Trustpilot Review
Iuniverse Trustpilot Negative Review
Iuniverse Negative Review From An Unsatisfied Customer On Trustpilot

Now, let’s take a look at our favorite—and completely transparent company—for an accurate review on any publishing company.

iUniverse reviews and ALLi rating

The most reliable source you can utilize to check on any self-publishing company is found on the ALLi website: Alliance For Independent Authors. ALLi cares about the industry and its authors by providing real, up-to-date information on the best, worst and everything in-between when it comes to book publishing.

To prevent authors from falling for publishing scams, ALLi created its own watchdog desk to research the market. By providing up-to-date information on customer reviews and service satisfaction, the watchdog desk has proven to be a trusted source of information. 

When it comes to rating publishing companies, ALLI has five ratings—or colors—they give to rate the best and worst self-publishing services.

These are the ratings:

  1. Green: excellent (partner member)
  2. Blue: recommended
  3. Yellow: mixed
  4. Orange: caution
  5. Red: warning/avoid

What does ALLi say about iUniverse?

Iuniverse Rating From Alli

According to ALLi, iUniverse is in the red. This is determined by the volume of customer feedback compiled over the years. This is in large part to the parent company Author Solutions whose reputation is less than trustworthy in the publishing industry.

ALLi breaks down this information based on quality, value, transparency, communication, professional conduct, service, and legal (trouble).

We strongly support ALLi and the watchdog desk is a reliable source for authors. The bottom line is, if the rating here is under “advisory”, you want to take it seriously.

For more information on the self-publishing service ratings, visit ALLi.

Alternatives to iUniverse Publishing

I’ll bring your attention to this on the iUniverse site:

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They refer to self-publishing as a “hassle” and filled with “uncertainty.” While they might remove the hassle of having to figure out how to publish a book, it’s not as difficult as you might think.

If you have a logical course and blueprint, with measurable goals and a coach and/or accountability partner to help, you’re in good hands.

As for “no need to track down designers and editors,” – most authors turn to self-publishing because they WANT to be in charge of how their book will look and feel. They own full creative rights and control to their intellectual property. Why wouldn’t you want to be in charge of this process?

This is why you need to invest in a self-publishing company that has the program and expertise to train and educate you in how to take total control of your book.

Our best advice: Find a reputable self-publishing company that can show you the ropes on self-publishing at a lower investment, and add value to your life through publishing a book you control and get full compensation on.

iUniverse vs Self-Publishing School

To be totally transparent, SelfPublishing.com is part of the Self-Publishing School family, the leading online education company for authors and entrepreneurs

Iuniverse Vs Self-Publishing School

We will always strive to provide unbiased reviews, but if we know there is a better alternative out there, we will share our opinion.

Here’s what Self-Publishing School offers aspiring authors for less investment than iUniverse:

  1. Specific learning paths tailored to fit your publishing needs. Are you a first-time author ready to write and self-publish your book? Or maybe you’re a fiction writer that wants to create a bestselling author? Maybe you’re ready to sell more books, or launch an online course from your book? We have programs to fit your author style.
  2. Bestseller guarantee. We have helped thousands of authors become bestsellers through our proven framework.
  3. 1-1 high touch coaching with an expert author.  All of the book coaches—successful published authors themselves—walk students through the process of self-publishing. Check out the programs for more information on this.
  4. Online education with step-by-step guidance for self-publishing success, so you can learn how to write and publish a book, and use those skills to continue publishing more books.
  5. Weekly group coaching calls. Every week we hold weekly group coaching calls that are free for students of self-publishing school. You can join any of our online group calls to help you write, market, and publish/launch your book. You have total accountability and a solid team of supporters helping you to succeed.
  6. Mastermind community access. There is a community of 2,000+ authors in the Facebook Mastermind group to support each other. You can converse with the members on topics related to your book, get instant feedback, and gain confidence in knowing you belong to a group of authors working towards a common goal: to become a successful published author!
  7. Full royalties and rights. Self-Publishing School does NOT take any of your book sales or royalty fees. You own all rights to your book. 
  8. Lifetime access to high-quality up-to-date courses managed by industry specialists. Only the best people are hired by Self-Publsihing School to research the market for current trends in publishing and marketing. Our courses are updated regularly to provide you with the best resources and current strategies for marketing your book

Final rating

Our Rating
Based on everything we’ve shown you here, we give iUniverse 2 out of 5 stars.
Iuniverse Final Rating

As mentioned above, iUniverse is on the watchdog advisory list of publishing companies to avoid, according to ALLi. This is the only warning you really need to pay attention to.

While iUniverse does offer a variety of publishing packages, we believe there are higher quality services that require less investment for more value out there for our self-publishers.

As we care about your success as a self-publisher, we encourage you to pass on iUniverse and take control of your book writing career by investing in a reputable company that helps you get real results.

Ultimately you want full control of your book design, royalties, and marketing. You can’t do this if you publish with iUniverse.

Like this review? Here are some other self-publishing companies we have reviews on:

  1. Self-Publishing School Review
  2. Hay House Publishing Review
  3. BookBaby Review
  4. Author Incubator Review
  5. Scribe Media Review
  6. Lulu Publishing Review
  7. Smashwords VS Draft2Digital
  8. Christian Faith Publishing Review
  9. Outskirts Press Review
  10. Zondervan Publishing Review
  11. Archway Publishing Review

Have you worked with iUniverse? We’d love to hear your story!

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