I had specific reasons for using iUniverse to publish my first book, a collection of short stories. For one, I didn’t want to go through a traditional publisher the first time out. Some may say that going POD is a bad idea. However, after doing much research into the issue, I felt self-publishing/POD was a good road for me to take. The learning process is enormously helpful; I’ve learned things about publishing and marketing that I feel I may not have if I went the traditional route. I had a degree of creative control and the editorial evaluation was surprisingly in-depth. Another thing I like about iUniverse is that, several months after my book has come out, I am still in contact with them on a regular basis, and I have a marketing supervisor that has patiently answered my questions and given help on various marketing issues. This is something I didn’t expect, and it comes as a surprise to many people that a Print-On-Demand publisher would be so helpful without requiring more money. Maybe it’s because Susan Driscoll, CEO of iUniverse, has over 20 years of publishing experience. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
But with a large number of authors willing to pay to publish their own books, many with good reasons, a crop of other companies out there feel that they can take advantage of us. After all, they seem to say, if we’re willing to pay to get our books out there, what else are we willing to pay for? For instance, sites that once reviewed books for free are now charging $50 to $100 or more. I have not paid for any reviews, and while it is sometimes tempting, the idea has always left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not necessarily that all of these companies are fraudulent (some probably are) or that book reviewers that don’t charge are better or don’t have ulterior motives (some really aren’t and do), but I just don’t see the reason why a reviewer that has covered books for free, sometimes for years, suddenly wants to charge a fee for self-published or POD published authors. Some of these review sites have a double-standard; they’re willing to read traditionally published books for free, books that may be no better or in some cases worse than self-published books, while the latter has to fork over a chunk of their income. And for what? Paying for a review doesn’t give you any control over the quality, length, or opinion presented. And if paying means that you get a favorable review, why would you really want it? In some rare cases the cost is said to “expedite” the review, but if every author that wants a one within a few weeks pays, what are the chances the reviewer will actually be able to read them all within the alloted time? So far, I don’t see enough benefit to pay for that. If the book isn’t good enough for any reader to actually want to read and review it, the author would probably be better off going back to the drawing board, so to speak.
There are other services that companies try to get authors to pay for as well. I keep receiving unrequested information (spam) from some company that I didn’t seek out and I know very little about. But the fact that they keep soliciting me to pay $250 for the service of “featuring” my book, etc., leads me to believe they’re a scam in the making. It’s one thing to advertise your services with ads and the like—it’s a necessity of getting your product noticed—but why hound people that you’ve had no contact with whatsoever? I can think of one reason.
Then there’s paying for being on the radio, or on a podcast. Now, this is a bit more tempting to me, but it still raises some questions. Radio shows need content to get listeners, and authors need a way to make a large number of readers aware of their work. But radio shows, like television, get their money from advertisers. So why would they want to have authors pay to be interviewed? Maybe this makes sense to some out there, and while I’m willing to keep an open mind on the idea, I’m not convinced. From what I’ve learned so far, a paid radio interview is vastly different from a regular one. It ends up being more of an advertisement than an actual interview.
In the end, it may just come down to what you’re willing to pay for and why.