Jean Rikhoff Takes iUniverse & Author Solutions Complaints to Indiana Attorney General

By now the complaints against iUniverse and its parent company, Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, you may be getting a little weary of reading them. But here’s the thing: ASI and it’s vanity presses are deceitful and predatory companies. I can’t in good conscience stop writing about them, because authors shopping for a way to publish need access to real stories like the ones Lawrence, Joan, Mark, Philip, and Jodie have agreed to tell.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

Today Jean Rikhoff, author of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (iUniverse), has agreed to tell her story. Jean was born in 1928 and has also published two trilogies: the Timble Trilogy, made up of Dear Ones All, Voyage In, Voyage Out, and Rites of Passage, and the trilogy of the North Country, consisting of Buttes Landing, One of the Raymonds, and The Sweetwater.

Instead of the standard interview format I’ve used for previous authors, Jean has agreed to share correspondence with us. Her letters to the Indiana Attorney General are linked below. I’ve summarized and highlighted some of the details in those letters for you, but you can read the full-text PDFs by clicking on the links.

Complaint Against iUniverse of Bloomington, Indiana (December 10, 2011): Jean talks about the “good” iUniverse and the “bad” iUniverse, referring to the differences in the company’s practices before and after ASI became the owner of iUniverse. She has included email correspondence from representatives to support her statements. Some of Jean’s formal complaints include:

  • iUniverse assured her they could embed the pictures she wanted included in her book. They gave her a contract and took her money, but later told her their machines were not able to print her books as she had requested.
  • Once Jean was turned over to the editorial staff at iUniverse, she received numerous phone calls about services not covered under her initial package. They told her she would want to take them because she had been awarded Editor’s Choice, a tactic Jean charmingly refers to as a “buttering up for the skinning.”
  • Jean was sold copy editing services from iUniverse that she was told would cost close to $400. She agreed, and her credit card was charged $3,794.33. She disputed the charges with her credit card company.
  • She went over the “editing” iUniverse provided and found more than 100 errors.
  • Jean attempted to get resolution for her issues, but iUniverse employees stopped responding to her. She emailed at least four different employees. Finally someone named Joseph said he couldn’t help, but he’d try to get someone who could. Her original contact was gone, there was a “reorganization” within the company.
  • Jean eventually got a final proof that was riddled with formatting problems and copyediting errors, even though they’d charged her nearly $4,000 for editorial review. When she complained, the response from iUniverse was, “The designers do not go page by page looking at the formatting.”
  • Jean got a lawyer who spoke to Eugene Hopkins weekly and daily for a few weeks. He stopped talking to Jean’s lawyer until she threatened to take things to the next step. When he finally spoke to the attorney again, he pretended not to know anything about the lawyer, Jean, or her book.
  • Jean got one softcover and one hardcover book; she never received the remaining author copies she paid for as part of her initial publishing package.
  • They spelled her name wrong on the jacket, despite her correcting this on the proof numerous times.
  • Royalties were never paid.

iuniverse sucksLetter to Indiana Attorney General’s Office Re: December 10, 2011 iUniverse Complaint (January 27, 2012): Jean responds to communication from Fran Marburgh, a representative at Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office. It appears they misunderstood her complaint. Jean reiterates that since Author Solutions, Inc. took over iUniverse, she had not received royalty reports or payments on previously published works that the “good” iUniverse took over before the buyout.

Follow-up Letter to Indiana Attorney General’s Office Re: January 27, 2012 (February 22, 2012): Jean reminds Fran Marburgh that this is not a single case and that the attorney general’s responsibility is to investigate the claims of Author Solutions’ customers. Jean spells out her complaints again, including the following:

  • iUniverse admitted that the manuscript, when finished, was never checked by anyone.
  • iUniverse did not answer queries from either Jean or her lawyers for weeks at a time. Her lawyer had to phone them EVERY day to try to get answers.
  • Jean’s book was NOT listed on Amazon.com as iUniverse promised until Jean’s lawyer threatened to sue them.

Final Letter to Indiana Attorney General’s Office (March 4, 2012): Essentially, the Indiana Attorney General is treating Jean’s case as an isolated incident. However, we know that Author Solutions has violated the terms of their contract with authors by failing to report royalties on time and failing to make payments on time. Jean asks how many complaints are needed to move the inquiry from simple mediation to investigation.

As time permits, I will be attempting to help iUniverse authors submit their complaints formally to the Attorney General’s office. If you would like assistance with this process, please get in touch. If you want to submit a complaint electronically, use the Indiana Attorney General’s Online Complaint Form.

In the meantime, tell all your friends to avoid Author Solutions and all related companies. Here’s a list of associated brands for your convenience:

PARENT/HOLDING COMPANIES:
Bertram Capital
Author Solutions

BOOKS:
Author House
iUniverse
XLibris
Trafford
Palibrio
Publish in the USA
Abbott Press
Balboa  (Hay House-branded line)
WestBow  (Thomas Nelson-branded line)
Inspiring Voices  (Guideposts Magazine-branded line)
Legacy Keepers

MODERN MEDIA:
FuseFrame   (Previously Author Solutions Films)
Pitchfest   (Authors pay to come pitch their stories for film adaptations)
Author Learning Center  (Online learning tool hoping you’ll forget to cancel your credit card after the free trial ends)
WordClay  (Abandoned ebook imprint)
BookTango  (New ebook imprint)
AuthorHive (Book Marketing)

MISCELLANEOUS ASSOCIATIONS/PARTNERSHIPS:
Meredith Vieira Productions
Kirkus Reviews
Clarion ForeWord Reviews
BlueInk Reviews

Read the complete iUniverse Complaints Index

About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a technical marketing writer by day and a freelance copywriter by night. And, no, she's not related to Dr. Seuss.
  • Grizzbabe

    I would LOVE to see your efforts result in this company and its affiliates going out of business.

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      If people didn’t think @iUniverse:twitter  was evil before, preying on an 84 year old woman has got to seal the deal. I appreciate your support, Grizz. :)

  • KozieKid

    Unreporting and underpaying royalties is apparently a huge problem in the entire publishing industry. Many traditionally published authors are enrages. There are also howls coming from Amazon Kindle publishers about “ripoffs”. You should look into all of these. Or we should all quite trying to get books published and go mop floors.

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you take on one of the others? I’ve kind of got my hands full with these jerks. 

  • Carolyn St. John

    Very useful info; especially for new authors; thank you !