My latest attempt to get iUniverse to file my book under the correct genre

You guys are in for a treat, because I have an extra special iUniverse story to share with you today.

As you may already know, my book, Imminent Danger, is having some issues with being filed under the correct genre. If you pop over to Amazon.com and look up my book, you’ll find that the Kindle version is listed under the following categories:

Books > Children’s Books

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Children’s Fiction

This is, obviously, incorrect. Imminent Danger is Young Adult, or Teen. It is not a children’s book. Take one look at the cover and that becomes glaringly obvious. So … what to do?

Back in January, I contacted iUniverse and asked them to fix this problem. They said they would request that Amazon change the genre listing. Fair enough. But over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that other sites also filed the book incorrectly. So I called iUniverse yesterday about the issue, and today they sent me their complete list of book categories and told me to pick the categories I wanted my book listed under. One problem: these are the same categories they sent me back in November, when my iUniverse rep told me that I had to list the book as Juvenile Fiction because a Teen category didn’t exist. According to my rep, online retailers like Amazon would then list the book as Teen. Clearly, they didn’t. So when I got this email today which basically wanted me to repeat the exact same process I went through in November, I got a little irked.

So I called them. After chatting with a customer service lady for about 45 minutes and not getting anywhere, I asked to be transferred to her supervisor. He was a bit more helpful, and after another half hour or so, he promised he would send a request to Amazon and Barnes & Noble that they change my genre to YA / Sci-fi / Romance. Apparently he can’t contact other online retailers (like Chapters.Indigo.ca) directly, and I didn’t understand his reasoning on that at all, but he did say that once the genre listing changes on Amazon and B&N, other online retailers should follow suit. I don’t believe that for one second, but I figure I should pick my battles.

Anyway. During this phone call, I also suggested to him (supervisor guy) that iUniverse add some sort of Teen book category to their book category list. He said it was a great idea, and that I should send an email with my suggestion. I had to ask him about four times who I should send the email to, which was an interesting exercise in patience and repetition, and he finally divulged that I should just send it to Customer Support, addressed to “iUniverse Management”. Vague, but okay. I’ll bite. Let’s see where this goes.

Here’s a copy of the letter I sent them. I think I hit the various points quite nicely, although I worry that I came off a bit patronizing, as I repeated my point many, many, many times. You can be the judge:

Dear iUniverse Management,

As per the suggestion of the iUniverse customer support supervisor I spoke with this morning on the phone, I would like to suggest that you add a new book category to your book category list. This book category would be called “Teen” — as in, similar to Juvenile Fiction, except intended specifically for a teenage audience. If you go on Amazon.com or similar websites, you will find that they have tens of thousands of Teen books, listed under a Teen category. In fact, one of the current best-selling series — Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer — is a Teen book. At the moment, iUniverse does not have a Teen category, which I believe is an oversight that should be corrected immediately.

I would like to share my personal struggle with this issue with you, so that you can understand why it’s necessary to create a Teen category. My novel, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It, which I have recently published through iUniverse, is a Teen novel. It is about high school aged characters doing high school age-appropriate things — which includes consuming alcohol, using minor curse words, and having complicated romantic entanglements. These are elements which do not belong in a children’s story.  But because you do not have a Teen book category, I had to list it as Juvenile Fiction. My iUniverse rep assured me that when the book went up on sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, these third party sites would list it as Teen. They did not — and why would they? They listed it as Children’s Literature because the only information they received from iUniverse was that the book category was Juvenile Fiction — i.e., Children’s Literature. Amazon doesn’t have time to read through every book that is submitted to them to see if a Juvenile book should actually be Teen — the only thing they have to go on is what iUniverse tells them. And in this case, iUniverse told them it was a children’s book, which it is not.

Therefore, I propose that you add a Teen book category to your list of book categories. You will probably also want to add sub-genres to that, like Teen / Science Fiction, Teen / Supernatural, Teen / Romance, Teen / Fantasy, etc.

“Teen” is not a passing fad — this is a legitimate genre, as you will see if you go to virtually any online retailer. iUniverse is misrepresenting their authors by forcing them to submit books under the Juvenile Fiction category rather than a Teen category. We Teen authors are missing out on potential sales, because our target audience is people who read Teen books, and they won’t be able to easily find our books if they are listed in the Children’s Literature section. And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of this, but missed sales for iUniverse authors means missed sales for iUniverse.

I hope you will consider my proposal. As the situation stands right now, I have very little motivation to self-publish another book through iUniverse, because I write Teen fiction, and the hassle of getting another of my books listed under its correct genre is not something I want to go through again.

Thank you for your time,

Michelle Proulx

Will my message ever get to elusive “Management”, whoever that is? It’s hard to say. I hope so. It’s beyond ridiculous that they don’t have a Teen book category, and it’s also beyond ridiculous that they apparently won’t even consider adding one unless they get the suggestion in an email from one of their authors.

Phew. It feels great to get all this off my chest. I can only handle so much silliness in one day.

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Unrelated video of the day:

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Categories: iUniverse, My Works | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

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42 thoughts on “My latest attempt to get iUniverse to file my book under the correct genre

  1. That’s really bizarre that they don’t have a Teen category. Young Adult/Teen is one of the hottest fiction categories these days. Hope you get them to add it because that would solve a lot of headaches.

    • I know!!!! Madness. And I love that they couldn’t figure out how to add it on their own — they have to get an outside request from an author to add it. Or something. Who really knows, with iUniverse? They are an enigma wrapped in a mystery folded up in a conundrum.

  2. Michelle, can you make any of those category changes via your Author Central Page yourself? Or can you edit your own book description? If you have control over making these changes through your Bookshelf or Amazon Central page, you can correct the categories, or in the Notes from the Author section you can write it in. If you can’t do any of that, make an Author Central profile page and add your categories to your own BIO area. That way, at least if someone clicks on your author page they can see where you are telling them the book is YA not children’s, and anything else you want to tell readers about you.

    • Excellent suggestion! I don’t appear to be able to change the genre through Author Central, but I did change my author profile — thanks for the awesome suggestion!!!

  3. Keep us posted. I’ve been interested in how these guys operate and would love to see how they respond.

    • Will do. They are very good at getting back to me when I send them questions, so I’m sure they’ll at the very least respond to my letter. Whether or not the management will actually end up seeing it is anyone’s guess.

  4. Just my two cents and you probably know this for the future. When you are in control and upload a new book, you have 100% control over where you place the book in categories. It takes 2 seconds to change it (or may 6 or 7) and apparently iUniverse isn’t smart enough or caring enough to go in and make the proper changes.

    My other suggestion is contact Amazon directly, explain the situation and ask them to actually do it. I’m wondering if iUniverse ever really contacted Amazon at all. I’ve always had good luck with their customer support.

    Some readers will not even find you because you’re in the wrong category and while posting it on your author page may be helpful, most everyone else is going to miss it so the category needs to be fixed ASAP. 🙂

    I know I’m going out on a limb here but I hope you never use iUniverse again. I also think you should email them screenshots of your blog posts about them.

    • Well, iUniverse said they were getting it fixed, so if nothing changes, then yeah, good idea — I’ll contact Amazon directly. The iUniverse person said they would expedite the request, so hopefully the genre switch will get done quickly.

      Oh yeah, definitely not using iUniverse again. I mean, unless they were to drastically change their policies and pricing — then I’d consider it. But the way things currently are? Not a chance.

      I got a very mysterious call a few days back from iUniverse customer support asking how my pricing problem was going. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but I’d just posted a blog about how silly it was that I could buy books cheaper from chapters.ca than from iUniverse … so I wonder if they aren’t reading my blog already? Dum dum dummmmmm 😀

  5. Too weird- I hope they fix that for you.

    That octopuns thing made me laugh! So funny. I should probably be ashamed of my live for puns, but I’m really not. 🙂

    • Puns are phenomenal. Have you read Piers Anthony’s Xanth series? The world the book is set in is basically a giant pun. Puns everywhere, all the time. It’s glorious.

      • Those books were my introduction to Fantasy… It may have ruined me, but good times were had. I haven’t read all of them, but I place the blame for my pun-love squarely on Piers Anthony. 🙂

        • Have you read any of the new ones? I stopped around The Dastard (the one centered on the princess triplets Harmony, Melody, and Rhythm). I keep meaning to re-read the series, but when I start re-reading, I get about fifteen books in and then get distracted, so I never actually get to the new ones, lol.

          • No. I read the original trilogy (ha ha) and a few others when I was about 12, and since then just whatever I could find at Value Village or the library. Not the best way to read a series, but still enjoyable. Nothing very new, though.

  6. That’s insane. If you need more fodder, tell them that every public library in the nation has a YA section.

    • Anything that has books ANYWHERE has a YA section, lol. Except, apparently iUniverse.

        • Although I have to admit, going to a Barnes and Nobles and finding out that they had a section specifically for ‘Teen Vampire Romance’ was a little disappointing. Especially now that some places tend to stuff Sci-fi and Fantasy on the shelves together.

          • Hey, if it sells, it sells. It’s a little sad, but you can hardly fault them for having smart business sense, lol. Although I wonder, if bookstores stuck sci-fi books at the front on special displays, would they sell better just because of their placement in the store?

            • Very curious to see how that would work. I admit, I always have to go to the back of the store to reach the sci-fi/fantasy sections… passing self-help, romance, sexuality and other categories along the way. I understand product placement to an extent – people DO look for sci-fi and fantasy books, and they will go where ever they are in the store to reach them. So they stick ’em in the corner somewhere, perhaps hoping that we’ll buy some other books on our trek to the far reaches of Barnes and Nobles.

              Meanwhile, the magazines are up front, because they tend to be impulse purchases for a lot of people. Meh…

              • And if the bookstore has a cafe, the magazines are always right beside the cafe, because what better to read while sipping a cappucino than a trashy magazine?

  7. It’s absolutely weird that they don’t have a teen category. Let us know how you go and if you get response…

  8. One would think they’d have enough sense to include the hottest genre in today’s market to their list. I really wonder what’s their reasoning behind leaving it out. =/

    The Octopuns strip is funny though! I think I may have to go check the rest of the strips… there goes my plan to go to bed early!

    • Lol, sorry. I didn’t mean to mess up your sleeping attempts.

      I think it’s less that they left it out, and more that, back when they first made the categories, YA wasn’t a thing. And then they just haven’t updated their list in … 15 years? Lol. Maybe they’ve just never had someone raise up such a fuss about it like I am. Or maybe they don’t get a lot of YA authors.

  9. Man, it’s frustrating just reading it, but your letter was great, point well made and enough times it will be hard to ignore.

  10. Oh geez. I thought your email was hilarious. SLIGHTLY patronizing, perhaps, but honestly I’d rather get a slightly-patronizing email from an amused-if-exasperated customer about my stupid shenanigans than the emails that normal pissed-off, paid-our-money-and-aren’t-getting-squat customers would send in, so I think they’re getting off easy on this one. 😛

    • Right??? I’ve been doing my best to be nice and level-headed when I talk to them, but sometimes … geez. When I was talking to that supervisor guy today, I had to cut him off a couple of times because he was just not at all getting what I was asking him. I felt bad about it, but … well, after spending an hour and a half on the phone trying to make the same point over and over, you get a little frustrated, lol.

      • xDDD Ohhhh Michelle. I can’t even imagine. And I hate talking on the phone anyway, so that would have been something akin to being on the medieval rack, ha ha. I think you were totally polite, and certainly much more polite than anyone who has had to deal with all of that has a right to be. xD

  11. inkspeare

    I am so sorry that you are going through this ordeal, and considering all that I have read in your posts, they don’t know what they are doing – and that is a very bad sign, because it will end hurting the author. I hope you run from their grip fast. Maybe you should contact Amazon and the others directly and fix the problem yourself. Don’t know if that will work. I hope everything resolves fast for you, soon.

    • Thanks 🙂 Well, iUniverse claims they’ll fix it, so I’ll give them a few weeks and see if that helps. If nothing changes, I’ll have to do as you suggested and contact the sites directly.

  12. They need a leaner business philosophy over at iUniverse.

    • Lol. They need a business philosophy, period, at iUniverse. I can even give them one. Ready? “Our philosophy is to publish books for authors in a sensible, reasonably priced, well-organized manner.” How is that so hard? *cries*

  13. Good luck with everything. Sounds like a major headache.

    • You have no idea. Well, you’ve read my rants, so you probably do have a very good idea, lol. Thanks for the luck, I’m definitely going to need it!

  14. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. For details on acceptance please visit http://wp.me/p2Qoij-mj
    I appreciate your posts. – John Howell

  15. I have a document n my computer called publishers.docx
    In it are two headings: “White List” and “Black List”
    White list is currently empty.
    I’ve just added an entry to Black List.
    They seem awfully rigid and difficult to work with in this digital age.
    Not having a teen genre? *face palm*
    6 to 8 weeks to make a change?
    All too hard.

    • Well, according to the lovely Keri Peardon, 6-8 isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. The lack of a Teen genre, however … I see your face palm and raise you a face punch, because that’s usually how my brain feels after iUniverse hits another silly ball my way.

  16. Jerry

    Michelle,
    My wife and daughter’s book has the exact same problem. It should also be listed under “Teen” but they have it under “Mystery”. The book is a vampire novel and I just ran a search on the iUniverse web site, it isn’t listed under Vampire. This was brought to their attention 8 months ago. We have people report that they have gone in to B&N to purchase and can’t find because it is in the wrong place. Now the stores want my wife and daughter to come in for book signings and the book is listed as unavailable in the B&N computer. iUniverse has been no help with this either. I don’t believe iUniverse has any interest in marketing or selling books, just packages. We are hoping to get picked up by a new publisher soon.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that! I’d optimistically hoped I was the only author they’ve screwed over like this, but clearly that isn’t the case. I did manage to get my book filed under the correct genre at Chapters by asking my local Chapters store manager to update the genre manually in the store system — maybe something like that might work for you for Barnes and Noble?

      And no, iUniverse doesn’t seem to much care about issues like this. I sent them in a request a few months ago to add a teen category, and I never got so much as an email in response. They shouldn’t advertise that they’re here to support and help authors if they’re in it purely for profit — that’s false advertising, and I believe there are several lawsuits going on against them right now in that vein. Ahh!

      So are you thinking of going the full-on self-publishing route (Amazon KDP and Createspace), or trying to get picked up by a traditional publisher?

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