To signal some of their books as especially high quality, self-publishing companies must overcome two broad problems.
First, their high quality books must overcome the same stigma self-published authors must: if a book “couldn’t” get a “real” publishing deal, what’s the matter with it? Certainly this prejudice has been abating, and in fact, many authors now don’t even bother with the Traditional Publishing Path at all, so it’s not always a question of ability but desire to go the traditional route. Still, if a self-publishing company vouches for a book, it can ill afford backing a bomb, or even a mediocre book: That would simply reinforce the image of self-published books as inferior, as books that couldn’t make it the “real” way, which in turn would hobble the publisher’s ability to make money actually selling the books they publish.
In other words, if a publisher gets behind a book, it has to make absolutely sure it really is that good: a publisher’s not only protecting their brand but the business model of a whole class of publishers.
Second, how can a publisher, which by definition publishes whatever it gets paid to publish (with some exceptions)—including books that are not meant to be sold, or that are poorly written and get published without so much as a proofread—legitimately signal that a particular book is a cut above everything else it publishes?
Next up the iUniverse solution.