Thursday, April 16, 2009

More picking on Outskirts Press

A few readers have complained that I "pick on" vanity press/author-services company Outskirts Press. I don't think that I'm really picking on them, but they do so many wrong things, they invite criticism.

A while ago I complained that a book written by the boss of Outskirts and the corporate website had silly errors in spelling, publishing history, book structure and more. My headline declared that the publisher needs an editor.

Maybe the boss reads this blog. Chief Outskirter Brent Sampson has recently issued the second edition of Self-Publishing Simplified. He apparently realized that I was right and he was wrong about "offset" vs. "off-set" printing. He even followed my advice and changed his foreword into an introduction. In the introduction, he fixed one really stupid error that I pointed out, where he had the wrong name for the author of Roget's Thesaurus.

However, he did not fix the BS about the "headaches" from getting an ISBN and bar code, and "paying thousands of dollars to print thousands of books."

Brent's employees need a math tutor.

A while ago I received an email from one of their author services people, who periodically sends me an email blast to try to convince me to use Outskirts Press.

Karl related an alleged conversation with a happy Outskirts author. He said, "Outskirts Press was her first choice because our authors keep all their rights. And she liked our pricing flexibility. The other publisher pays her 200% less in royalties. Yes, 200% LESS."

I'm no Einstein, but I think there's something very strange about that number.

  • To keep it simple, let's assume that Outskirts would pay a royalty of $100 for some quantity of books sold at some price over some period of time.

  • If the other publisher paid $50, it would be 50% less than Outskirts paid.

  • If the other publisher paid $25, it would be 75% less than Outskirts paid.

  • If the other publisher paid absolutely nothing, it would be 100% less.

  • Unless there's a way to receive less than nothing, I can't see how it's possible to be paid 200% less than anything.

    I asked for an explanation but I didn't get one.

    Outskirts seems uncertain and insecure about the nature of its business. The company has previously said it provided "custom book publishing," and "on-demand publishing," but in the latest version of its puff book, it self-applies a new label: "Independent Self-Printing." Maybe next year it will be apple coring or car washing or dog walking or going-out-of-business.

    Yesterday Karl sent me a "happy anniversary" email (which coincidentally arrived on my birthday). Karl reminded me that yesterday was a year since they first started trying to seduce me.

    Karl wrote, "Believe it or not, it has been 1 year to the day that we first started emailing you about publishing with Outskirts Press. Hopefully our emails over the months have been helpful to you. I know the publishing journey isn't always an easy one. There are many decisions to be made, and sometimes the choices are confusing."

    Despite the usual sloppy writing ("1" instead of "one" and overused cliches) the email made me realize that the more I know about Outskirts, the more reasons I have to stay away from them, and to urge others to do the same. Avoiding Karl's company was certainly not a "confusing" choice. His emails have been very "helpful" -- in convincing me to avoid Outskirts.

    Karl also said, "These are all "tricks of the trade" and things that Outskirts Press avoids. Many authors have discovered that switching to Outskirts Press is more profitable for them... For one recent best-selling author on Amazon, switching to Outskirts Press from "Publisher A" was the best decision he ever made. His royalties increased from 15% of his retail price to 55% of his retail price as a result. Instead of $3.74 per book, he started making nearly $14 for every book he sold on Amazon."

    Outskirts is not exactly trick-free. Their trickery includes outright lies designed to suck in the unwary.

    Brent-the-boss wrote that getting an ISBN number (the unique identification number for each book) is a "headache." That's just not true. I ordered 10 ISBNs in about five minutes. All I needed was my keyboard and a credit card. I never touched the Tylenol bottle.

    Brent also wrote about the troubles that “most self-published authors” have getting their books distributed, the high percentages paid to Amazon, and the high costs of setting up websites. That's self-serving fiction designed to make his own company look good. He can't possibly know the experiences of “most...” It costs very little to set up a website. Book distribution is a cinch, and Amazon will work on as little as 10%.

    And as for Karl's claim about one author who "Instead of $3.74 per book, he started making nearly $14 for every book he sold on Amazon." Well, instead of using a lying publisher like Outskirts, I formed my own publishing company, that uses the same POD printer that Outskirts does. On one of my books sold by Amazon, I collect $18.38 per copy.

    Almost any writer can do it, too.


    1. Good for you! Keep kicking ass.

    2. What about other vanity presses?
      Author House, Xlibris, IUniverse?