Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NO SURPRISE: The Outskirts Press contract avoids responsibility for errors and has a stupid typo.

BIG SURPRISE: authors might loan Outskirts money for six months, interest-free!

The executive team at inept vanity publisher Outskirts Press consists of boss Brent Sampson (who has a degree in English), Brent's wife Jeanine (who also has a degree in English), plus Lynn Sampson (an attorney). Here are some highlights from their author contract:

Author receives 100% of the royalties profit for each wholesale print copy sold for which Outskirts Press receives payment. [If you work your ass off promoting your book, and pay Outskirts to promote your book, but Outskirts sells copies of your book and doesn't get paid, you don't get paid.]
Royalties are paid to Author within 90 days following the end of the calendar quarter in which Wholesale Book Sales occurred [If a book is sold on January 1, Outskirts doesn't have to pay you your royalties until 90 days starting on April 1 (i.e., the end of June -- six months later!).

The Outskirts Press online bookstore offers discounts of up to 55% on purchases of 10 or more books to "Wholesalers, retailers, distributors," and requires payment by credit card. A bookseller's money should be in the Outskirts checking account two days after a purchase, but  Outskirts doesn't have to pay you until up to 178 days later.

You will become Outskirts' bank, potentially loaning it money for nearly half a year, but not being paid any interest.

Outskirts will cancel your book if you don't pay their $25 annual digital storage and hosting fee within 30 days, but you must allow them six months to pay you. Conceivably, your book could be canceled if you owe them $25 for 31 days, even while they owe you hundreds or thousands of dollars.]

Outskirts Press does not warrant that the service or product provided will be uninterrupted or error free. [That's certainly no surprise.] Outskirts Press disclaims any and all representations and warranties, expressed or implied, including, without limitation, the implied warranties of merchantability, salability, or noninfringement of copyright. [In other words, don't expect Outskirts to do anything right.]

Outskirts Press’s total liability to Author or any third-party for any and all damages shall not exceed in the aggregate the amount of fees actually paid by Author to Outskirts Press during the one month period prior to Outskirts Press’ act giving rise to the liability. [If the author paid $5,000 two months before the screw-up, but didn't pay anything in the immediately preceding month, the author gets nothing -- even if the Outskirts error costs the author a million bucks.]

To the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, in no event shall Outskirts Press, its parent companies, subsidiaries, or affiliates, or any of their respective officers, directors, employees, or agents by [TYPO: should be "be."] liable for punitive, consequential, incidental, exemplary, indirect, or special damages, including without limitation damages for loss of profits, revenues, business data, or other intangibles, whether or not such damages were foreseeable and even if Outskirts Press had been advised of the possibility or likelihood of such damages.  [In other words, if Outskirts Press screws up, don't expect them to pay for any loss caused by their errors -- even if they knew in advance about the problem.]

Any legal action related to the terms of or obligations arising under this Agreement shall be brought in the District Court of Douglas County, State of Colorado. [If you live in Hawaii or New Hampshire, and you don't like what Outskirts did to your book, you have to travel to Castle Rock, Colorado to sue them.]

Outskirts says its mission statement is "To exceed the expectations of every author we help publish." Authors can expect crappy books and inadequate promotion from a company that hides behind legal weaseling, denies any obligation to do the right thing, and may deny any liability when they do the wrong thing. 



  1. Outskirts gets scarier and scarier every day you write about them. Keep it up. I hope every potential Outskirts customer finds your blog.

  2. Ugh! I need to go take a shower. Reading that made me feel covered in slime.

  3. While I absolutely see your points, which are valid, I would like to say in defense of the overly-protective contract language that many authors who seek vanity publication are ... well, they're nutjobs whose expectations are uneducated and kind of wacko. I do a lot of private freelance editing work for authors who are pursuing vanity press or print-on-demand publishing, and while some of them have good books which I am honored to work on, the majority of them are Jesus freaks, bipolar memoirists, bipolar Jesus freak memoirists, government conspiracy theorists ... I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea: psychological and emotional stability are not hallmarks of the vanity-publishing author.

    Therefore I can see why a publishing company catering to this group would have a contract such as this. It is favorable to the publisher, but I think it's arguable that the publisher needs to be strongly-armed against the slings and arrows of crazy authors.

    That brings up the question of whether this type of vanity publishing is a business that anyone can engage in legitimately and ethically -- do the crazy folks have the right to publication? And if so, what level of service and indulgence should they expect from the vanity press? I think on some level, I feel that there is an acceptable quid pro quo for just putting up with these people. As an editor, I have a sliding fee scale that depends upon how annoyed I am by the author and his work. I disclose up front that I charge more for difficult and vexing projects. I don't feel guilty about that; not all jobs are the same. Therefore I can see why a company such as Outskirts would feel some justification in being "unfair" -- their business practices reflect their response to the majority of their author base.

    I suppose it would be interesting to know whether there is a vanity press that caters to authors whose work has genuine merit. But wait -- that's just like a literary agency or traditional publisher, isn't it? Someone is making that judgment, and ... we're back to where we started prior to vanity pressing.

  4. This article was published in 2009,and I am reading it for the first time in 2011. My point is this contract information, though it may have changed by now, is still valueable because it highlights how Outskirts does business. No wonder 'their authors' are really just customers.