Saturday, March 27, 2010

With Outskirts Press, a lot of money is not much money

A publicity outburst from inept vanity publisher Outskirts Press highlights their customer/author Gang Chen, who “has earned over $100,000 in author royalties in six short months.”

Chen wrote on a blog that “In one month (January 2009), I earned over $30,000 in Royalties ($31,207.68, to be precise). I earned even more in February.”

Outskirts says Chen “will receive a first-quarter royalty check in the amount of $77,611.88 for books sold between [sic] January-March 2009. This follows a previous royalty check of $33,679.56 that Chen recently received from Outskirts Press for books sold between [sic] October-December 2008.”

Chen’s blog offers some useful advice, but don’t be fooled by the headline, “How You Can Earn $30,000 a Month through POD Publishing.”

Chen’s experience is extremely atypical and no one should salivate while dreaming of emulating him. Be aware of three things:

(1) Chen’s book is highly specialized. It’s a study guide needed for professional advancement. It’s a very important book aimed at a very small audience for whom the book price is not significant. It’s like a college textbook that students must buy for $150 in order to take a course needed for graduation.

(2) Because of the small audience, it’s highly unlikely that the sales volume (about 1,000 copies per month) and royalty payments will stay at the recent high level month-after-month, year-after-year.

(3) Despite its small page size and mere 243 pages, it has a huge cover price of $69.95. Amazon discounts it by just 10% to $62.95.

I compliment Chen for filling a need and getting paid well for it. HOWEVER, if he became a real, independent self-publisher instead of using Outskirts, he probably could have made even more money.

According to the Outskirts online chart, if Chen paid $999 or more for an Outskirts “Diamond” package, he earns $28.18 per book.

If, on the other hand, Chen decided to do a little bit more work himself, or hired a freelance designer and editor possibly for less than what he paid to Outskirts, he could have had the books produced directly by Lightning Source (the same printer that Outskirts often uses) for just $4.54 per book plus a small set-up fee.

  • With Outskirts Press as the publisher, each $69.95-list book earns $28.18 for the author.
  • If Chen self-published and kept the $69.95 list price, he could have made $51.42 per book — nearly twice what Outskirts pays him!
  • Alternatively, if Chen is satisfied with $28.18 per book, by self-publishing he could have reduced the list price of the book to just $40.95, instead of $69.95. He might sell more books and make more money.
  • By using Outskirts Press, Chen is making less money than he could be making, or his readers are paying more for his books than they could be paying — or both.



  1. I keep hoping that this author will pull his books from Outskirts and try self-publishing for real. His books are almost exactly like the ones published by my own company-- highly specialized, very small niche audience, high price point.

    He could be making double with CreateSpace and triple with LightningSource.

  2. Talk about lack of integrity. We need to do background checks on owners of publishing companies nowadays. GSH Publishing owner is currently incarcerated serving a life sentence. My uncle considered them until we looked up his mug shot on georgia depart of corrections. WOW, new authors beware!

  3. Outskirts press is a bait and switch, nickel and dime chop shop. I regret having published my book with them. DON'T PUBLISH WITH OUTSKIRTS!!!!