Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Outskirts Press, lies, and statistics

Mark Twain (left) said that 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli warned that "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

When I was in high school, I read How to Lie With Statistics -- first published in 1954 and still available.

The folks at Outskirts Press -- the inept and sleazy self-publishing company that I love to hate -- are skilled at lying with statistics. They deliberately and deceptively use statistics to make potential author customers think the company is better than it really is.

Last summer, Outskirts issued a self-congratulatory press release:

Denver, CO, August 24, 2010 --(PR.com)-- Outskirts Press, an Inc. 500 company in 2009 and the fastest-growing full-service self-publishing and book marketing company, was recognized once again by Inc. Magazine in 2010 in its annual "Fast 5000" list of the nation's fastest-growing private businesses.

Unless you read closely, you might not notice the additional zero in the 2010 recognition. Pathetic Outskirts has dropped out of the Inc FIVE HUNDRED and now is one of the Inc FIVE THOUSAND.

And, of course, Outskirts continues to lie about the award with its claim to be "the fastest-growing full-service self-publishing and book marketing company."
  • That description comes from Outskirts -- not from Inc or any other independent source. The competitors of Outskirts do not tell Outskirts about their business.
  • The ranking from Inc applies only to private companies.
  • The ranking from Inc applies only to companies that asked to be ranked. Outskirts may have more successful competitors that did not ask to be ranked by Inc.
Outrageous Outskirts conveniently chooses to ignore a competitor which ranked much higher.

  • Blurb is another self-publishing company on the Inc list. Blurb is several years younger than Outskirts, but Inc says it has nearly 10 times the sales of Outskirts, and is ranked 1219 positions higher than Outskirts.
  • According to Inc, Outskirts had three-year growth of 234% but Blurb grew 4829%.
  • (Just to head off any complaints, I'll point out that the companies are not completely competitive. Blurb concentrates on books for personal use or to be sold from Blurb's website, not from independent booksellers' sites. But since that is what some writers get from Outskirts, the similarities are significant enough to mean that Outskirts should not ignore Blurb in its bragging.)

"We are honored once again to be recognized by Inc. Magazine on this annual list," said Brent Sampson, Outskirts Press president and chief executive officer. "To appear on this list once is a feat; and twice in a row is a true testament of our commitment to quality, customer service, and value for our authors."

Sorry, Brent. Your listing is not a feat or a testament -- it's an embarrassment!

What Outskirts is not bragging about is that its Inc RANKING DROPPED BY NEARLY ONE THOUSAND PLACES IN ONE YEAR. Also, the Outskirts three-year revenue growth reported in 2010 is LESS THAN ONE THIRD of the figure for 2009. And, a list of 5,000 companies is not the same as a list of 500 companies!

* * * *

On August 1, 2011 Outskirts sent out a press release claiming that "Outskirts Press Books Receive Statistically Higher Ratings on Amazon Than The Other Five Major Online Self Publishing Companies."

The release also says:

"Of the 7302 books published by Outskirts Press that were for sale on Amazon as of July, 55% have received a rating. [BFD. At least one Outskirts book has an Amazon rating provided by a corrupt author of the book! Maybe many more do.]

Compare that with the other five major online publishers [WHO determined that these unnamed companies are "major?"], where that percentage is 42%, 30%, 25%, 21%, and 15%. Yes, only fifteen percent of authors from one of the major online publishers have managed to receive even one review of the book they worked so hard to write. [Maybe those authors did not work "hard."]

Since one-star ratings are possible, receiving a rating doesn't necessarily equate to "quality." [AHA!] But receiving a rating does relate to ENGAGEMENT by the author in terms of marketing effort. [The one-star ratings can mean that engaged readers hated a book so much that they want to warn other readers to stay away. Also, engagement by the author does not mean that the publisher did anything to help the author.]

So now let's look at the quality of books being published by the six major online publishers by examining the percentage of reviews that received four stars or higher:

Publishing Firm % of 4 or 5 star ratings
Outskirts Press 52%
Company A 24% [Authorhouse?]
Company C 27% [CreateSpace?]
Company L 13% [Lulu?]
Company U 37% [iUniverse?]
Company X 19% [Xlibris?]

52% of all Outskirts Press books have received a rating of 4 stars or higher on Amazon, compared with 24%, 27%, 13%, 37%, and 19%.

That is a demonstration of quality. [BULLSHIT. It may be a demonstration of book quality, but not publisher quality. There is NO REASON to assume that Outskirts Press has caused or even helped the quality of a book. There is no reason to assume that Outskirts Press turned a particular manuscript into a better book than Xlibris or another company could have.]

Outskirts Press seems to think that if it throws enough bullshit against a wall, some of it will stick. Some bullshit may stick, but all shit stinks! So does Outskirts Press.



  1. This is important. Thanks. Keep kicking ass!

  2. Thank you so much for this information. I had my doubts when I received the Outsk. Pr. blog and brag sheet. a friend has been pushing me to publish with outskirts Press and I have stalled. Instinct, I guess. I'm ready to roll and scared to commit to anyone. Authorhouse has been after me for ages. Google alerts has helped me know much more about these companies than I would had I not subscribed.
    I've read your blog before and been impressed. I have you bookmarked so will continue to read you.

  3. I've left a comment and hoping it will be approved. Thanks again for all the info and courage you've demonstrated in exposing lies.