So, as a concientious blogger, I decided investigating the sites that advertise on my blog is a good idea. The first on the list of self publishers I decided to check out was Outskirts Press (outskirtspress.com). They often have a nice, large ad at the bottom of my posts.
Here's my first impression: Run Away! Run away fast. Do not look back.
You know how in horror movies you get a hint that something bad is going to happen as a way to build tension, like the flash of light off the menacing blade or the creepy soundtrack ramps up? Well, because of the contract with Google, I can't click on the ads on my on blog. So I googled Outskirts Press. As I was typing the letters in, Google showed me the second most popular search, Outskirts Press Complaints. (For comparison purposes Smashwords doesn't turn up anything bad, Lulu.com Scam is the second term, and CreateSpace Scam is the fourth search term on Google.)
I checked the complaints out. Alas, I really couldn't tell if they were just authors who didn't read the instructions carefully enough and were unhappy about a mess they got themselves into or were genuinely bilked. Until I got to the Outskirts Press page, I was leaning in the 'author didn't read the fine print' direction. Because, honestly, a lot of complaints tend to be people who are upset at a company that did exactly what they said they were going to do, in the fine print.
Then I actually visited Outskirts Press. Maybe it was serendipity. Maybe God was guiding my hands in an effort to show me the light. Either way, the first thing I clicked on was the Marketing Solutions tab. And what is at the top of that? Amazon Extreme Marketing at the bargain price of $299. Wow, let's see what you get for that $299. Look Inside (where Amazon lets viewers see the inside of your book), a Kindle edition of your book, and ten tags. Okay folks, we've been over this, you can do all of this for free, for yourself, in less than ten minutes. This service would have been overpriced at $29.00 and probably just about right at about $15.00. But, hey, if you just want a Kindle edition of your book or just want the Look Inside feature, they'll be happy to charge you $135 (each) to set that up as well. Here, let me make any of you who find this idea even remotely tempting an offer: send me a note and I'll do it for half that price.
Okay, so as my eyes bled with disgust at the exorbitant price gouging on Amazon, I headed over to see about their paper books.
At the top of that list is the ability to call and talk live to one of their sales people, er..."publishing consultants" about which publishing option would suit you best, for $35. Now, I've noticed that other services also charge to talk with publishing consultants, about formatting, and book design, and getting your manuscript set up to turn into an ebook. They don't charge you money to talk to the person who sells you the service in the first place!
Once you get past that there are different tiers of publishing services. For a basic novel, the most expensive version, "the Diamond Plan," at $999 gets you a soft cover book with either your own cover or one of their "customizable" pre-designed ones. (You can pick from 21 designs and then customize.) You get an ISBN and a bar code. They do the inside formatting for you. You get an author's webpage. A manuscript review (basically is the book salable) is part of the deal. Your book is available to be sold (if you can track down someone at the book store and get them to put copies of your book on his shelves) at many bookstores. You get an ebook edition (Their ebook. You've got to pay them more money to get on the Kindle store). You can list your book with Books In Print (though you have to do it yourself.) And you get ten free copies of your book.
And I gave up. This is total crap. $999.00 for ten books. Because you're paying that $999 before you sell a single book. Then after you've paid your $999, you can set your book up as POD, and when someone orders it, they print a copy and send it off. You set the price and the royalty, so they apply however much to your account. How nice of them.
Once again here's a comparison: For ten books I paid CreateSpace $117 and change (the costs of my books, their Pro Plan, and the cost of shipping the books to me). Now that didn't get me a free copy of How To Sell Your Book on Amazon, or a manuscript evaluation, or my very own marketing package (No they don't do the marketing for you, you get a list of helpful instructions to do the marketing yourself.), or weekly marketing email (all part of the Diamond Package). And CreateSpace just covered the print version of my book, I did have to take an extra step to get my ebook set up. But I also didn't have to spend close to a thousand dollars to do it. Ten books on Lulu.com would have cost me about double that amount, and once again, I wouldn't have had the marketing stuff, and I would have had to pay extra for the ebook, but the total would have been closer to $500 than $1000.
Hey, Outskirts Press will get your book on Barnes and Noble! CreateSpace doesn't do that! That's true. They do seem to get the book on the Barnes and Noble website. Now, you can do that with your ebook for yourself for free. And I haven't yet figured out how to do it for a paper back book. So, that's one thing Outskirts can get you. Is it worth $1000? Lulu.com will do it for you, too, and they'll charge a whole lot less for it.
But that's the super-duper deluxe package. How about the low end one? At their low end, you pay them $199, and they print you up a book. That's it. You get one "free" copy. And it's just a book, no barcode, no ISBN. You can't even upload your own cover. You have to use one of the two options they offer you. You can get that at Lulu and CreateSpace for just the cost of the book (and neither of those options would think of charging you extra to upload your own cover!)
Please, by all that is good and holy, stay away from Outskirts. They are charging vastly more for their services than anyone ever should. For $999 you can go over to CreateSpace.com and get a custom (as in designed specifically for you) cover or possibly some editing, plus almost everything offered by the "Diamond Package." Go to Lulu.com, lay down $999 and you'll get vastly more for your money as well.
As for me, as the next thing on my list is to figure out how to block Outskirts Press as an advertiser on my blog.