Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ye Gods II: Outskirts Press Responds

So, a while ago I wrote a post instructing authors to run screaming away from Outskirts Press.  They just noticed I wrote it and responded.  Now, for some reason I'm not seeing their comment on the original post, so I thought I'd copy it and respond directly here:

Keryl, You're right, our pricing is much different from CreateSpace. If you look deeper, you'll discover that our fee-based services are actually lower than the fee-based services offered by CreateSpace. Please feel free to re-examine their service fees on their website and then perhaps post an update to your blog that more accurately reflects our value. We're happy to help you do that by providing some some details below for your convenience:

CreateSpace offers something similar to our Ruby ($699) or Diamond ($999) packages for $785 and you can see those details on the CreateSpace website at https://www.createspace.com/Services/TotalDesignFreedomStandard.jsp

Although this service doesn't include some the inclusions of our Ruby or Diamond packages.

When you examine CreateSpace's service fees, you may notice that their a la carte prices are actually quite a bit higher than ours. For instance, they charge $499 (https://www.createspace.com/Services/UniqueBookCover.jsp) for the same custom cover design that we charge $299 for.

Their copyediting service is $0.019 cents per word (https://www.createspace.com/Services/ComprehensiveCopyediting.jsp), whereas ours is $0.014 cents per word. For an average 60,000 word document, that equates to a difference of $300 less with Outskirts Press at http://outskirtspress.com/p/editing

As for marketing services, their prices are actually quite a bit more expensive than ours. Their press release with distribution service is $598 (https://www.createspace.com/Services/PressReleaseWithDistribution.jsp ) compared with ours for $219 at http://outskirtspress.com/p/customrelease (and if you published with us, it's even less).

Their book video service is $1,249 (https://www.createspace.com/Services/VideoBookTrailers.jsp
) compared with ours at $799, and our authors save 50% off that price! As a CreateSpace author, is CreateSpace offering you a 50% discount on their "egregious" book video fees? Want a less expensive one than you can get anywhere else? http://outskirtspress.com/p/videotrailer

Speaking of not free, CreateSpace even charges $199 for Sell Sheets (https://www.createspace.com/Services/SellSheets.jsp), whereas Outskirts Press authors can print (and even create/modify) their Sell Sheets within their Publishing Center freely whenever they want.

It's true CreateSpace doesn't offer the Amazon Extreme services, although based upon their prices above, if they did, you can bet their prices would be more than ours.

All that, PLUS you get your paperback on Barnes & Noble. The good news for CreateSpace authors is that even if you publish with CreateSpace, you can benefit from affordable Outskirts Press marketing options at http://outskirtspress.com/marketing

Outskirts Press

Now, everything they've got posted there may be true, but, that was not the point of my original post.  I compared what it costs to get a book printed with Outskirts to what it costs to get a book printed with CreateSpace and with Lulu.com.  I did this with a professional author, someone who is trying to make a living selling books, in mind.  They didn't mention Lulu in the response, so I'll skip it as well.

To make a physical book, with an ISBN, barcode, distribution to major retailers (including Barnes and Noble and Amazon), and a customizable cover costs $39.00 on CreateSpace.   That $39.00 gets you the option of something like 15 book sizes, more than 20 customizable covers, and two paper colors. 

Outskirts' least expensive option is $199.99.  They take your MS and turn it into a book.  There is no barcode, no ISBN, no distribution.  You have the option of one size, one paper grade, and one of two customizable covers.  They then give you one "free" copy.  

You've got an MS.  You want to sell it.  Which of those two options looks better?

Now, let me go a bit further.  Outskirts does not appear to make the bulk of their money printing books.  They appear to make their money selling services to authors.  They may or may not have better prices that CreateSpace, but here's the thing, I don't recommend using any of the a la carte services of any of the DIY publishers.  They are, for the most part, a waste of money.  Go find places where other indies hang out, make friends, and you can find those same services for a much better price.  Better yet, learn how to do a lot of them yourself.  

There was one service Outskirts offered that really pissed me off, and it's mentioned briefly in the response above:  The Amazon Extreme Service.  It cost $299.00 and gets you three things, a Kindle version of your book, the Look Inside feature for your book on Amazon, and ten tags.  Words are insufficient to explain how big of a rip off this is.  This is taking advantage of people who don't know how CreateSpace or Amazon DTP works and robbing them blind.  So, let me take a minute here to explain in detail what sort of work you'd have to do to get these things for yourself.

A: Go to CreateSpace and set up a book.
B: There will be an option that says something like: Amazon Look Inside: yes or no?
C: Check the yes square.

You are now signed up for Look Inside.  Depending on how fast with a mouse you are, that took you less than one second.

D: Once your book is up live on Amazon, scroll down your product page.
E: Find the tags section.
F: Type in the tags you want.  (Outskirts will type in ten tags.  Amazon lets any user add up to fifteen.) 

To further hammer home exactly how blindingly easy the tag thing is, authors routinely do tag swaps.  I click on your tags, you click on mine, both of our books are a little easier to find.  And (this is something I'll go into more detail on in a later post) it's also not all that useful.  Tag is not a synonym for keyword (which is an impression Outskirts tries to create) so the only way a lot of tags makes it easier for someone to find your book is if they specifically search tags.  I've got over 200 votes on the tag "true love" for Sylvianna, which means Sylvianna is in second or third place for total "true love" tags.  If you search keyword, true love, books I didn't write pop up.  How many tags of true love does the number one book on the list have?  Zero.  So, not only are they selling you a service that anyone can do for free, it's not even terribly useful.

But what about getting your book up on Kindle.  That's hard and scary and requires a lot of technical savvy, right?  Um... no. 

A: Fill out forms (Outskirts sends you a copy of the forms, and you fill them out, then they reenter the data.)
B: Copy and paste all the information (category, back cover blurb, etc...) from the print version into the kindle version.
C: Upload your .jpeg cover image
D: Upload your .doc text.

Congratulations!  In two or three days you've got a Kindle book. (Or, according to Outskirts: four weeks.)   From the way they describe what they do, it looks like someone at Outskirts signs you up with Amazon DTP.  Which, once again, you can do for yourself for free.

All told, it took me less than half an hour do to all three of these things, and less than a minute for the first two.  I'm not a computer wizard.  But I can read, and I can follow simple directions, and I sure as hell don't need to pay someone close to three hundred dollars to do that for me!  You don't either.  As I said in my previous post, if you want someone else to do this, go find someone charging about fifteen dollars, which is a decent price for the amount of work involved in doing this.

Once upon a time services that catered to self-published authors were called vanity presses.  They were called this because, by the time you were done, you had a book to stick on your shelf at home, sell to a few friends, and that was about it.  If selling your books is your career, if you want to make a living at this, if you want something beyond your name on the cover of a book, Outskirts is a bad choice.  They charge too much.  Here's how my 424 page, 9x6 novel does at a $14.99 price point with about a 40% author discount:  CreateSpace, I make $3.03 per book sold.  Outskirts, I end up owing them $2.27 for each book printed.  I have to jack the price up to $16.95, and then I only make $0.42 per book.  If you sign with Outskirts you cannot price your book low enough to compete with the hordes of people publishing on CreateSpace.  And that, more than any other reason, is why you should run away from Outskirts.  


  1. Your information based on experience is most helpful. Anon.

  2. So, SO helpful. I am ready to publish and I am just agonizing over the plan. Your article was extremely helpful as I was considering both options. Good luck in your future books! Joleen

  3. Thank You, your article was very helpful. Maybe I missed something though. If the author receives 100% royalties how are you owing them $2.27 per book printed,(mentioned in your final paragraph)if CreateSpace keeps something like 40% of your royalties? Is it because Outskirts charges that much more than CreateSpace to actually print the book?

  4. @Anon. Yes, they charge you so much more to print your book that at a price point where you make a nice profit at CS, you still haven't paid for the cost of the book at O.

  5. ... very interesting post :)
    I am starting now to look for a self-publishing press, for a collection os short stories I intend to publish; but I am getting lost among dozens of companies :(
    Does anyone have any more input/suggestion/comment on which one is the best solution? I am looking into CreateSpace and others at the moment.

    1. At this point, I tend to think CreateSpace for physical books, Amazon KDP for Kindle, and Smashwords for the rest of the ebookery. If you want a hardcover or a very specific sort of printed book, then it appears Lulu.com does a good job.

      Granted, I haven't shopped this sort of thing around in a while and there may be newcomers to the field that are better than whom I'm suggesting, but those are my picks for publishing.

  6. Every time I look into companies, I always come back to Createspace. I would only go LuLu if I wanted hardcover. What I will say though is that, before I googled Outskirts,because of the name, I did not know they were a self-publishing company. Outskirts press sounds like a "legitimate, publishing house" where the name Createspace, screams kids with crayons. I wish they would change their name. Otherwise I am CS all the way.

  7. Outskirts might claim to offer cheaper editing and book design and ad marketing, but I can assure you there versions and services are way crappier! I published with them. You are right the only good thing is that they can get your paperback on Barnes and Noble but the book itself, even though you set the price, is not cheap, so you wont sell any. They also have a $25.00 a year fee for their service upkeep on your web page on their site, this is also a poor quality page. Their cover designs are horrible. I had to do my own. The book was well formatted and quality looking but printing costs were high and even though you can set your cost the overall cost of the paperback is too high. Postage is expensive also. You do have to pay $99.00 extra for the ebook, which sucks. They give you an ebook version but you cant upload it to amazon or anywhere, it is locked. You can only email it. The ebook also retails at a minimum of $5.00 on their site. I ended up taking the book and having a local guy format it for a local printer. Outskirts offer crap marketing advice in their emails and usually they are to upsell you more of their overpriced very subpar services. Also it is $1000.00 to publish plus ten books but I think I had to pay the postage, which was huge. They only have printers in america. Also there offer of editing was costly and they had a clause which said they could leave in up to 25% mistakes. They might offer lots of services but the quality of those services is really bad and overpriced. Steer clear.

  8. Thank You Keryl!!! Found this post and the other one about Outskirts press while researching the company. I had narrowed down my choice between Outskirts and CS and was going to go with Outskirts until I read your articles. While I tend to take negative reviews with a grain of salt, simply because there are people who will be overly negative about everything and no company is going to please 100% of the people they serve, your articles put a logical spin on the downside of Outskirts and I really think that I'll be able to figure out self-publishing without paying them for the things I could do myself. So thanks for putting this out there and for helping would be authors sort through all the information that can be so overwhelming.

  9. Question:
    Is there a reason one couldn't publish with let's say Outskirts if their design worked for you but - retaining 100% rights which you should always make sure is the case - print mostly with Create Space because it's more cost effective while still maybe using another printing service for bookstores that allows them to return the unsold copies or even allow the bookstores to print your book themselves as long as they give you x per copy sold? What if I do all the design myself or pay a designer and not buy any self publishing package. Can't I use 5 different printing companies for different sales channels I have based upon what works best in the situation?

    Obviously I'm new to this but can't seem to find any articles that answer this question.

    Thank you!

    1. I don't see any reason why you CAN'T do it, but I'd think you probably wouldn't want to.

      I'm not a fan of any of the in-house design services. (Offered by Outskirts, CreateSpace, whoever.) All of them seemed over-priced to me. (Bear in mind, I haven't shopped for this in two years now, so, always, recheck this stuff.)

      My advice is to find someone who edits books, and have them edit. Then find someone for cover design. I don't know anyone who can really edit for themselves and most people can't do good graphic design.

      I do suggest learning how to lay out your own book in physical copy and as an ebook and doing that yourself. The learning curve on that isn't very steep, and assuming you've got a half-decent word processor you've already got all the tools you need for it.

      Selling in brick and mortar bookstores is a tricky subject, and, honestly, probably not worth the long term effort. If you've got a few pet stores that will take your book, great. Beyond that, POD through an electronic store (Amazon/Barnes and Noble) will probably more than cover the sales you're likely to have.

      Good luck to you,