Outskirts Press was founded in 2002 by Brent Sampson and has quickly grown into one of the leading group of Print-on-demand publishers and providers of book publishing solutions. Based in Denver, Colorado, Outskirts Press was recognised as the third fastest growing privately held company in Colorado. Sampson himself has proved to be a widely successful author of POD publishing guides, including Sell Your Book on Amazon and Self-Publishing simplified.
For these articles, I am going to concentrate on the most important and popular service used by authors using POD publishers, a 200pp black and white paperback/hardback edition.
Outskirts Press offers four distinct publishing packages ranging from $199 to $999 with optional services available to each one. The publishing process takes 90-120 days once the manuscript has been submitted and accepted and contract signed. An expedited service is available as with many large POD publishers at $99, though Outskirts Press indicates in their free Self-Publishing Guide that this will reduce the period of time to around 50 to 90 days. Again, the perspective author needs to weigh up whether this extra cost is actually worth it. I have seen several other publishers (Booklocker, previously reviewed) who offer this kind of timeframe as standard. It should also be noted that using any of these expedited services with any POD publishers does not guarantee this timeframe. Bear in mind that the vast majority of sales is on-line, and feeding electronic files information to book databases, including Amazon.com, can take a number of weeks before the book becomes available to the preverbal ‘25000 on-line retailers’. Outskirts Press offers the normal ‘non-exclusive rights’ contract, which means Outskirts have only the right to print and distribute the book on behalf of the author.
There is one notable point on Outskirts Press submissions. They require a $35 refundable deposit with all submissions, which ultimately is used as a part payment against the chosen publishing package. One can only assume that this is either to prevent time-wasting submissions by authors who will never actually contract to Outskirts, or is a way of ‘sealing’ the author/publishing partnership. It is not something I am uncomfortable with and may reflect an urgency on their part to get an author's signature. Outskirts then assign a publishing representative and advise the author on their submission by email and also by an available direct phone line. To be fair to Outskirts Press, there are an abundance of POD publishers in the industry who are far too quick to lay their hands on the author’s cheque before even a cursory glance is given to the submitted manuscript/PDF file.
The following are the available packages from Outskirts Press:
Annual database storage to keep the file with Outskirts Press is an additional $18, many other POD publishers can charge anything upwards of $25.
The Emerald package is really only suitable for those authors wishing to simply have a proper printed copy of their finished book and does not include ISBN/EAN and online/trade distribution. The book will simply be available from the publisher own bookstore. The author will receive 1 paperback copy and a very basic interior and cover design.
The Sapphire package adds in on-line distribution and Ingram and Baker & Taylor database listing, trade discount, ISBN/EAN numbering. Also three paperback author copies and increased interior/cover choices.
The Ruby package looks like the best value for money and I would suggest it is the most widely bought service from Outskirts. It adds an increased on-line and trade distribution listing, increased interior/custom cover choices, six author paperback copies, and a laminated hardback option. The laminated hardback ‘option’ is in reality just that, an option to ‘upgrade’ and will actually cost the author an additional $199. I think this kind of upsell can be a bit misleading to authors, because if you actually want to take the ‘option’ then the package ups to $798. Again, there are many POD publishers who offer this hardback ‘option’ at a similar price, but Outskirts would have done better to have been more transparent with this ‘option’.
The Diamond package offers further custom interior and cover choices, a free E-Book (interesting way of describing something which already exists in the form of the finished PDF file and the author has paid for), Google listing, and the author can avail of the Author Loyalty Program with future discounts on subsequent books. This package also includes a full and proper hardback edition, ie one with a dust jacket and not the laminated format available in the Ruby package. I should note that, again, Outskirts Press try to sell the Custom Cover ‘option’ (there’s that word again!), when in reality it is not included and the author will have to shell out a further $299, and if they want the other hardback ‘option’, then we are looking at $1497.
The Outskirts Press site like many comparable POD publishers is informative and user friendly. Authors can sign in and monitor their book sales and progress via their own account. A Self-Publishing guide is available on free download. The site could do with more actual book promotion but to be fair, Outskirts Press are clearly defining themselves in the author solutions field.
Outskirts Press also offers further marketing, indexing and editing services as options for submitting authors. Paperback retail prices range from approximately $9 to $14 and hardbacks from $20 to $25. Royalties paid are dependent on the package selected and the retail price set by the author.
Overall, Outskirts Press is run by a CEO with a thorough knowledge and background in self-publishing and marketing, and in a few short years they have established themselves as a leading POD solutions provider for authors. One only has to browse reputable POD writer forums in the United States to see how popular this publisher has become with authors looking to utilised the print on demand publishing option. They happily mix it in the industry with the big hitters like iUniverse, Authorhouse and Lulu.
Outskirts Press sell their POD services in a positive and upfront manner and demonstrate how modern digital print-publishing has come to the fore in the industry. I have outlined above some minor niggles I have with their ‘option’ add-ons which can be a little misleading to the uninitiated author to POD. However, their publishing packages are flexible enough to suit most POD authors needs, from the novice to the proficient author. While their pricing may not come in at the sharpest end of some of their competition, they strike me as an accomplished, accessible and open as a POD publisher can be for any author to work with.
If there is one area that irks me, it has to be their reliance on cookie-cutter methods when it comes to some of their book covers, and in particular, their press releases. I have seen far too many grammatically poor and clearly rushed 'copy' to convince me this is the kind of author solutions service I would allow edit my book manuscript.
Overall, Outskirts Press strike me as an economical nuts and bolts service for entry-level self-publishing authors, but perhaps not for the more serious and accomplished authors who are looking to make a critical impact using the services Outskirts Press offer.
UPDATE: June, 2010.
Outskirts Press become an authorised ISBN agent for Bowker.