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Top 5 Outskirts Press Complaints #2

November 1, 2010

These complaints will not be presented in order from “greatest number of complaints received” to “least number of complaints received” because that implies that the #1 complaint I discussed previously has received more complaints than the issue I’ll address today.  That’s not necessarily true.  With a 99% author satisfaction rate, Outskirts Press faces approximately 1 or 2 complaints a month from our published authors. That’s bound to happen, statistically, when you publish books by roughly 150 different authors a month.  So I thought over the next few posts, I would address the Top 5 “Outskirts Press Complaints” that arise, along with what leads to those complaints and what Outskirts Press does–and is doing–to mitigate similar complaints in the future.

It is my hope that by discussing these complaints with transparency that future Outskirts Press authors will be more familiar with issues that have caught an author off-guard in the past. 

I’ve numbered them 1-5 for the purposes of identifying them in the blog headline, and I will discuss each of these Outskirts Press complaints alphabetically.

Outskirts Press Complaint #2: Book Sales

Or more accurately, this complaint should perhaps be called “lack of book sales” because our authors who sell lots of books and make a lot of money obviously don’t complain.  When we mailed a royalty check to Gang Chen for $77,000 for 3 months of book sales, he didn’t complain.

This is an emotional topic. As an author myself, I can certainly identify with it. One of my books, Sell Your Book on Amazon, was an Amazon bestseller, and has an average lifetime sales rank of about 30,000.  That’s pretty good! Nevertheless, even I want to complain to my publisher about my book sales.  I understand this feeling.   Why am I not selling more books? Why am I not making more money?    Why didn’t my aunt who promised to buy my book on Amazon actually do it? Doesn’t she love me?  Doesn’t anybody like my book?

These are common feelings and emotions for all writers.   But they’re not legitimate complaints in this day and age of self-publishing.   It used to be that publishers were the gate-keepers. They rejected manuscripts that they knew wouldn’t make any money or sell any books. As a result, very few people got to be published authors. Now, the barrier to entry is low.  Anybody can publish a book.  But the audience, the readers, have become the gate-keepers.  They now determine what books sell and what books make money.   If it were easy to make a million dollars publishing a book, everyone would do it.  The book still has to be good. It still has to be high-quality. It still has to be promoted to the right people. And the timing still has to be right.

Sure, you can substantially increase your odds of success by choosing the right publisher, but as any publisher will tell you, traditional publishers lose money on many of the books they accept (you know, the ones they thought would make money).

Ultimately, I think this complaint comes from a number of different perspectives, the two notable ones being misunderstanding and fear. I’ll discuss misunderstanding first.  Many authors are under the impression that all publishers actively and aggressively promote the books they publish. This is simply untrue.  Even large conglomerate traditional publishers like Random House allocate the lion’s share of their marketing dollars on just a handful of books they publish each year. Small presses, university presses, independent presses, and self-publishing presses expect the author’s full attention and effort when it comes to marketing.   And with this reality comes the ugly truth: You won’t sell many copies of your book without promoting it, even if your book is good, so plan on investing marketing effort and dollars once your book is published.   And even if you promote it, there’s no guarantee you’ll sell many copies. If there was a guarantee, those New York publishers wouldn’t be going out of business.

With this ugly truth comes the secondary complaint related to fear, which is: the publisher must be stealing my money!   This is much easier to believe than the hard truth, which is, no one is buying the book.  As a writer, I understand this feeling, too.  And if I weren’t SO involved in the precise mechanics of how book sales are tracked and royalties are paid, it might even be easy to trick myself into believing.  But the fact is that with over 6,000 published titles, Outskirts Press doesn’t have the capacity to deal with book sales data manually.  Computers handle everything.  Reports come directly from Ingram concerning all the wholesale book orders they have received for every book. That data is loaded without human intervention directly into our Author’s Publishing Center where it is reported to authors on a monthly basis, along with supplemental information regarding the book sales we have received directly from Outskirts Press Direct and the author’s direct e-book sales, if applicable.

So allow me to summarize this complaint with an industry wide comment regarding us and all our competitors.  If you are dealing with a reputable, large self-publishing firm (and there are about 10-15 “big ones” I would be fully comfortable vouching for),  you can rest assured that none of them are stealing from you.  It simply doesn’t make any sense from a business perspective. They’ve (and we’ve) invested literally millions of dollars building the company, the client lists, the website, the back-end procedures and operating policies. Why risk all that by stealing a couple thousand dollars?  You don’t, and none of the major self-publishing companies do.

Outskirts Press Kudos #2

To offset the tone of these postings about Outskirts Press complaints, I figured I would also include a comment from one of our published authors at the bottom of each posting. We receive so many positive comments each month that we never have a “place” to put them all, so by adding some to my blog, we’ll create another opportunity for our authors’ wonderful success stories to be shared.  We post many more testimonials on our website here every month.

“I am very impressed with Outskirts Press.  I have friends who published with other companies that were a lot more expensive and did a lot less.  Jeremy, my author rep, was phenomenal, always answering my questions promptly and assisting with understanding the process.  Because of his assistance, I am submitting two more manuscripts for publishing.  It’s been a great experience and I’m thrilled with the outcome.” – K J Sharpe

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