Even with a 99% author satisfaction rate, Outskirts Press faces 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. 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 #3 complaint I discuss today has received more complaints than the complaint I will discuss next time. That’s not necessarily true.
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 #3: Interior Formatting
I’ll admit that we’ve probably created our own problem here. We are perhaps too flexible with meeting an author’s interior formatting requests because we want them to have exactly the book they want. Many of our competitors fall into two categories as it relates to interior formatting:
1) They either require the author to submit their own interior print-ready file
2) They disregard all the author’s formatting requests and create an interior based upon the genre of the book
The problem with the first scenario is that, like it or not, many authors lack the technical proficiency to aesthetically design the interior of a high-quality book. So they produce something in Word at 8.5 x 11 and then submit it to a DIY publisher, which artificially resizes it to 6×9. It’s no wonder those books from those publishers don’t win any awards. And it’s also no wonder that this leads to the continued stigma of “self-published books.”
The problem with the second scenario is that it prevents the author from having any say in the matter whatsoever. Sometimes that’s good. But usually it’s better if the author can participate. After all, it’s their book.
So that leads me to the “Outskirts Press complaints” regarding interior formatting. In a particular case, for example, when the author reviewed his digital proofs before authorizing publication, the interior formatting did not meet his expectations. The formatting might have been fine; in fact, in our professional judgment it was probably even better than what the author wanted, but none of that was important. What mattered was that the author was expecting one thing and received something else. I don’t like our authors to be surprised. Ah, it would be so much easier if Outskirts Press fell into scenario #1 above because every author would simply submit their own print-ready file. Sure, many of the books we published might look unprofessional. Sure, our books would win far fewer awards. Sure, the author might need to hire a designer separately for substantial additional cost. But it would avoid this complaint.
Since I’m a writer, I know how important book interiors are to authors. So I wanted to offer our authors a choice. Therefore, we offer 4 different interior options:
|We offer a standard interior formatting option which delivers a custom formatting job based upon industry best practices for the genre of the book. This is included with every package.|
|We also accept print-ready files submission with some of our packages.|
|We also offer an optional formatting option for a nominal fee (less than one hundred bucks) which allows the author and designer to collaborate on a mutually accepted “style sheet” that defines all the aesthetic elements of the formatting in advance.|
|Lastly, we offer a page-by-page custom formatting option for a per-page price.|
With so many options comes some confusion. For example, one author submitted her manuscript formatted at 8.5 x 11 in Word and then was surprised that it had to be reformatted in order to be published at 5 x 8. Our production team should have done a better job bringing this inevitability to her attention in advance, and we’ve improved those publishing communications. Ultimately, this becomes a process of education and disseminating information about formatting on our website. Our publishing consultants also reiterate the process and the things to be aware of at the beginning and throughout the process.
Our “style sheet” option that I referred to above has been perhaps the most successful step we’ve taken to mitigate this particular complaint. Not only does this option give the author a very affordable method for customizing the look of the book, but it establishes in no uncertain terms that only with this option does some customization become available. Yes, we still custom format every book manually and individually, but there is a business difference between doing that with the involvement of an author and doing it according to industry best practices regarding fonts, margins, headings, etc.
I feel, ultimately, that we’ve taken the best path for our authors, by granting them the most flexibility. And if that leads to a complaint by an author who didn’t read the website, I guess we must deal with that .01% in the interest of the greater good — publishing high-quality books for award-winning authors.
Outskirts Press Kudos #3
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 think that Outskirts Press is very professional, and covers all aspects of publishing thoroughly. I was quite impressed at how promptly both my publishing consultant and author representative always responded to my questions. I would recommend Outskirts Press to anyone that wants to self-publish a book.” – Michael Kovacevich