Guy Kawasaki Step 2 to Enchantment

When I attended the Inc. 500/5000 conference last month my favorite presenter was Guy Kawasaki, who (along with being incredibly witty) offered an informative session about cultivating and maintaining “enchantment” in your customers or clients (or in our case at Outskirts Press, authors).  So over the next few weeks I will summarize each of the steps Guy discussed, along with how it is applicable to our self-publishing company, Outskirts Press, and perhaps it will also help you apply the information to your own entrepreneurial efforts (starting a business, running a company or yes, even marketing a published book).  And, in the meantime, you should get Guy’s book, “Enchantment” for the total skinny.

Step 2 is to achieve trustworthiness.

People, by their general nature, tend to be initially leery of businesses and especially of “sales people.”  People are so leery of “sales people,” in fact, that often those positions are the most difficult to fill from a recruiting stand-point. That’s right, you can’t even pay people to be sales people in some cases! Businesses have counteracted this fact by arriving upon a whole host of other words for sales people: consultant, adviser, waiter, advocate, specialist, etc.  Guy’s point during the conference was that if salespeople made initial steps to achieve trustworthiness, their goals of “selling something” would be easier.  His position is that one accomplishes this by finding common ground, finding something upon which both the sales person and the customer can agree.  It does not even have to be related to the product or service. It can initially be about anything.

You also achieve trustworthiness by helping people without receiving anything in return. Social media is showing us that a common and effective method for achieving trustworthiness is to operate with transparency and give away valuable information for free. “Social media specialists” have even arrived upon formulas for success that suggest for every blog posting or status update in which you sell something, you should provide between 3 to 7  postings/updates containing free, valuable information or advice.   At Outskirts Press, we try to maintain this balance on our Facebook page,and our blog, and while there are months where the balance is more even than others, I feel that we accomplish this step relatively successfully.

Is Outskirts Press the most successful self-publishing company?

Is Outskirts Press the most successful self-publishing company? Certainly it depends upon who you ask, and by what parameters “success” is being judged, but Inc. Magazine seems to think so, if their list of the top 5000 privately held companies in America holds any merit (which many would argue it does). For the fourth year in a row, Outskirts Press finds itself on this very prestigious list, which ranks the success of private companies (as defined by profitable growth) across a three year span of time.  I won’t delve into the mathematics or business logistics for why accomplishing this feat four years in a row is difficult and, instead, I’ll just post the press release.  We couldn’t have this ongoing (unprecedented in the self-publishing industry) success without the continued support of our amazing authors and our talented production, sales, accounting, IT, and marketing folks. Thank you!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Outskirts Press Makes Inc’s 5000 Fastest Growing List for the Fourth Year in a Row 

Inc. Magazine again named self-publisher Outskirts Press one of the fastest growing private companies in America, marking the self-publisher’s fourth straight year on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list. 

September 4, 2012 – Denver, CO – Outskirts Press, the fastest growing, full service self-publishing and book marketing company, was again recognized  by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately-held companies in the country when it landed on the Inc. 5000 list for the fourth straight year.  

Inc., Magazine’s annual list represents an overview of the most robust companies in America, despite the current, less-than-robust economy.   Whatever these companies are doing, they’re doing it right.  Their median growth rate was 97%, they created more than 400,000 jobs, and they grossed nearly 300 billion dollars.

Placement on the prestigious list is based on revenue growth from 2008 through 2011, and Inc’s tally reads like a roll call of America’s business powerhouses.  Over the years the list has included such notables as Intuit, Go Daddy, Timberland, Microsoft, Patagonia and Oracle, to name a few.

“We’re honored, of course, to be included once again in such a stellar collection of entrepreneurial stars,” said Brent Sampson, CEO of Outskirts Press.  “Inc. Magazine’s acknowledgement of our continued expansion is a testament to our commitment to  our quality, customer service, and value, and just goes to show what is possible when you bring highly-talented authors together with highly-talented publishing artisans.”

Outskirts Press first appeared on the Inc. 500 list in 2009 as the 268th fastest growing company in America.  In 2010 Outskirts Press was on the Inc. 5000 list again at number 1266 and again in 2011 at number 3088. For the fourth year in a row, Outskirts Press ranks in the top 5000 at number 4530 and continues a healthy annual growth rate of twenty percent.

Outskirts Press’ four straight years on the Inc. list shows the company’s continuing vanguard status in the self-publishing industry, an industry that is itself doing more than its part to buoy up the economy.  87 percent of all books produced today are put out by small presses or self-publishing companies.  The number of non-traditional books produced in 2011 increased by 169 percent, while the growth of traditional publishers was only 5 percent.  In fact, 8000 to 11,000 publishers enter the market every year, and most of them are self-publishers.

Within this competitive field Outskirts Press has maintained its sturdy and stable growth and continues to be the top company authors choose when they decide to go the high-quality, full-service self-publishing route. Learn more at http://outskirtspress.com.

About Outskirts Press: Outskirts Press offers high-quality, full-service self-publishing and book marketing services for writers and professionals who are seeking a cost-effective, fast, and flexible way to publish and distribute their books worldwide while retaining 100% of their rights, 100% of their profits, and 100% of the creative control. www.outskirtspress.com.

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Outskirts Press, Inc., 10940 S. Parker Rd. – 515, Parker, Colorado 80134

http://outskirtspress.com  1-888-OP-BOOKS

Self-Publishing Verdict: EXCELLENT!

I seem to have started another series of postings in the middle of the longer series I was writing about our Self Publishing Facebook Achievement awards. I’ll continue with that topic next. But in the meantime, here is one more direct communication I received from an author recently that I wanted to highlight because it once again establishes something what I feel is one important difference between Outskirts Press and the other firms out there: we like cultivating professional relationships with our authors and it is important to us that they succeed. This one comes from Paul Binford, who recently published The Shademakers.

“Hi Brent,

You sent me an welcome e-mail back in March. Since then my book, The Shademakers, has been published and I have received my author’s copies. The package arrived only a week after I ordered them. Thanks for the speediness on your part.

I’ve just filled out the survey – What do you think? – which I was happy to do and I gave all “excellent” responses. I think you guys did a great job. The whole process was user friendly and I’m impressed with everything. The cover photo was picked out from somewhere, and I would say it does just what a cover is supposed to do. The short summary on the back cover was revised a bit, for the better, by the design staff, and I’m quite pleased with how it all turned out.

The Outskirts representatives, Jodee and Elaine, were very efficient and timely with replies to various questions. Kudos also to your webmaster. I usually have trouble with computers but your website is seamless and it works! No glitches.

I’m way behind in the marketing part of it, there’s about a hundred e-mails backed up. It’s at the end of the semester at my school, my wife and I just moved, all of that has added up to a hectic pace which hasn’t allowed for much time. I’ve just gotten to the “ripple effect” e-mail, which seems to be going well. I’m surprised at the support I’m getting from my friends here in Japan. They’re promising to read my book, write a review on Amazon, share it on Facebook, things like that. I still have a lot of work to do in that department.

Just wanted to say thanks for the great job at Outskirts Press.

Best regards,
Paul Binford”

Congrats, Paul! Your book looks great!

Paul mentions a few things here that give a little “behind the scenes” on some of the other intangible advantages of self publishing with Outskirts Press — the benefits that naturally happen but that are difficult to “market” to new authors. The first is the “What did you think” survey that all our first-time authors are presented with within the first month after publication.  We ask them to rate our performance on a number of different categories so we can see how we’re doing and if there is any room for improvement.  Most survey responses, like Paul’s, are all excellent, and that’s always good to see.

The second was Paul’s reference to our service.

The third was his reference to the marketing emails which are backing up due to his travels.  This is our Marketing COACH program, which helps focus authors on productive marketing tactics and options after their book is published.  No other publisher offers anything like it, it’s free, and it’s only available with Outskirts Press. Just sayin’…

Self Publishing Reviews

In my last post I set out to compare self publishing companies based upon 4 of the top 5 self publishing reviews. I applied a numeric value to each company based upon their relative ranking in each source, and that resulted in the following result totals for the top 5 self publishing companies ranked side by side (out of a possible 34 points):

Outskirts Press 30 Points
Company 3 24 Points
Company 5 19 Points
Company 2 13 Points
Company 14 13 Points

Upon looking at that data, I realized that some sources were weighted more heavily than others, since each source didn’t share the same value system. One had a 13 point value system while another had a 4 point value system. So for the purposes of this next chart, I will apply a 10-point value system to each of the four sources to give each source equal weight and therefore arrive at a more accurate total:

The way one does that is as follows:

TopTen Reviews already has a 10 point system, so the points there remain the same.

Top Consumer Reviews has an 8 point system, which means each point is worth 1.25 points to reach a 10-point system.

Top Self Publishing Firms has a 13 point value system, so to bring that into a 10-point system, each point actually is worth .77 points.

Previously I applied a 4 point value system to the categories in The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, but since one of those values was a negative number for the “publishers to avoid” category, in reality it was a 3 point system with an exception so now each point in that book really becomes worth 3.33.

And that leaves us with this chart below, which, interestingly enough, is not significantly different from the previous chart. Value is value. Good self publishing companies are good self publishing companies.

TopTen Top Consumer Fine Print Top Firms Total
Outskirts Press 8 8.75 6.66 10 33.41
Company 2 3.33 9.24 12.57
Company 3 10 5 -1 8.47 22.47
Company 4 3.33 7.7 11.03
Company 5 7 10 6.93 23.93
Company 6 6.66 6.16 12.82
Company 7 -1 5.39 4.39
Company 8 3.75 -1 4.62 7.37
Company 9 2 3.33 3.85 9.18
Company 10 9 -1 3.08 11.08
Company 11 4 -1 2.31 5.31
Company 12 10 1.54 11.54
Company 13 -1 0.77 -0.23
Company 14 6 7.5 3.33 16.83
Company 15 5 2.5 3.33 10.83
Company 16 3 3.33 6.33
Company 17 1 1
Company 18 10 10
Company 19 6.25 6.25
Company 20 1.25 1.25

Out of a possible perfect score of 40 points, the top 5 self publishing companies according to the combined data from these self publishing reviews are:

Outskirts Press 33.41 Points
Company 5 23.93 Points
Company 3 22.47 Points
Company 14 16.83 Points
Company 6 12.82 Points

As stated in the last posting, I don’t name competitors. Even so, this analysis seems somewhat indicative of the value we offer at Outskirts Press, according to the combined views of four 3rd-party self publishing review sources.

As you compare publishing companies when it comes time to make your publishing decision, keep these 3 tips in mind:

1. Consider the source. How biased is it? How rational? How knowledgeable? Does it seem like a rant, or a legitimate, valuable piece of information that you can apply your own, personal viewpoint to?

2. Consider the date of the information. Is it out of date? Years old? No longer applicable? Since people are becoming accustomed to the immediacy of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, they forget that information is available “forever” on the Internet. As a result, they assume information they read today was written today, when in reality, you may be viewing information that is years old, was written on April Fool’s day, or in some other way is no longer informative or important. You can typically find a date for all information if you look hard enough.

3. Investigate multiple sources. As you can see from the combined scores of the 4 sources above, no company is absolutely perfect. That’s because they’re run by human beings. Some sources you uncover will love one company and hate another. And a different source will have exactly the opposite opinion. That’s because sources are run by human beings, too, and everyone has an opinion. So find multiple sources of information and apply the statistical analysis method suggested above.

10th funniest self-publishing contractual clause

Over the next few weeks I’ll examine the top ten funniest contractual clauses from a competitor’s self-publishing contract and dissect what the legalese means and why it’s “funny.”

#10 Funniest Clause from the Competitor’s Contract – You will provide a List Price for each Title which will be at or below (a) the price at which you list or offer that title via any other sales channel; and (b) the price at which you sell such title in physical form to customers through any distribution method.

What it means:  If you’re going to publish your book with this publisher, you have to allow them to sell it for the same price, or less, than you sell your own book anywhere else.

Why it’s funny: This clause even prevents you from selling the book yourself (from your website or in person) for less than what your publisher sells it for, and in essence, mandates the price you must sell YOUR book for everywhere. 

Would you rather set your own retail price and keep 100% of the net profits? Publish a book with Outskirts Press.

Next time, #9…

Best self publisher for reviews and awards

In the previous post I looked at the number or 4 or 5 star reviews received on Amazon for books published by the top 6 major online self publishing firms.  That chart is below again as a refresher.  This time the chart is in order from highest to lowest, which, admittedly, is how the previous chart should have been, too (rather than the order it was in, which was the order in which I conducted the research).

Publishing Firm Percentage of 4 or 5 star ratings
Outskirts Press 52%
Company U 37%
Company C 27%
Company A 24%
Company X 19%
Company L 13%

My conclusion was that Outskirts Press books and authors receive statistically more and statistically higher reviews on Amazon than our 5 competitors.  In fact, it’s not even close. 52% compared to the next highest, Publisher U at 37%.  Remember, I don’t mention our competitors by name, but it’s probably not too hard to decipher this table…

Reader reviews are all well and good — in fact, we’re proud to come out on top in this analysis —  but I was curious if there was a correlation between high book reviews on Amazon and results within a widely recognized and valued book award contest. So I browsed the results of the ForeWord Reviews BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS that were just listed in the July/August issue of ForeWord Reviews trade magazine to compare these same 6 companies:

Publishing Firm Book of the Year Awards
Outskirts Press 4
Company U 4
Company C 1
Company A 0
Company X 0
Company L 0

What do you know? There is almost a direct correlation between the percentage of 4-5 star reviews on Amazon and the number of book awards won by a major book contest.

Not surprisingly, those publishers whose books received less than 25% 4-5 star reviews didn’t win any awards at all.  And this in spite of the volume/quantity advantage they have.  For instance, Publishers A and X publish approximately 2-4 times as many books as we do in a month, and Publisher L claims to publish about ten times as many.  Well, quantity doesn’t translate to quality, as you can see here.

I guess this also proves that Publisher L’s CEO was accurate when, in a 2009 New York Times article, he claimed that his company has “easily published the largest collection of bad poetry in the history of mankind.”

I don’t get the press that he gets (probably thankfully, because I’ve been known to put my foot in my mouth on occasion, too), so for the convenience of NY Times journalists everywhere, they are welcome to my analysis above, and this handy-dandy quote: Outskirts Press easily publishes better books, on average, than our five major competitors.

Actually, we seem to publish better books, on average, than any of our competitors. I searched the 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards for all 20 of the publishers I’ve been posting about in the past and I couldn’t find any that can compete with Outskirts Press.

Just sayin’…

Best Self Publishing Sites

In my last post, when I set out to compare the “best self publishing sites” based upon four self publishing review sources, I applied a numeric value to each company based upon their relative ranking in each source. That resulted in the following average totals for the top 5 best self publishing sites, out of a possible 34 points:

Outskirts Press 30 Points
Company 3 24 Points
Company 5 19 Points
Company 2 13 Points
Company 14 13 Points

Upon looking at that data, I realized that some sources were weighted more heavily than others, since each source didn’t share the same value system. One had a 13 point value system while another had a 3 point value system. So for the purposes of this next chart, I will apply the same 10-point value system to all four self publishing review sources to give each source equal weight and therefore arrive at a more accurate total:

The way one does that is as follows:

TopTen Reviews already has a 10 point system, so the points there remain the same.

Top Consumer Reviews has an 8 point system, which means each point is worth 1.25 points to reach a 10-point system.

Top Self Publishing Firms has a 13 point value system, so to bring that into a 10-point system, each point actually is worth .77 points.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing has a 3 point system, so each point becomes worth 3.33.

And that leaves us with this chart below, which, interestingly enough, is not significantly different from the previous chart I posted yesterday. Value is value. The best self publishing sites are the best self publishing sites:

TopTen Top Consumer Fine Print Top Firms Total
Outskirts
Press
8 8.75 6.66 10 33.41
Company 5 7 10 6.93 23.93
Company 3 10 5 -1 8.47 22.47
Company 14 6 7.5 3.33 16.83
Company 6 6.66 6.16 12.82
Company 2 3.33 9.24 12.57
Company 12 10 1.54 11.54
Company 10 9 -1 3.08 11.08
Company 4 3.33 7.7 11.03
Company 15 5 2.5 3.33 10.83
Company 18 10 10
Company 9 2 3.33 3.85 9.18
Company 8 3.75 -1 4.62 7.37
Company 16 3 3.33 6.33
Company 19 6.25 6.25
Company 11 4 -1 2.31 5.31
Company 7 -1 5.39 4.39
Company 20 1.25 1.25
Company 17 1 1
Company 13 -1 0.77 -0.23

Out of a possible perfect score of 40 points, the 5 best self publishing sites according to the combined data from four different review sources are:

Outskirts Press 33.41 Points
Company 5 23.93 Points
Company 3 22.47 Points
Company 14 16.83 Points
Company 6 12.82 Points

As stated in the last posting, I don’t name our competitors. That wouldn’t be very sporting to Company #13.  But it’s easy enough to tell who is who by reading Top Self-Publishing Firms. The order in that book determined the order I used — well, at least for the first 13.

Okay, okay, I hear some of you saying, “Yeah, yeah. You’re the president of Outskirts Press and you’re saying you’re #1. What a shocker!”  You’re right, as the CEO, I am biased toward this information.  Why shouldn’t I be?  After all,  I wouldn’t be blogging about this analysis if I was the CEO of Company 13.  But the fact that I’m involved with the #1 company doesn’t make the average scores any less valid; it just makes it easier to understand why I’m taking the time to write about it.  I’m proud of our company, our people, and our authors.

And that leaves me with this: As you are conducing your own search for the best self publishing sites, there are three things you should keep in mind as you do your research.  I’ll discuss those three things next time…