Getting video testimonials for your business

While we were in the middle of the Outskirts Press Pre-Production series of blog postings in February, our Outskirts Press blog over at http://blog.outskirtspress.com introduced a video contest in association with Valentine’s Day, titled “Show Me the Love” where we asked our satisfied and successfully published authors to record a 1-3 minute video about either being a published author, their experience with Outskirts Press, or why they loved working with us.

The videos we received were great!  We posted them all on Facebook as we received them. Then our Facebook friends “liked” them or commented on them in accordance with normal social media behavior.  This allowed us to determine 6 “finalists” based upon the number of likes and/or comments each video received.

We then posted those 6 video finalists on our blog along with a poll, asking our blog readers and members of our social community to vote on the video they liked the best.  The winner would receive a free Apple iPad 2.  It was an interesting race, with two finalists battling back and forth in the polls up until the last hour, at which time, one was crowned the winner.

At the bell, Patricia A. Hawkenson, author of Magnetic Repulsion: 100 Poems From Desire to Disgust, was named our Video Valentine for 2012 for this creative video she submitted:

Video testimonials like these are valuable components to running successful online businesses nowadays, because people on the internet are now more likely to “watch” the Internet than they are to “read” it (and yes, I recognize the irony of making that claim in a manner that requires it to be read).

So how do you acquire video testimonials for your book or business? Well, our process worked pretty well, and it went something like this:

1. Use your social media community to solicit participation in a transparent, Web 2.0-friendly way
2. Encourage participation and comments
3. Yes, you may have to offer an incentive to participate.  As popular as Skype may be, it’s still a taxing procedure for most people to create a video, and the likelihood of it being spread across YouTube and the rest of the Internet is not for the faint of heart — particularly for writers, the majority of whom are often introverted. In our case, we dangled an Apple iPad 2, but your gift could be something as easy as a signed copy of your book, for example, or a product or service that you deliver. For instance, our runner-up, received a free iPad edition of her book  (which actually has approximately the same retail price as the iPad 2 itself, so they were both big winners).
4. Once you have video testimonials, use them. Nothing is quite as persuasive as seeing real people making really great comments about your product or service.

So, with that said, take a look at all six of our video finalists by clicking here. Pretty good arguments to use Outskirts Press, wouldn’t you say?

A “backwards” blog experiment…

When I first started this blog in 2010 I posted a series of blogs about what I found problematic about blogging.  One of those problematic elements is the fact that blogs are only presented in chronological order for the people who are subscribed to them, and for the rest of the readership, they’re presented in reverse chronological order, because blog postings appear with the most recent postings at the “top.”

This makes series, such as the ones I often do, a little off-putting to readers who are coming into the blog/series from an external location like a search engine because they’re either forced to read the series “backwards” or they’re forced to scroll down the postings for the “start” of the blog and then read up.

So for the next month or so, I’m going to try an experiment as I post a series of detailed blogs about completing the pre-production book publishing process with Outskirts Press.  I’m going to post the series in reverse chronological order (starting with the last step and going backwards).  That way, I’ll end with Step 1 being the most recent posting of the series. In this manner, when new visitors come to this blog/series from elsewhere (as opposed to subscribing to my blog), they’ll be able to read the series conveniently in the proper order, starting with step 1.

So for those of you subscribing to the blog, it may seem a little weird reading an informative series of blog postings from the end to the beginning.  But for the vast majority who come to my blog/series from search engine searches in the future, the series of postings will be straight-forward.  And since I’m going to give this upcoming series a specific “tag” for the purposes of making it very easy to link to from our instructional emails and FAQs at Outskirts Press, (not to mention the archival benefits of blogs on the Internet in general), a straight-forward presentation is what I’m shooting for.

We’ll begin this little experiment next week…

Publishing Competitors Joining Forces*

Our two largest competitors are joining forces under a new brand. From what I can tell so far, it doesn’t look to be a merger so much as a strategic partnership. It’s hard to tell how this will prove advantageous to authors. When the press releases start hitting the waves, we may learn more about what motivated this move, but right now it is my guess that Amazon’s recent entry into the vertical may have helped. Interestingly enough, each publisher will still exist in its own right, and its own location, and continue to offer the same old stuff. So what, then, is newsworthy about this? That’s the big question. If nothing else, it may simply be another, co-branded website that appears on search engines, and helps authors make the best choice for their publishing needs. At Outskirts Press we’ve always been a big proponent of educating authors about the industry and about their choices, so if that is the result of this new partnership, good for everyone. Fortunately, authors have always had a way to get on-going support and help with their publishing decision in advance of making any decisions by joining our free author’s center at http://outskirtspress.com/authors.php

The publishing industry, and POD in particular, is constantly changing and growing. I won’t be surprised to see more moves like this in the near and not-so-near future.

Competitive acquisition*

I might stand corrected from my earlier post today. It looks like it may be an acquisition of our competitor after all. Bertram Holdings, which is a private equity firm in California, looks like they may have acquired one of our competitors (they already have a stake in the other big one). Interesting, interesting… 
 
2011 Update: When all was said and done, Bertram Holdings ended up acquiring two more of our major competitors in the following 18 months and made us an offer with a multiplier so low it was insulting; and have since moved all those brands into the same offices in Indiana. So while their brand-separation remains (sort of), all books published under all those brands are produced in the same locations with the same people–in Indiana and India. Oh, what a difference two little letters can make.
 
* Originally posted on self-publishing.blogspot.com on September 6, 2007. To see why, click here.

Kirkus Reviews and Kirkus Discoveries*

I spoke with the founder of Kirkus Discoveries, the paid review service today. The topic was Publisher’s Weekly, but naturally the conversation turned to paid reviews and the inherent difficulty that lies therein.

On one side, there is something to be said for the value to the author. Securing reviews is tricky since the number of books published so heavily outweighs the number of reviewers available to review them. One advantage a publishing service provider can offer is the ability to help an author overcome those odds.

On the other hand, the moment a review is “paid for” its creditability is called into question (the same can be said for paid-for-mention blogs and more on that at a future date).

Kirkus Discoveries seems intent to counter such prejudices by being particularly brutal in its reviews of on-demand books. Is that biting the very hand that feeds it, or is that simply its way of maintaining its impartial MO? According to the founder (not sure if he wants to be mentioned or not, which is why I’m referring to him like that), Kirkus has a reputation for being somewhat callous and cruel in its reviews anyway.  (2011 Update: In fact, their tagline currently is: “World’s Toughest Book Critics.”)

Our major competitor offers the “Kirkus Review” for $360, which is $10 more than anybody can get it for from the Kirkus website. Presumably the $10 additional fee  is their service fee (ie, profit), but knowing what I know about the 50-word “reviews” coming out of Kirkus Discoveries (that’s $7 a word, in case you’re calculating), I wonder if that publisher is coming to the same conclusion their authors are coming to — that paying $350 for a bad review kind of…sucks.

2011 Update:  The cost for a review from Kirkus is even more now. In the span of time since writing this blog post back in 2007, Outskirts Press has responded to our authors’ requests by introducing several pay-for-review options for our authors, including Kirkus.  But one thing hasn’t changed:  I still believe that paying for a negative book review sucks.  So if you, as an author, are considering this route, look carefully and dispassionately at your book first–as dispassionately as you can, at any rate.  Yes, it sucks to pay for a negative review–although even negative reviews typically have some kernel of positive content that can be used, or at least absorbed to help you improve your craft.

On the other hand, there is nothing as exhilarating as getting a positive book review, especially from “The World’s Toughest Book Critics” at Kirkus — because if you do, you’ll know you deserve it. 

 Here a special note should be made to one of our authors and his book, recently chosen by Kirkus Reviews as among the very best of all the indie books they reviewed in 2011.  Congratulations go out to Graham Parke on this notable achievement for his book No Hope for Gomez — which I should mention has won NUMEROUS awards this year.  You’ll notice Mr. Parke has done all the rights things – he’s altered his cover to showcase an “award-winning seal” and even added an excerpt from the Kirkus review to the cover.  Perfect (and all easy to do with the options available at Outskirts Press).

Read the Kirkus review below and then click here to buy it for a 10% discount

NO HOPE FOR GOMEZ!

A drug trial participant blogs about his experiences on an experimental medication and questions whether the strangeness in his life is a side-effect or just weirdness as usual.

As a test subject in an experimental drug trial, Gomez Porter is asked to a keep a blog to chronicle any strange experiences, an exercise that quickly alerts him to just how many odd things seem to be happening around him. He soon finds himself wrapped up in a possible murder mystery, stalking a stalker for a woman he thinks he loves (though it might just be the drugs), while his life and the characters in it get ever more absurd—and increasingly dangerous. Parke’s debut novel melds screwball comedy, hipster-style irony and an old-fashioned unreliable narrator into a quirky whodunit that challenges our perceptions about how we think and interact with the world around us. The blog-style entries are unique, providing a firsthand view of events from Gomez’s perspective, a perspective that even the character himself actively joins the reader in doubting. When Gomez goes so far as to admit he edits his posts, we’re left to wonder what got cut, what he isn’t telling us and why, if he is cutting things, he still records his more embarrassing, frightening or unflattering moments. These layers of ambiguity, combined with the novel’s wit and some of its more subtle humor (often overshadowed by its bigger laughs), give the book the distinction of being a work most will want to revisit. The most notable shortcoming is the ending; it isn’t hugely satisfying, and the tone doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. But this is largely forgivable as the real charm of the novel is in the humor of its journey rather than its surprisingly solemn destination.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally just weird for the sake of weird, but consistently entertaining.”

Great review! Great exposure! Great book! So it can be worthwhile. In other words, here’s the take away: Before requesting a paid-review, be sure your book is awesome!  Publishing at Outskirts Press is a great way to take care of the technical awesome parts (interior design, cover design, etc), but the material/content of the book is what Kirkus examines closest, and that’s all you, baby! 

 Here’s one easy rule-of-thumb: If you didn’t have your book professionally edited, either by Outskirts Press or another professional editing service, then apply your marketing dollars to something other than a paid-review. We have a lot of other options to choose from.)

* Originally posted on self-publishing.blogspot.com on August 27, 2007. To see why, click here.

Revising Print-on-Demand books*

One of the advantages of publishing a book on-demand is being able to make moderate changes to it after publication without absorbing a whole new publishing fee, and without having to “eat” high quantities of books that you paid for in-advance with an off-set printer. (2011 update: Wow – this posting is just as accurate and relevant now as it was when I posted it 4 years ago on my other blog…)

However, the publishing logistics involved in administrating post-publications is a daunting one. At Outskirts Press, we apply a lot of administration and technical resources to our post-publication revision process.

From my stand-point, I can see why many other on-demand publishers do not offer revisions at all. It’s complicated from an information management and systems point of view. But, by not offering revisions, many publishers are removing one of the core advantages of POD. If you accidentally let a misspelling slip by (it happens to the best of us) or want to add a cover quote that you just received, there is nothing more liberating (and financially responsible) to being able to do so without taking a major hit to your wallet.

Few authors plan on making revisions to their book after publication while seeking out a publisher to begin with. But it is something to keep in mind as you look for the publishing service that is best for you. Will revising your book cost just as much as starting over from scratch? Make sure you have all the flexibility you need, in terms of post-publication revisions, setting your own pricing, and keeping all your rights. Your book deserves it.

* Originally posted on self-publishing.blogspot.com on August 24, 2007. To see why, click here.

Denver Business Journal recognizes Outskirst Press as 3rd fastest growing privately-held company in Colorado*

In the category of “better late than never” I figured I would share some exciting news from July. Every year the Denver Business Journal recognizes the fastest growing privately-held companies in Colorado, based upon reported revenue for a three year period of time. The companies that demonstrated the greatest overall percentage of revenue growth between 2004 – 2006 were honored at a breakfast banquet in downtown Denver. The fastest growing company was a software company (Rally, I think), out of Boulder. The second fastest growing company was also a software company.

Outskirts Press was the third fastest growing privately held-company, which is a testament to the value our authors find in our services.   (2011 update: Outskirts Press went on to be recognized as a top 10 company by the Denver Business Journal 2 more times since then…)

Even though I live and breathe this industry every day and night, it takes a step out into the other business sectors to realize just how revolutionary (and still brand-new) the concept of print-on-demand publishing truly is. When I was speaking at the podium while accepting the award, and explained what it is we do, there were surprised and amazed looks on the faces in the crowd. “I can pull that old forgotten manuscript out of my bottom drawer, dust it off, and give it to you and actually be selling it from Amazon in about 12 weeks?” their jaw-dropping expressions seemed to ask.

Writers and authors who are already searching for a solution to their publishing woes are already well-informed about their publishing choices.

But 95% of our market remains untapped, because these are people who would never think of typing “self publishing” into Google.

* Originally posted on self-publishing.blogspot.com on August 21, 2007. To see why, click here.

WRITER’S DIGEST PARTNERS WITH OUTSKIRTS PRESS FOR 4th STRAIGHT YEAR*

Outskirts Press, Inc. has signed an agreement extending our publishing partnership with Writer’s Digest. For the fourth year in a row, Outskirts Press will publish the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Collection, which is the anthology of winners from Writer’s Digest’s most established annual writing competition.

Writer’s Digest magazine sponsors one of the oldest, most prestigious annual writing competitions in the country. The compilations published by Outskirts Press showcase competition winners while the broader distribution available through Outskirts Press increases visibility of the Writer’s Digest brand in the publishing community.

Obviously, we are excited to continue our publishing partnership with Writer’s Digest. We both cater to savvy, professional authors who recognize the importance of high-quality. It’s a natural match.

* Originally posted on self-publishing.blogspot.com on August 20, 2007. To see why, click here.

Outskirts Press Award Winning Books*

Yesterday I introduced our affiliation with the EVVY Awards. Last March, Outskirts Press won the most awards by a publisher. Below are the winners.

FIRST PLACE

Building a Champion Character: A Practical Guidance Program
Primary Version
by Susan R. Rose, M. Ed.
Category: Workbooks
Judge’s comment: “Perfect for counselors and parents.”

Defending Liars
In Defense Of President Bush And The War On Terror In Iraq
by Howard L. Salter Category: Political/Social
Judge’s comment: “The author put a lot of time and research into this book.”

RV Rentals
A Vacationer’s Guide
by Dave & Kay Corby
Category: Travel
Judge’s comment: “Packed with information.”

SECOND PLACE

Christmas Tree Advent Calendar
A Country Quilted and Appliquéd Project
by Ruthy Sturgill Category: How to
Judge’s comment: “Well organized.”

The Struggle Among Ideas
A Tourist Guide to the Natural World and the Human Predicament
by J. Ivey Davis Category: Political/Social
Judge’s comment: “Nicely woven history of philosophies.”

The War Chest
by Gary W. Buehner Category: Business/Finance
Judge’s comment: “Brilliant!”

THIRD PLACE

Blue Max
Missions & Memories
by N. G. Brown Category: Non-Fiction/Experiences
Judge’s comment: “Very realistic view of the Vietnam War.”

See Sally Kick Ass
A Woman’s Guide to Personal Safety
by Fred Vogt Category: How to
Judge’s comment: “Very clear, very straight-forward.”

Simple Successes
From Obstacles to Solutions with Special Needs Children
by Rachelle Zola Category: Parenting
Judge’s comment: “Professional, through and through.”

Wake Up with Fleas
by Carla Kienast 
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Well paced and entertaining.”

MERIT AWARDS

Aidan’s Shoes
by Brent Sampson
Category: Children’s
Judge’s comment: “The storyline is truly wonderful.”

Fly Me to the Moon
Bipolar Journey through Mania and Depression
by H. E. Logue, M.D.
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Beautifully designed and immediately intriguing.”

Full-Bodied and Peppery
Chronicles of a Western Colorado Wine Wench
by Christine Feller
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “A delightful book.”

Into the Light
A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Debra P. Whitehead
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Loved it!”

The Literary Six
by Vince A. Liaguno
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Maintains interest and suspense from page one. I had trouble putting it down.”

*Originally posted Friday, August 17, 2007 on self-publishing.blogspot.com. To see why I’m reposting it, click here.

Self-Publishing.BlogSpot.Com redux

Way back in 2005 I started blogging on Blogger.com. Given that one of our “best” keywords for our business at Outskirts Press was, and is, “self-publishing” I titled the blog self-publishing.blogspot.com, and even though I haven’t contributed, visited, or interacted with that blog in nearly four and half years, it continues to provide us with business, mainly because it appears on pages 1 and 2 (depending upon the day) for the term “self publishing” on both Bing and Yahoo search engines. For those of us interested in SEO, that’s a “wow” moment; it certainly was for me when I noticed it.

So even though I promised I was going to talk about creating a Facebook landing page “next” – I’m going to delay that topic for a week or so as I duplicate the content on my self-publishing.blogspot.com over to this one. I’m doing that for two reasons.  1) I want to see if duplicating the same content raises THIS blog to such lofty results in Bing and Yahoo for the “self publishing” keyword, and 2) I want to save that content, which I have evidence “works” for SEO purposes, so that when I try to modify that blog a little to leverage such high results for business purposes, I don’t lose the content that is proving to be so effective.

So allow me to apologize in advance if the next week seems… kind of weird (and certainly out of date — I’ll be “reporting” on things that happened way back in 2007.)  Although I doubt I will be able to stop myself from offering some thoughts on some of those topics that now have the benefit (or disadvantage) of four years of perspective applied…

So if you don’t want to be a part of this little SEO experiment with me, I invite you to skip next week and join us again during the week of the 12th, when I most likely will get back to the Facebook Landing page topic…

Get featured on our publishing app with a Virtual Book Tour

All last week and this week we’ve been discussing marketing methods to get featured in the “Blog” category of the Outskirts Press app. We have established that the best way is to focus on being featured in one of these blog categories from our Outskirts Press blog:

Author Spotlights
Book Spotlights
Monthly Bestsellers
Virtual Book Tours
Award Winners
Book Fair Participants

So far we have already discussed Author and Book Spotlights, along with bestsellers.  That leads us to Virtual Book Tours, and one of the guaranteed ways to get featured on our app.

A virtual book tour is similar to an actual book tour, although instead of physically traveling from bookstore to bookstore, or  radio show to radio show, you and/or your book are making “appearances” in the  blogosphere and on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  This saves time and money because it is much more efficient and cost-effective  to “appear” on a blog, a website, or an internet radio talk show, than it is to load up the mini-van and drive from state to state. And, unlike a physical tour, which is over the minute you leave, a virtual book tour stays archived and available for Internet
searches forever.

In addition to all the other blog “appearances”, reviews, and author interviews that can result from a Virtual Book Tour, we also make sure to get each of our author’s virtual tours off to a great start by giving them a “tour stop” at one or more of our social community channels, whether it be a link from our Twitter account, a video uploaded to our YouTube Channel, or an interview on our blog.

Author interviews that appear on our blog as a result of their participating in a Virtual Book Tour through Outskirts Press also appear on our iPhone app.  All our Virtual Book Tours also include a short video, which we upload to our YouTube channel for our authors.  Since our YouTube Channel is also featured on our app, ordering a Virtual Book Tour usually means the author and book can be featured in two different areas of the app – in the “Blog” category and in the “Videos” category.

Our Virtual Book Tours are so popular, we help authors from other publishers facilitate virtual book tours, too, although those authors aren’t mentioned on our blog or in our app (let’s leave that up to THEIR publishers, shall we?) Oh, wait — their publishers don’t have an app, but those other publishers will take up to 50-80% of their authors’ royalties.   No wonder their authors aren’t too motivated to market their books.

Anyhoo, to schedule your own Virtual Book Tour, regardless of whether you are an Outskirts Press author or not, click here.