Celebrating 10 years of self publishing with Outskirts Press

In the category of Better Late than Never : Happy New Year.

Our company profile page at Outskirts Press gets updated the first month of every year to update our total title counts and summarize how the previous calendar year’s accomplishments fit into the overall picture of our company, and the industry of self publishing in general. I’ve posted the 2013 updated profile below.  2013 was a banner year for us and our authors. We published more titles by more writers than ever before, launched our mobile site for cell phones, mailed exciting royalty checks to our authors, and welcomed our first-ever Executive Vice President (Kelly Schuknecht, who was promoted in January).  Here’s the updated profile below; and you can see the entire thing, in all its glory, on our website by clicking here.

Here’s to a great 2014…

Over ten years ago, Outskirts Press was founded as a better way for authors to write, publish, and market their books. Outskirts Press incorporated in Colorado in 2003, and through strategic partnerships, exemplary customer service, and unmatched quality, Outskirts Press quickly became the fastest-growing full-service book publishing and book marketing firm.

The years between 2004 and 2006 marked a growth rate in excess of 1,500%, an accomplishment that was recognized in July 2007 by The Denver Business Journal when Outskirts Press was honored to be the 3rd fastest-growing privately held company (in any industry) in Colorado.  By the end of 2006, Outskirts Press had nearly 1,000 books in print,  all of them available worldwide through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online, among others. And by the end of 2007, Outskirts Press more than doubled its title totals again to more than 2,000 total titles published.

self publishing books

In 2008 The Denver Business Journal once again recognized Outskirts Press as the fastest-growing publisher, and in fact, the fastest-growing privately held small-to-medium sized company in Colorado (in any industry), boasting growth of over 500% for the years between 2005-2007.

In 2009 Outskirts Press published its 5,000th title and became the only self-publishing company to appear on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing privately held companies.

In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Outskirts Press repeated its appearance on the Inc. 5000 list three more times, and became the only self-publishing company to appear on the list of top 5,000 fastest growing private businesses in America for four straight years.

2012 also marked the 10-year anniversary of the company’s founding and the publication of its 10,000 title. What took seven years to accomplish (publishing 5,000 different titles) was repeated in less than three.

Ten short years after its incorporation in 2003, 2013 was a celebratory and banner year for Outskirts Press, and heralded the maturation of an industry success story. Outskirts Press published more books in 2013 than in its first five years combined, and, in fact, more books in a single year than ever before, continuing to exceed industry averages with double-digit percentage growth of new titles and authors.

Now, more than ever, self-publishing writers are recognizing the value of high quality production, superior customer service, and the continued necessity of hard copy books to differentiate their contributions to the literary world from the masses of unfiltered, unprofessional electronic-only books.

So how does Outskirts Press remain the fastest-growing full-service publishing provider?

  • It begins with our Mission Statement: To exceed the expectations of every author we help publish.
  • It continues with our commitment to conservationism and recycling. Our most popular book sizes offer a recycled paper-stock option, featuring 30% post-consumer.
  • It grows with our authors.  Just ask Gang Chen, who earned over $100,000 in 180 days; or Sally Shields, the stay-at-home mom-turned-2-time Amazon.com bestseller; or Ronnie Lee, who has become one of the most prolific published authors of our generation with the assistance of Outskirts Press.

As we look toward the future, our commitment to produce high-quality books and offer high levels of support to our authors in all three phases of their journey (writing, publishing, marketing), only grows stronger.

For instance, to complement our authors’ hard copy printed paperback and hardback editions, we have embraced digital e-books with three a la carte digital publishing options to make electronic readers even easier to reach for our authors:

 We have embraced social media to help our authors further promote their books and enhance their careers:

  • Our author community on Facebook is the most popular and most active among all full-service self-publishing firms.
  • Our author channel on YouTube features the most book videos among all full-service, high-quality firms.
  • Our company blog keeps our authors informed on industry news, exciting promotions, and marketing tactics.
  • Our Twitter account keeps our authors up-to-date, sometimes up-to-the-minute.
  • Our Pinterest boards keep authors and readers apprised of Top 10 monthly bestsellers, our most prolific and successful writers, and genre collections/themes to celebrate holidays and special events.

By publishing our own series of books, we help authors navigate the sometimes tricky waters of book publishing. And by offering free publication in various anthologies through the year, we demonstrate how easy, fast, and fun it can be to publish with Outskirts Press.

Through it all, Outskirts Press authors have remained our main focal point. With over 10,000 published titles, Outskirts Press continues to pour development dollars and resources into further improvements to the Outskirts Press website and its growing list of writing, publishing, and marketing services/products to further support our authors’ goals and dreams.

What does success mean to you? By any measure, you will find it here with Outskirts Press and we look forward to helping you on that journey.

Many of us, and some of our family members, took a moment during a summer picnic to pose…

Are you ready to get published? Click here to visit Outskirts Press Self Publishing now.

Longevity in business (and self-publishing)

A few posts ago I discussed the second annual “Share the Love” video contest that Outskirts Press held for our published authors on Facebook. This month we have been collecting submissions from our Facebook fans for our 3rd annual Fandemonium Facebook Anthology.  In May, we will announce the winner of the 3rd annual Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year award. This summer we will find out whether or not Outskirts Press is awarded its 5th placement in a row on the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing companies. And in October, we officially celebrate our 10-year anniversary.

All this goes to show that there are many ways other than “anniversaries” you as a business owner can use to celebrate longevity in your respective industries. And communicating longevity is important, because longevity speaks volumes to potential clients, customers, and consumers; deep down most people understand that a business which has succeeded for a long time in this dog-eat-dog world is a company they can have confidence working with.

Yes, there are always exceptions to prove the rule, such as the case of Vantage Press, a sort-of-competitor of ours that “ceased business operations” at the end of 2012 after a long and storied history. Sadly, when they closed, their authors were left in something of a lurch – with many authors not receiving royalties due to them and authors in the middle of the publishing pipeline being left out to dry without refund.   I’m an author myself, as well as a business owner, so I empathize with all sides involved. No company plans to fail, but it’s not the customer’s responsibility or obligation to bear the brunt of that failure if it happens. Being prepared for that possibility is the responsibility of the executives at every company.  That’s why, at Outskirts Press, we have a cash-flush savings account devoted solely for our authors exclusively for this purpose, so that all outstanding royalties would still be paid to them and any remaining authors in the pipeline would receive refunds.

Of course, all business owners work extremely hard to ensure it doesn’t come to that.  Every day we  share a new comment from one of our authors and many of our authors voice the same common sentiment — that they feel “lucky” to have discovered Outskirts Press. That is always gratifying to read, and what may feel like “luck” to them is the result of a lot of preparation and hard work from all of us at Outskirts Press.  Like most successful companies, we are prepared for the worst, but plan for (and anticipate) the best.

And speaking of best, over the course of the next few posts, I’ll write more about the 3rd annual Fandemonium Anthology, the 3rd annual Best Book of the Year awards, the 5th placement (hopefully) on the Inc. 500/5000 list, and our 10-year anniversary.

Guy Kawasaki Step 9 & 10 to Enchantment

It’s been over two months since my last post summarizing Guy Kawasaki’s presentation at the Inc. 500/5000 conference I attended last October, during which he offered an informative session about cultivating and maintaining “enchantment” in your customers or clients. I have been discussing how his concepts are applicable for us at Outskirts Press so perhaps they can also help you apply the information to your own entrepreneurial efforts (starting a business, running a company or yes, even marketing a published book). Thankfully, one of Guy’s tips toward enchantment did NOT include being more timely in completing a blog series…

Step 9 is to enchant up. 

Guy summarized this step pretty rapidly with “Deliver bad news early.”

Step 10 is to enchant down.

Here, the gist of the step was to empower the employees of the company, help them master new skills, give them autonomy, and empower them to take action.

Admittedly, these last two steps (and even 7 & 8 to a lesser degree) are shorter on information than the first steps in this blog series, but that’s not entirely my fault. Certainly, I’m guilty of waiting too long to write this, and have not retained as much information in memory as I could have, but the first 5-6 steps were also given much more time and attention in Guy’s presentation by Guy himself. By the time we got to step 7, he realized he was nearly out of time and quickly glossed over steps 8, 9, and 10.

Even so, it was still the best presentation at the conference, in my opinion. And if such a celebrated speaker can experience a moment of mis-timing, perhaps there is hope for the rest of us as we speak and present.

Here’s hoping I attend the upcoming Inc. 500/5000 conference this year in Washington D.C. to see if another presenter reaches or surpasses the bar set by Guy last October.  I’ll go if Outskirts Press wins its 5th placement on the Inc. 500/5000 list in a row, something less than 1,000 total companies have ever accomplished.  We’ve applied and now we simply have to wait until August to learn of the results.  2012 was our best year ever, thanks to our wonderful, supportive authors our talented personnel, and the continued explosive growth of self publishing in general, so I’m cautiously optimistic…

Brent Sampson unplugged

I’ve been on the Internet since the fall of 1991. This was before webpages, when chat rooms were calls “MUDs” and Yahoo Groups were called “Usenet.” I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without “logging-in” at least once.  That’s over two decades of constant online activity.  I could use a break. Some would even argue I NEEDED a break.  So this spring when our son had a two-week break (thank you, Douglas County School District), I decided to “unplug.”   Going cold turkey was difficult. But, going to a foreign country helped when the “shakes” got too bad.

Now, I’m back, but the break was great. It helped me see that the structure and people we’ve put into place at Outskirts Press operate just fine without me. That’s great to see.  Come to think of it, I just may unplug more frequently now…

Guy Kawasaki Step 6 to Enchantment

Okay, here we are once again, back to the Guy Kawasaki speech at  the not-so-recent Inc. 500/5000 conference I attended at the beginning of October. Guy offered an informative session about cultivating and maintaining “enchantment” in your customers or clients. I am (and have been for several months) in the middle of summarizing those points and discussing how they are applicable for us at Outskirts Press so perhaps they can 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 6 is to endure.

Easier said than done, right?  If starting a successful company is difficult, keeping one from going out of business is next to impossible. Being an “Apple Guy” (pun intended again), Guy refers to Apple, Inc. as a perfect example of this step.  Apple launched as a computer company at the dawn of the personal computer age and for a long time struggled to find its “place.”  Even while Bill Gates and Microsoft were “borrowing” the GUI interface of the Mac for their own Windows operating system, Apple was trying to compete against Windows in terms of providing office applications like spreadsheets, word processing, and databases. Unfortunately for Apple, Apple computers simply didn’t perform those tasks as well as Dos/Windows based systems.

Then along came desktop publishing, and Apple found its first niche. Guy said during the conference that if it hadn’t been for “desktop publishing” Apple would have gone out of business decades ago.  Wow! That’s an amazing thing to think about when one considers the valuation of Apple today — a 2-to-1 favorite to, perhaps one day, be the first company with a trillion dollar valuation. Yes, you could say Apple has endured.

So even if your business or book isn’t a blockbuster right out of the gate, persevere. Keep at it.  Your “aha moment” (or in Apple’s case, their “ipod moment”) could be just around the bend.

Outskirts Press is enduring, and yes, even thriving. We recently landed on the Inc. 500/5000 list for the 4th consecutive year and I spend a good portion of my time responding to investment companies and brokers who want to give us money that we don’t need.   All this in a tricky, passionate competitive environment where some of our competitors offer for free what we  charge money for. How do we do it?  The easy explanation is that some people drink tap water and some drink Perrier.  People are willing to pay for something that is better if they are informed of the advantages, particularly when it comes to what they put in their bodies, or how they publish the manuscripts they have spent a year or more writing.  That’s a long time and a lot of hard work to just simply “throw up onto the Internet” and hope it sticks. Most people realize their chances for success are greatly improved with professional help.

The more complicated explanation for how we do it has been covered over the course of this “Guy Kawasaki” series of posts about high-quality, customer service, and yes, enchantment.

Step 7 to follow…

Guy Kawasaki Step 5 to Enchantment

Okay, back to the Guy Kawasaki speech at  the not-so-recent Inc. 500/5000 conference I attended at the beginning of October. Guy offered an informative session about cultivating and maintaining “enchantment” in your customers or clients. I am (and have been for 2 months) in the middle of summarizing those points and discussing how they are applicable for us at Outskirts Press so perhaps they can 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 5 is to overcome resistance.

The easiest way to overcome a potential customer’s resistance to use your service or product is to provide social evidence that other people are using it and enjoying it– that it is helping other people and/or solving their problems. Facebook is a great way to provide social proof or “likeability.” In fact, Facebook has a “like” button for exactly this purpose.  At the time of my writing this (January 8, 2013), Outskirts Press has nearly 8,000 “likes” on our Facebook page (7,943, to be precise, but who’s counting?).   When authors visit our Facebook page, they are greeted by a friendly, helpful, upbeat community comprised of their peers, many of whom have successfully published with Outskirts Press and are excited with their high-quality book!  That is social evidence in a nutshell.

But don’t just rely upon Facebook. Customer testimonials are tried and true, and offer compelling social evidence that other, real people, are using your product and service with great results.  Weight loss products and services have been using this tactic for years, although they lose a lot of their credibility when they have that little disclaimer at the bottom stating “Results are not typical.”   Why not share lots and lots of typical comments instead?

That’s what we do with our author testimonials. We have been publicly sharing two new author testimonials each week for as long as I can remember on the testimonials page of our website, and to be frank, our testimonials are “backing up,” which means two per week isn’t frequent enough.  So starting in January, we are increasing that output to four new author testimonials every week.  Sharing the successes of others with your new potential clients or customers is a great way to overcome their resistance, and a great way to enchant them.


A Self-Publishing Holiday Retrospective 2006-2012

In the days since Christmas I have been showing Outskirts Press holiday party pictures from the past. I began with our most recent 2012 holiday picture on Christmas and yesterday showed the picture from the 2007 holiday lunch. That brings us to today, New Year’s Eve, and to our very first holiday picture, taken way back in 2006. Yes, as I mentioned yesterday, there are some familiar faces: Tony, Shirley, Jeanine, Brent, Ellen, Lora, and Lynn.

Of course, attending a holiday party has very little to do with the talents and efforts all of us at Outskirts Press bring to our authors every day. We have so many additional people who help our authors (over 100), many of whom are not in any of these pictures and all of whom contribute just as much as those who have been shown and mentioned over the past few days.  The list is too long to include everyone, so just know that from Wendy to Cheri to Heidi to Jodee to Tina, Elise and Patrick; from Lisa to Jennifer, Jackie, Elizabeth, Heather, and everyone else, Outskirts Press authors are in very good hands.

So to all of you who have contributed your skills to seeing our Outskirts Press authors succeed and to seeing our self-publishing company excel, I thank you, and wish you and your family a happy holiday and a Happy New Year.  And to our authors, past, present, and future, I also wish you a Happy New Year. Let’s all continue to accomplish great things in 2013!

A Self-Publishing Holiday Retrospective 2007-2012

Two more days to go in 2012 and in our self publishing holiday retrospective, where I have been examining our Outskirts Press holiday pictures from the past years. Back in 2007, we held our second annual holiday party, and the “usual suspects” were already well represented: Tony, Cindy, Lora, Ellen, Shirley, Brent, Lynn, Jeanine.

Tony is a board member (and my dad), so his consistency is perhaps not all that surprising. And of course I’m going to be in every picture (although,  I’m a few pounds lighter in this one).  Lynn (next to me, second from the right in the back row)  is not only my mother but is also the CFO/CTO of the organization. And Jeanine’s (furthest to the right) contributions to Outskirts Press over the years cannot be measured or overstated (plus, she is my wife, and that can’t be easy). So the four family members of this family-owned company are a stable foundation.

But let’s examine the other amazing women who have been in every picture since 2007…

Cindy S. (back row, third from the left) offers an amazing combination of creativity and technical know-how, which is a necessary, but rare, combination of talents that is integral to book publishing. In addition to being one of our most talented and sought-after cover designers, Cindy has performed spec checks on images and print-ready PDF files to ensure their technical specification and compliance for high-quality publication. All of that is a fancy way of saying she’s one of the reasons Outskirts Press books look so amazing and win so many awards. Thank you, Cindy.

Lora G. (back row, fourth from the left) has been sharing her amazing skills with Outskirts Press authors almost since the very beginning (you will see her tomorrow in the 2006 photograph, as well). And she’s done just about everything around here. She was among the first author representatives, among the first title production supervisors, and among the first production managers. And even today, when vacation time or scheduling requires it, she can still complete any of those tasks for our authors without missing a beat; although more recently our CFO/CTO has been occupying the majority of Lora’s skills with “number-crunching” tasks related to our analytics and advertising.  All of that is a fancy way of saying that Lora is one of the reasons Outskirts Press has been on the Inc. 5000 list four years in a row. Thank you, Lora.

Ellen N. (back row, fifth from the left in the green turtleneck sweater) has been sharing her talents with Outskirts Press almost since the beginning, too (you will also see her in the first holiday picture from 2006). And she’s still doing just about everything around here. She’s performed every task in the busy production department from author representation to title production supervisor to production manager to quality control supervisor and upload facilitator. She facilitates every hard copy submission (and there’s an unbelievable volume of that, even though publishing is well within the digital age by now).  So if you mail it to us, Ellen touches it.  In fact, if you publish it with us, it’s likely Ellen has touched it.  All of that is a fancy way of saying that she is one of the reasons Outskirts Press publishes between 100-200 books every single month. Thank you, Ellen.

Shirley P. (back row, fifth from the right) has been working with Outskirts Press since the beginning. When Lynn became the CFO/CTO in 2004, Shirley was the first person to lend a hand. We have wanted her to oversee entire departments, but Shirley’s work/life balance is exactly where she wants it – she goes on incredible trips every year and when she’s not exploring the planet, she contributes to our financial and technical sides in a way I admittedly can barely comprehend. I rarely understand her emails since she’s smarter than me, so I often just find myself saying, “Yes, Shirley,” and — wouldn’t you know it? — everything turns out perfectly.  All of that is a fancy way of saying Shirley is awesome, and we couldn’t be doing any of this without her. Thank you, Shirley.

Of course, everyone involved with Outskirts Press  (including those who have been unable to attend the parties but still bring their talents and skill sets to our authors) are very much appreciated and valued. Thank you to them all. For instance, Lisa C. (back row, 4th from the right) still evaluates every digital submission for “publishability” and Deni S. (front row, 1st on the left) is still helping our authors as an author representative; Heidi J. (front row, 2nd from the left) continues to almost single-handedly handle the complex (and sometimes stressful) post-publication revisions department; and Kelly S. (front row, furthest on the right) in the years since this picture was taken has risen to the role of Vice President and in 2012 has almost single-handledly allowed me to take some time off. Thank you, thank you, thank you, one and all.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and we’ll finish this self publishing retrospective with our very first holiday picture, taken way back in 2006…

A Self-Publishing Holiday Retrospective 2010-2012

On Christmas I posted our annual holiday luncheon picture, and thus began this week-long retrospective comparing the holiday party pictures of previous years to highlight certain accomplishments and people of Outskirts Press. We compared the 2011 picture yesterday, and today we’ll look at the 2010 picture:

You’ll immediately recognize some familiar faces in this photograph, the people who were in both the 2012 and 2011 pictures: Back Row: Cindy, Lora, Donna, Patrick, Ellen, Shirley, Brent. Front Row: Jeanine, Lynn, Tony.

You will also recognize two faces represented in one, but not both, of the previous pictures, Jodee and Caroline (sans Luke).