Book Reviews in Publisher’s Weekly

Contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to get your independently published book reviewed (for free) by Publisher’s Weekly, as demonstrated by just this small sampling of Outskirts Press titles (click on each cover to jump over to the PW review):

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Since Publisher’s Weekly is an industry news periodical, timeliness is of utmost importance, so the more recently your book was published, the more likely your chances are for a review.  Check out the submission guidelines on their site for more information.

What’s new (and great!) about the One-Click Non-Fiction Suite

publishing-small“Have you ever wondered how you’re going to do it all? You’ve looked down your list of things to do: formatting, cover art, copyright registration and editing…not to mention all of the marketing and Ingram distribution once your book has been published – and had that moment of panic. Don’t worry! You can relax! We’ve got you covered with our One-Click Publishing Suites, which include everything you need to make your non-fiction, fiction, children’s book, or spiritual book a success.

Today you can save $500 with this special introductory offer on our new One-Click for Non-Fiction package. One click is all it takes to connect with a team of professionals who will assist you every step of the way. One click is all it takes to get a professional custom cover, professional copy editing, and an enhanced interior. One click is all it takes to sell a high-quality paperback on Barnes & Noble and Amazon and a high-quality e-Book on the Kindle. But don’t wait! This offer is good this week only! Right now, you’re only one click away from achieving your dream of becoming a successfully-published author. Promotion Code: Save500Aug16″

Such is the promotional copy that greets new authors when they explore our new One-Click for Non-Fiction publishing suite this week, and its $500 Introductory Offer. I believe the first paragraph touches upon a common feeling among all authors — an overwhelming sense of … what to call it? … Concern? Anxiety? The jitters?  Publishing your first book can seem overwhelming for new authors, and that is why they seek out services likes those offered by Outskirts Press.  In our 14 years of industry experience, we have identified a few things that can help make good books great, and professional writers extraordinary.  Two of the most necessary components of a fantastic book are professional editing and professional custom cover design.  ALL our One-Click Suites include both.

We call them “Suites” because they are a bundle of quality pre-production, production, and marketing services designed exclusively for a particular type of book.  At the present time we have launched our New & Improved Outskirts Press with 4 One-Click Suites: Non-Fiction, Fiction, Spiritual Books, and Children’s Books.

For the thousands of authors who have published with one of our a la carte, custom publishing packages (and those have all changed, too — more on that at a later date), the One-Click difference is nothing short of extraordinary.   Let me briefly walk you through the publishing process of both, starting with the custom, a la carte package first:

  1. Order an a la carte custom publishing package (let’s say, the Ultimate).
  2. Select your format(s)
  3. Select your trim size(s)
  4. Select your interior formatting option
  5. Select your interior production options
  6. Select your cover option
  7. Enter your summary, author biography, sales annotation, cover copy
  8. Set your price plan
  9. Set your retail price
  10. Select your marketing options
  11. You’re done. Sit back and relax while we go to work.

All that customization is great, and some of our authors THRIVE on the degree of flexibility and choice we give them.  But making decisions can slow the process down and allow for some important ingredients to be opted-out-of (like editing, or custom cover design, or marketing services).

In comparison, here is the publishing process for the One-Click Non-Fiction Suite:

  1. Order a One-Click Suite (let’s say, the Non-Fiction)
  2. You’re done. Sit back and relax while we go to work.

No long lists of trim sizes to fret over. No price plans and trade discounts to worry about. No cover themes, interchangeable image libraries, or concern about selecting the correct production & marketing options.  That’s because the One-Click Non-Fiction package already includes everything a professional non-fiction writer needs to publish the non-fiction book of his or her dreams (and significantly increase the chances for its success, and its success in book contests).

What’s it include? And why is it important?  This is a long list, but if you’re thinking of making an investment into your non-fiction book, it’s one worth reading.

  • A 6×9 paperback.  All our One-Click Non-Fiction authors have ultimate control over the trim size of their book, but the default size for this publishing suite is 6×9 so the majority of our clients don’t need to worry about nuances like choosing between 30 different size/format combinations (some of which have “whiter” paper or “thinner” paper. Yikes!  We just make it EASY for them.  Can they add a hardback edition? Of course.
  • Professional copy editing. All of our One-Click Suites include a professional-grade edit by a professional, human editor. Automatic grammar checks and spellchecks are great, and should always be a first step for any manuscript submission, but there is simply no substitute for a pair of highly-trained eyes. More than 80% of our non-fiction books are 75,000 words or less, so that is the word count that is included for free.  If a non-fiction book is longer than 75,000 words, the author simply pays the difference (at a per-word price that is less than just about all our competitors).
  • Professional custom cover design. All of our One-Click Suites include an original, custom-designed cover by a professional cover designer, all of whom have a decade or more of cover-design experience.  Our One-Click clients can describe their vision for their cover, or leave it up to the designer’s best artistic interpretation of the manuscript. In either case, the designer will present TWO different concepts for the author to choose from.   Sometimes, BOTH the concepts are so good that the author has a hard time selecting.  Talk about an embarrassment of riches (which, in fact, describes this whole package).  Fortunately, we have a solution for that “problem” too. It’s just a little bit of market research we make available for all our authors, and you can see an example of how it works on our Outskirts Press blog here.

Before I continue, I will say that copy editing and custom cover design are so important, they are mandatory components of our Best Book of the Year Awards, and our EVVY Nominees.  Since we KNOW all our One-Click suites include both professional editing and professional custom cover design, all One-Click packages are automatically eligible for both contests.  Speaking of which, our 16 EVVY Award Finalists were just announced, and you can see them here. Winning an EVVY Award is a prerequisite to winning our Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Award (and its $1,500 Grand Prize).

  • Enhanced book formatting. Don’t get me wrong; our standard interior book formatting still runs circles around most publishers — but for that extra “wow factor” the Enhanced Upgrade can sometimes make the difference between a successful book and an award-winning successful book. This upgrade is included with the One-Click Non-Fiction suite, once again making things easy for the client to get the best book possible.
  • Expedited service. When you publish as many books a year as we do (roughly 1,600 annually), and apply so much time and attention to each one, a math major could identify a potential problem with that business model.  It’s true.  We love our books, and we are passionate about making them the best they can be.  That takes time.  So all our One-Click clients “jump to the front of the line” so to speak.
  • ISBN & Barcode. It almost goes without saying at this point in the self-publishing community, but of course all our packages, including the One-Click Suites, include an ISBN and a barcode, both mandatory ingredients for an actual book (and ingredients that many DIY e-books from DIY places still don’t bother with).  That’s like making a hamburger without the … hamburger.  It doesn’t even count as a book.  But, the One-Click Non-Fiction package goes one step further by offering the client the free option of publishing under his/her own private ISBN (instead of ours).  Some clients care about this sort of thing; others don’t.  The One-Click Non-Fiction suite accommodates both, and it is included.
  • Official copyright registration, Library of Congress filing (including LOC #), and Books-in-Print registration.   Nothing exciting here. Just some basic administrative elements required by “real” published books. We handle all these administrative details for our One-Click Non-Fiction authors as a standard practice so they don’t have to worry about it.
  • Book publishing tip sheets. One of the increased values introduced by all our new services as of August 1 are a collection of articles, best practices, and whitepapers all designed to help authors publish the best book possible.  What makes a great author photo? What makes a great book title? What are some common do’s and don’ts for proper manuscript submission?  The free book publishing tip sheets answer all these questions for all our authors, and they’re all free and included.
  • The Book Marketing RoadMap. On the other end of the production cycle from the publishing tip sheets comes the marketing road maps. These guides and blueprints for successfully, efficiently, and effectively marketing a book are included for all our new authors as of August 1 with our new packages.  What are the best book contests to enter? How do you successfully navigate the social media waters? What are the best 15 marketing tactics to pursue, and why? These are just some of the compelling questions answered by the Book Marketing RoadMap for all our clients.
  • The Marketing COACH(tm). Yes, that is actually trademarked, if you can believe it, because only Outskirts Press offers Creative, Consistent, Assistance, Coaching, and Help to all our authors for years after publication.  COACH is a clever acronym, yes, but it’s also a clever program (pun intended).  Our software automatically delivers all our first-time published authors a veritable treasure trove of marketing advice, suggestions, marketing options, promotions, discounts, and tips via an “email drip” system for days, weeks, months, and years after publication.  No other self-publishing service provider offers anything like it, and the proof is in the pudding.  — Which is another way to say Ingram Wholesalers and its POD distribution representatives have personally called me on several occasions to remark on how impressive our wholesale book sales numbers are compared with our competitors.  They literally ask what we’re doing differently.  “It’s because we are passionate about helping our authors market and sell their books after they are published,” always sounds like a better answer than: “The Marketing COACH.”  Actually, both statements are true.
  • Custom Press Release and Public Relations Campaign. You can’t publish a top-notch, professional non-fiction book without telling the world about it, can you?  Well, you can, but you shouldn’t.  And the One-Click Non-Fiction package ensures that the world knows, with press release campaigns, PR publicist campaigns, hot leads follow-up, electronic clipping services, and global news wire notifications.
  • Amazon “stuff.”  We all know Amazon is the world’s largest retailer (yep, they overtook Wal-Mart), and they’ve been the world’s largest bookseller for even longer.  When I mentioned that the “Marketing COACH” was what we do differently, I could also mention all the attention we focus on Amazon. I wrote a little book titled Sell Your Book on Amazon, so I know a thing or two about it, and I make sure our marketing support personnel, as well as our authors, know how to “work Amazon”. We make sure our One-Click Non-Fiction books are redesigned for the Kindle e-book reading devices and submitted for distribution on Amazon’s Kindle platform. We make sure their hard copy book is in Amazon’s “Look Inside” program because of the benefits that creates for the Amazon search algorithm. We make sure their annotation and summary and sales page are top-notch. You know, all that stuff every self-publishing author should do for every book they publish. We do it for our One-Click authors.
  • Oh, and we also include their books in the Google Books Preview.
  • And we also submit 10 hard copy books and 10 pitch packets to 10 book reviewers to solicit book reviews, blurbs, and testimonials.
  • And we also create an original, awesome 60-90 second book video trailer and then share that video on Facebook and upload it to our YouTube channel and provide it to the author for further distribution.
  • And we also give the author a responsive, social media-integrated Author Webpage (like the one you saw for my book, if you happened to click that cover up there).  Their book video trailer appears in the Media Section, along with an audio excerpt the author can choose to record, if he/she so wishes (it’s included, but entirely optional).

Whew.  As if that wasn’t long enough, as a reward for reading this much, here are some “hidden benefits” that come with the One-Click Non-Fiction package. We don’t really promote these, per se, but I know how the website is programmed, so it’s also true that:

  • All One-Click Non-Fiction books appear in the “Browse” section of our online bookstore. We only showcase great-looking books here, and all One-Click books look great!
  • We subsidize shipping costs with One-Click clients. Shipping fees can add up for authors, especially if they are ordering a lot of author’s copies to pursue marketing efforts.  We want to encourage all our One-Click clients to participate in those  important marketing steps, so we share some of the shipping burden with them. For example, the approximate shipping cost for fifty 200-page books within the continental United States for an Economy client might cost about $35 or so (70 cents each).  That same shipment might cost about $25 or so for the One-Click client (50 cents each).  Saving 20 cents for each book shipped might not sound like much until you order 1500 and save $300.
  • Another perk for ALL our authors, including the One-Click clients, is that we do not charge sales tax on author’s copies they order themselves. Most of our largest competitors do. That’s another 4-8% you’re saving on every book order.
  • We have some other perks for One-Click clients being added to our post-publication departments, but they’re still in development (since we just relaunched everything 2 days ago!), so it’s too early to reveal details. But I will in the future.

There you have it.  The One-Click Non-Fiction Suite from Outskirts Press. Publish your passion.




Authors can upgrade their webpages to the 21st century!

Over the past several posts I’ve discussed RWD (responsive web design), and the milestones Outskirts Press has identified as it transitions all its web properties to RWD. Today I’m pleased to announce that all our published authors can easily and quickly upgrade their current author webpages to RWD.


In my last post I detailed the 13 cool features of the new RWD upgrade. But the easiest way to see how the upgrade looks and works is to take a look at it for one of our Fandemonium books.  Be sure to check it out on a desktop, your tablet, and your smartphone, and you will see why RWD webpages are the wave of the future: it’s like having a regular webpage, a mobile site, and an “app” for your smart phone all at once!

If you’ve published with Outskirts Press, upgrading your author webpage (or webpages, if you’ve published multiple books) is as easy as clicking here.



Start marketing your book as you are writing it

For the last month and a half, my posts have focused on my participation in National Novel Writing Month, which tasks writers to compose 50,000 words to a book within the 30 days of November.  During the month, as WriMo’s (as they are called) write their books, they also converse with “buddies” online, commiserate in forums,  and some even attend local “Write-Ins” in person, where they can write alongside other NaNoWriMo participants. And all of this helps them do something that ALL writers should do — market their book AS they are writing it.

This is good advice regardless of whether you are writing a book in a month, or in a year; and Outskirts Press has recently published a book by one of the best social media marketing authors, Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol, who uses multiple social media platforms to engage her audience for both her acting career and her writing career.

Author and actress Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol is perhaps best known for her roles in the “Fast & Furious” franchise and the upcoming film, “AWOL-72.” Her first book of poetry, Letters, To The Men I Have Loved, was released by Outskirts Press in June of 2014 and quickly climbed through the bestseller ranks. In a recent interview with us, Mirtha Michelle credits much of her success to a quality relationship with what she calls her “social media family.” In her own words, here are four simple tips she offers to the newly published author:

  1. Diversify your platform. Mirtha Michelle keeps readers up-to-date on her activities and poetry through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram-a rigorous and diverse digital platform that ensures her words reach as many people as possible. “Social media has helped me get to know my readers and my audience,” she says, and it is important that she reach her readers wherever they are to be found.
  2. Create original content, and regularly. “Two years ago,” Mirtha Michelle tells us, “I just posted about my life a little bit-my outfits, if I went out somewhere exciting, and so on. But after a while, I started posting quotes I liked, and I started to see that social media was an outlet to express myself and show what I was working on.” She began posting more intentionally about her ongoing projects, with the intent of bringing her followers alongside as her work continues to evolve: “I see it as a job, to be honest. I pay close attention to my social media.” She makes a point of posting new and original content several times a week, including artistically and professionally shot photographs of her poetry.
  3. Positivity helps. Mirtha Michelle’s initials make up a personalized hashtag, #MMCM. This hashtag helps her readers connect across social media platforms, and has become a bastion for positivity and healthy relationships. In their comments on her blog, fans often cite her work as instrumental in helping them through difficult times. “I wish I could reply to every single person who writes a comment,” she says, “and I wish I could thank every person.” It can be challenging to keep up with every follower, but Mirtha Michelle goes to great lengths to ensure they know she’s listening: “I try to respond to everyone on Tumblr, because I really, really care.” Readers return to Mirtha Michelle’s blog, and her poetry, again and again-in large part because of her optimism and her genuine interest in their lives.
  4. Be authentic. “Write your heart,” Mirtha Michelle advises. “Imagine you’re meditating with your computer, with words. Really listen to your soul, so you can express what it wants to say.” Even on social media, she tells us, “I don’t try to be anything I’m not.”

Mirtha Michelle’s book, Letters, To The Men I Have Loved, is available through iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Outskirts Press Direct bookstore.

My NaNoWriMo stats for yesterday, November 5, 2014:

Average Per Day 1833
Words Written Today 2371
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 9165
Words Remaining 40,835
Current Day 5
Days Remaining 26
At this rate, you’ll finish November 28
Words/Day to finish on time 1,571

Self Publishing Simplified: How to publish a book the easy, high-quality way

Infographics are all the rage. They’re a fun, colorful way to present information in a way that is easy to absorb and also easy to share (which is important, given the emphasis on images placed by such social media channels as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram).

What is an infographic?

According to Wikipedia, an infographic is a graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.

Below is an example of an infographic, in this case, a graphic representation of complex information (how to publish a book the easy, high-quality way).  One of the upsides to infographics is that they are easy to share on Facebook or Pinterest. The primary downside is that, with the exception of the alt tag, there is very little meta data available for search spiders to index. So even though this particular infographic has quite a few high-quality, effective search phrases for our self-publishing company at Outskirts Press, Google won’t recognize any of them.  But, perhaps that disadvantage is off-set by the potential “share-ability” of the graphic.   Or perhaps both those considerations are moot. Perhaps what is truly the most important is that this graphic clearly communicates many of the advantages of publishing with Outskirts Press in an easy-to-digest manner.  And that’s what potential customers and clients want from your product or service: easy answers to complex questions.  Voila — an infographic!

Self-Publishing Simplified: How to publish a book the easy, high-quality way


Another “Facebook Achievements” Update From Brent Sampson

Here is another update from our upcoming “Facebook Achievements” functionality that we are launching soon for self publishing authors with Outskirts Press:

Last week we announced our Beta test program on our Facebook page, and then on the following Monday (last Monday), we invited 25 of those Facebook friends to add a special Award to their Outskirts Press shopping cart as part of the Beta Test.  Interestingly, even though our Alpha Test (an internal test using some of our personal Facebook accounts) worked fine, this Beta Test (an external test featuring a small number of our actual authors) didn’t work nearly as well.  But that is what is important about testing — we took that information from the initial Beta Test on Monday and our web developers made some adjustments to how Outskirts Press was “communicating” with Facebook.

We then invited those authors to test the Award again and had greater success.  One thing we learned was that a greater percentage of authors than we expected do not leave themselves “logged-in” to Facebook, but rather log-out after their session with Facebook is complete.  Our Outskirts Press functionality works nearly seamlessly when the author is logged in simultaneously with Facebook and Outskirts Press (through cookies), but otherwise, in order to receive the Achievement on Facebook, the author must first “Connect to Facebook” via the typical blue button that is becoming more prevalent on websites.

Ultimately, the beta testing was successful because we caught bugs in the programming we may have otherwise missed, which will allow us to launch this new, complicated functionality more successfully in the coming weeks. Then, our authors will be able to conveniently and automatically share their writing, publishing, and marketing milestones and achievements with all their Facebook friends.

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.


Cause marketing via social networking

In my last posting I discussed how the royalties from our Facebook Anthology are going to go toward a charitable donation.  We leveraged our Facebook Fan base to submit the content for the anthology and also determine the charity itself.  This is an example of how social networking can play a dominant role in cause marketing.   We published a book, we grew our fan base, new authors got published for free, and a charity will receive the royalties. That’s the definition of win-win-win.

But how can you use social media in a cause marketing endeavor if you don’t publish books? Well, there are many examples across the Internet, and I can provide an example of what we’re doing at Outskirts Press.  It’s still “in progress” (much like our Facebook Anthology is/was), but I guess that’s one of the “perks” of reading my blog: getting a sneak peek on behind-the scenes efforts while they’re still underway.

My wife Jeanine, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Outskirts Press,  is competing in an upcoming Danskin Triathlon.  Danskin accepts pledges for athletes, the proceeds for which are split between TeamSurvivor and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Here are details about the Pledge Program:

As the triathlon gets closer, and as Jeanine needs more motivation to get through her training schedule, we will post the pledge information across our various networks in the hopes that some members of our growing, and passionate, social community will want to socially participate in the fight against breast cancer.  To “associate” your pledge with a specific athlete during the online pledge, please enter the name of the athlete exactly: Jeanine Sampson

Here’s to helping a great cause!

Cause marketing, philanthropy, and charitable donations from book royalties

In past postings I have discussed Outskirts Press’ donations to organizations like Children’s Hospital, Make a Wish Foundation, the Education & Literacy Foundation, and others.  And in the last posting I discussed more specifically our specific donations to the Colorado Humanities, and the publication of their Anthology, the royalties from which go in support of Colorado Humanities and the Center for the Book.

And this brings us to another way in which Outskirts Press seeks opportunities to give back to the community.  Outside of purely philanthropic pursuits, or cause marketing tactics, donating the royalties of a book can serve two purposes: good will and good marketing.  In our case, we will donate the royalties of book sales that come from the sale of our first Facebook Anthology, which is a collection of short stories, poems, and excerpts from our many Facebook Fans.  We have been collecting contributions and submissions to the anthology since the first of the year on our Facebook page.  

Then, on January 1oth we invited all our Facebook fans and blog readers to vote on the title of the book.  Then, on January 12th, we opened the voting to determine the Charity that would receive the royalties.  I still don’t know who “won.”  It was our hope that by giving writers the opportunity to get published for free AND give to a worthwhile cause at the same time, interest in our Facebook Anthology would be high. That philosophy turned out to be correct.  Our Facebook fan base shot past 1,000 fans almost literally overnight and continues to build.

Good deeds can become good marketing, or even, in this case, good marketing can turn into good deeds.  We thank all our Facebook fans for their support.  And I’m sure the “winning” charity will thank them as well.

Cause marketing and corporate sponsorships

Over the past two years Outskirts Press has donated $15,000 to the Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book.  They hold two annual literary contests: The Student Literary Awards, and the Colorado Book Awards, both sponsored by Outskirts Press

In fact, today marks the deadline for the River & Words Poetry and Art contest, the winners of which are recognized at the Student Literary Awards. And the deadline for the Colorado Book Awards is January 15th.  Visit the Colorado Humanities website for more information, to participate, donate, or join.

And just like that we have another example of the gray area between philanthropy and cause marketing.  Yes, Outskirts Press’ donations to the Colorado Humanities have been for a good cause, and tax deductable.  Yes, as a Colorado-based corporation, we join Colorado Humanities in their mission to inspire the people of Colorado to appreciate their diverse cultural heritage.

And, by sponsoring the events, getting signage at the events, logos on their websites, attending the events, and in all other ways partnering with Colorado Humanities throughout the year, this is a perfect example of cause marketing — a for-profit business collaborating with a non-profit to a mutually beneficial end.  These benefits are both obvious ($15,000) and more subtle (numerous mentions throughout our social networks, including suggestions for donations – above).

Such collaborations can sometimes lead to exciting by-products. In this case, for example, last year’s publication of the 2010 Student Literary Awards Anthology – the royalties for which went to the Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book.

And speaking of book royalties going to charitable organizations, that is the topic for my next posting…