Completing my profile on NaNoWriMo

Yesterday I signed up for NaNoWriMo, the annual “Write-a-novel-in-a-month” write-a-thon that hundreds of thousands of writers participate in every year.  The next step, according to their website, was:

3. Our user dashboard will usher you through the rest of your account set-up stuff. Click on the grayed-out badges to fill out your profile, say hello in our forums, and add writing buddies.

However, right now on their website, the message is:

From Star NaNoWriMo
Sent at October 03, 2014 10:18
Subject NaNoWriMo 2014 is coming!

Signing up for NaNoWriMo

I registered for NaNoWriMo today, with the idea of participating in the month-long “Write a Novel in 30 Days” write-a-thon that takes place every November throughout the world and online at

From their website (along with my status for each step).

How It Works

During NaNoWriMo, you write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. The challenge may be hard, but the logistics are not! Here, let us guide you through ‘em.

1. Sign up for our website with that big, blue “Sign Up!” button on the homepage. You’ll get an email validation link a few minutes later.  DONE

2. As part of the sign-up process, you’ll choose a home region for in-person events near you. This is totally optional, but we think it’s a pretty awesome part of the NaNo experience.  DONE

3. Our user dashboard will usher you through the rest of your account set-up stuff. Click on the grayed-out badges to fill out your profile, say hello in our forums, and add writing buddies.  NOT DONE

4. On October 1, you’ll be able to add information about your upcoming novel to your profile. Giving your work a title or brief synopsis gets you 225% more pumped for November. It’s a fact.  NOT DONE

5. You can also use October to read past author pep talks, grab participant web badges, meet folks in the forums, and learn more about our nonprofit.   NOT DONE

6. At midnight on November 1, start writing. Work on your manuscript using any method where you can track your word count. Word-processing program, notebook, typewriter, stone slab: they all work.  NOT DONE

7. Update your word count whenever you can. Some like every day; others prefer a few times a week. No matter when, you can do it in that word-count update menu at the top of every page on our site.  NOT DONE

8. Stay motivated with pep talks (we’ll send them to your on-site inbox and your email), forum chatter, and in-person events in your region. There’s also a big world of NaNo out there in social media: find us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest.  NOT DONE

9. Starting on November 25, you can validate your novel to win. If it’s over 50,000 words, paste the text into the word-count validator. A few robotic calculations later, we’ll declare you an official NaNoWriMo winner! From there, you’ll be able to collect a few prime novelist goodies.  NOT DONE

10. If you enjoy your NaNo experience, please donate to support our mission. We believe in making this a more creative world, and we’d love your help getting there. (Here’s more about why others donate, as well as additional ways to give.)  OUTSKIRTS PRESS SPONSORED NANOWRIMO TWO YEARS AGO; CONSIDERING WHETHER OR NOT TO DO IT AGAIN…

So, who wants to join me and write a book (or at least a large chunk of a book) in 30 days?

20th Annual EVVY Award Winners

The 20th Annual EVVY Awards took place at the Santa Fe Arts District this past Saturday night and multiple Outskirts Press authors were on-hand along with the Outskirts Press executives to see which finalists walked away with awards in this Colorado Independent Publishers Association event.

As usual, Outskirts Press had the most finalists among all participating publishers; however this was the first year of the CIPA EVVY Awards when being a “finalist” did not guarantee winning an award.  In year’s past, when we have received our list of “finalists” from the CIPA judges, we have been confident that every author on that list would be winning a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Merit award on the evening of the banquet. Not so this year.  I’m not quite sure why CIPA would have made this change. Just last week during a meeting about the Colorado Book Awards, the executives at the Colorado Humanities had expressed to me a concern about having finalists travel to Aspen only to learn on the night of the awards that they didn’t win anything.  I suggested to them that they adopt the CIPA method of ensuring that all finalists at least receive a “Merit” award (or something similar).  Ironic, then, that CIPA changed that fundamental element with this most recent event, and it is my hope that they change it back next year.  I don’t like the idea of our “finalists” personally attending an event in Denver and walking away empty-handed (nor did one of our authors who attended).  Luckily, another Outskirts Press author, who drove all the way from Florida to attend, ended up winning the 1st Place Award in her category…

And on that note, below are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners from last Saturday night.  Our full list of winners, including all the Merit Award winners, will be posted on the Self Publishing News blog in the coming days (one of the perks of following my blog is you sometimes get news like this early).


Follow the Light, the Shroud’s Revelations by T. C. Newman


The Monster Monroe
by Richard Pires


No Fear by Lesha Acker


The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club by Lynda Stephenson



Rational Polemics: Tackling the Ethical Dilemmas of Life by Richard Todd Devens


Sleight of Hand: Shadow Games by Jennifer Fales




The Sad Tree and Pronuba by Christina Steiner


Tales From the Sea: Secrets From a Cruise Ship by Alexander Flint

Winning the annual Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year award (and it’s $1,500 Grand Prize) begins with winning a CIPA EVVY Award. Are we looking at the Best Book of the Year finalists among these books above? We will find out soon when the finalists are announced in the coming days.

A Self-Publishing Holiday Retrospective 2008-2012

Yes, I am still in the middle of the Guy Kawasaki series of postings focusing on his “10 Steps to Enchantment” speech that I heard during the Inc. 500/5000 conference in Phoenix this past October. I will get back to that in the new year.  In the meantime we are currently looking at holiday pictures from the present and past to get a “snapshot” of the people and accomplishments of Outskirts Press over the years.  There are many familiar faces year in and year out, and the 2008 image is no different:

Even in this small, intimate gathering from 2008 you see faces that have attended each and every holiday party since (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012): Cindy, Tony, Donna, Brent, Shirley, Patrick, Ellen, Lynn, and Jeanine. And the other faces (Heidi, Karl, Michele) were in 2009 and will be in the past years to come (if that makes sense).

Incorporating a small business – Part 5

So after a week of filling out the online questionnaire with Legal Zoom in order to incorporate a small business, here’s how far along we are on their progress bar…

In other words, we have to accelerate this – I don’t want to still be doing this series of posts during Christmas.  It also tells us that their “15 minute” estimate might have been just slightly off.  It doesn’t help that I have to start over from scratch every time I leave their site to do other things.   Hey, Legal Zoom, since you’re saving the information I enter (I can tell because the forms are pre-populated with my choices), can’t you save my place, too?

But, I digress. The next screen following the Compliance Calendar that I mentioned last week has three sections for stock, fiscal year, and corporate minutes. They all sound daunting, but the reality is that for most small corporations, these are all pretty easy questions to answer:

1 – How many shares of common stock can the company issue? Legal Zoom offers some basic help with answering this question, along with a suggestion that for new corporations with just a few shareholders, the amount can be an easy round number like 1000. So that’s what I’ll enter, although part of the reason it’s a little easier for me is because I don’t live in one of these states:

New York
New Mexico

2 – What is the par value of the shares? The most common answer to this when forming a new corporation is 0.01, which is their default.

3 – Next it asks when the end of the fiscal year is for the new company, and the most common answer, especially if you’re an S-Corp, is December 31.

4 – The final question on this screen involves the maintenance of corporate minutes and offers to provide what basically sounds like a template for them for $69-$99/year.  I think I’ll pass.

… to be continued…

How to incorporate a small business on Legal Zoom – Part 4

To continue this series of posts, your next screen on Legal Zoom asks you to provide your corporation’s address. That’s pretty self-explanatory, but its next question might not be. It involves defining the corporation’s registered agent — in other words the individual who will be identified on public record as the “stakeholder” for the company. 

Legal Zoom offers an upsell option here, where they can act as your registered agent on your behalf, although this comes with a hefty annual price.  In most cases, the person filling out this form on Legal Zoom would probably choose to be their own registered agent.    And if you choose the latter option, as I did, you have to provide the address for the registered agent, which is typically the same address as the corporation’s.

The final question in relationship to addresses and registered agents is another up-sell option Legal Zoom calls their “Compliance Calendar” which comes with an annual fee of $69. According to Legal Zoom, their Compliance Calendar automatically notifies you of important state and federal deadlines and tax requirements.  Yes, like most service companies, Legal Zoom charges nominal fees for completing steps you can complete yourself for free – that’s the cost of knowledge and convenience.

Stay tuned next week as we get into the fun stuff — common stocks, fiscal years, and corporate minutes…

How to get venture capital

 Every year when Outskirts Press appears on the Inc 5000 of fastest growing private companies we get a deluge of calls, letters, and proposals from investment bankers, venture capitalists, and the like. It’s easy to become flattered by all this attention from companies offering to give you lots of money, but the reality is that most of these companies are simply using the Inc 5000 as a source for approaching possible companies of interest. I used to take it more seriously than I do now, because in some cases I’ve had follow-up conversations with firms who have expressed an interest in Outskirts Press only to discover that they really don’t know anything about us – other than the fact that we are profitable and growing quickly and consistently.  True, in this day and age, those characteristics alone are worth the phone call. But you would think, since those corporate characteristics are so rare, that those firms would take a moment to learn at least some talking points about the firms they are pursuing in advance of sending out letters.

It reminds me of that old axiom, when you need a credit card you can’t get one. The same holds true for investment capital. You can’t get money when you need it, but once you don’ t need it, everyone is offering it to you. That’s why I prefer the bootstrapping method of starting a company rather than the investment method.  If you bootstrap a successful company venture capitalists will literally come out of the woodwork to find you.  Why? Because you’ve already demonstrated you have what it takes to be successful.  A venture capitalist would prefer to work with an established, profitable company than with an unknown because venture capitalists are gamblers, and gamblers like to hedge their bets.

How hard is it to find an analogy in the above paragraph fo today’s authors and publishers?  A publisher would prefer to work with an established, profitable author than with an unknown, because traditional publishers are gamblers, and gamblers like to hedge their bets.  Self-publishing is the “bootstrapping” equivalent to starting your own business.  You aren’t having something given to you. You’re so confident in your own offering (whether it be a book or a business) that you do it yourself.  It’s a viable key to success.

Two recent surveys – Result #1

Over the last couple of weeks we have held two different Web 2.0 polls on our Outskirts Press blog. The first poll asked our community of authors, readers, and industry professionals what new option we should introduce from among three choices: An Author App for the iPhone, a “Featured Book-of-the-Week” option, and a Social Media Market Research option that allows authors to leverage the same polling process for their creative purposes (to determine the best cover to use, the best title, the best ending, etc.). It was a close race between the Featured Book-of-the-Week and the Market Research, with Market Research gaining a victory.

As a result of the poll results, we immediately went to work creating the option and launched it live on our site late last week. Since it is primarily intended for authors to gain market research insights regarding the production decisions for their book, the option is currently only a pre-production option available exclusively for our authors, but in time, we may open it up to ALL authors, as we are starting to do with many of our options. We’ll soon have the first of hopefully many Author Polls appearing on our blog for our community to participate in.

I’ll discuss the results of the other poll tomorrow…

Social Media Publishing

A little over a week ago we held a poll on our Outskirts Press blog asking our authors if they were interested in a new option we were considering, called the “Featured Book of the Week” option, which would give our authors an opportunity to increase the exposure for their book by basically sending out an Amazon announcement to all our published authors and social media channels.

We received a LOT of votes (not surprising) and the overwhelming majority liked the idea (also not surprising).

What was surprising was the number of comments we also received in the “Comments” section of the blog posting.   Surprising because we’ve asked our authors to complete polls before and never have we received so many comments.  This showed us that our authors are continuing to appreciate being a part of the decision making process at Outskirts Press. We plan to continue this trend even more.

For example, in the middle of this month, our blog will post a poll asking everyone to vote on what promotion they want for October, and whatever the majority votes for will be the promotion we offer.

We are also close to offering a “Social Media Market Research” option for our authors, enabling them to “harness the power of social media” to help them make market research-based decisions regarding their book (as it involves their cover, or their title, for example).

The vast majority of the comments we received from our poll were positive and I’ll share some comments we have received recently over the next few days. Then I will return to the “How to Get Featured on our App” series soon (although next week I’ll probably first continue this interruption with a few posts on our recent Inc 5000 accomplishment).

How to get featured on our app – Become a bestseller

Last week’s topic covered tactics an author could pursue to get featured in the “Blog” category of the Outskirts Press app. This week, we continue the topic. We have already established that the best way is to focus on being featured in one of these blog categories:

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

So far we have discussed Author and Book Spotlights. Today we’ll talk about getting listed on the Monthly bestseller list.

Obviously, we love showcasing our successful books, and in most people’s eyes, ending up on a “bestseller list” is a good sign of success.  There are all kinds of “bestseller lists” in the world nowadays.  There is the New York Times Bestseller list, there is the Amazon Bestseller list, and there are individual bookstores’ bestseller lists.   The value and “prestige” associated with all these lists vary by who you listen to and who you believe.  But believe this, in a world where 1 million books are published every year,  getting on ANY bestseller list is better than not getting on one.  It validates your book in at least some quantifiable manner. And that’s more than most people can say.   Well… most people haven’t even published a book, so you’re already ahead of the game.

Every month, we compile our own bestseller list, which are the ten books that we sold the most of, listed in alphabetical order.  For example, our July bestsellers were featured on our app beginning August 16th and are still being featured.  This list is impossible to predict from month to month, which means it is anyone’s game.  Sure, we have our athletes  (Marvin A. Russell) and doctors (Dr. Anthony Ebeigbe and Dr. Patrick Olomu) on the list in July, but we also have selections of books that prove you don’t have to play for Notre Dame, or teach in its classrooms, to have a bestseller.

And having an Outskirts Press bestseller is a sure way to get featured in our app. Tomorrow we’ll discuss Virtual Book Tours, the first of the guaranteed ways to get featured.