Self Publishing Bad News & Good News

Back in April, I wrote this paragraph in the closing moments of one of my blog postings: “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.”

And in the following posts, I covered the publication of the 3rd annual Fandemonium Facebook Anthology and the winner of the 3rd annual Best Book of the Year awards.  That leaves us with the Inc 500/5000 list and our 10-year anniversary, but I’m also going to throw in a big milestone Outskirts Press hit yesterday.  But first the bad news. After 4 consecutive years appearing on the Inc. Magazine 500/5000 list of American’s fastest-growing private companies, a run that began back in 2008, we did not qualify for the list a 5th consecutive time. Last time I checked, less than 1000 companies have appeared on the list five times in a row, much less consecutively, so 4 consecutive years is something to be proud of. And this means we get to work even harder through 2013 and 2014, delivering to all our clients continued stellar service and quality at competitive prices.

And now the good news! Yesterday, Outskirts Press reached 10,000 Fans on its Facebook Page, a milestone we are all very proud of. We’d like to thank the writing and reading community for their continued support and friendly participation in one of self-publishing’s growing online communities.  Now, all 10,000+ of our Facebook fans are in the running for a free Apple iPad we will give away in a random drawing we hold very soon.  More details will be forthcoming on the Self Publishing News blog.

And everyone will want to stay involved with our Facebook page for the drawing we hold once we pass the 25,000 milestone. Stay tuned!

That still leaves the topic of our 10 Year Anniversary, which we officially celebrate in October of this year. I say “officially” because Outskirts Press was “up and operational” in 2002, but didn’t officially incorporate as a corporation until 2003.  So you could say we’re already smack dab in the middle of our 10th year, and there’s lots more to come. Our talented editing, writing, and designing artisans along with our passionate authors (and IT/accounting and administrative folks) are all to be thanked and congratulated. Here’s to many more!

Speaking of 10 years, my lovely wife and I are celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary this month.  Happy Anniversary, Jeanine. I love you.

Self Publishing for Free

Free self-publishing is everywhere. The problem is, you usually get what you pay for.

But not when you publish for free in the 3rd annual Fandemonium Facebook anthology, exclusively from Outskirts Press.   With this yearly anthology we give 40-50 talented writers the opportunity to publish some of their copyright-protected content for free in a collection of work that allows them to experience first-hand the benefits of working with a high-quality, full service self publishing firm.  Each contributor keeps all the rights to their respective work and the royalties go to the American Red Cross.  Free publication and helping a worthwhile cause? No wonder each issue is such a hit with our Facebook friends.

Here’s how it works…

Now Accepting Submissions for the Third Annual Fandemonium Anthology from Outskirts Press

It’s that time of year again! Fandemonium 3 is coming and you are invited to be a part of it!

Have you written a poem or short story that you would like to enter for a chance to be published for free in this new anthology featuring our talented Facebook fans?

Each year, Fandemonium brings Outskirts Press Facebook fans together to experience the joy of publishing with Outskirts Press first-hand, benefiting a great cause along the way.

Submitting your work for consideration is simple. Here’s what to do:

  1. Become an Outskirts Press Facebook fan by “liking” our Facebook page. If you’ve already liked us, great!
  2. Post your submission as a Note in Facebook. Then tag the Outskirts Press Facebook Page in your Note.
  3. Be sure to submit your entry before April 30th, and remember to tell your friends to vote for your submission by “liking” it.

Submissions with the highest number of votes will be considered for inclusion in our upcoming Fandemonimum Volume 3 anthology. Submissions can be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. Short entries are best for anthologies, so submissions under 5000 words will be considered first.

You will retain 100% of the copyright to your material. By submitting content, you confirm that you are the sole copyright holder to the material you are submitting and that you grant us a non-exclusive right to use the materials you submit through our social media channels and within the Facebook Anthology when it is published and distributed. Furthermore, you understand that royalties from the sale of Fandemonium are not split among the contributors but rather go to the American Red Cross.

In fact, you can benefit the American Red Cross right now with your 10% discounted purchase of Fandemonium Volume 1 and Fandemonium Volume 2.

Ready to publish your own book as well?

Start Publishing Today

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.

Brent Sampson updates: Facebook Achievements

In an effort to catch up on my blog postings from the nearly two week hiatus I took due to other priorities and responsibilities, I’m providing brief summaries of some of the recent events and “goings-on” at Outskirts Press. One of the major initiatives we are launching this summer to help self publishing authors gain more exposure for their own writing, publishing, and marketing accomplishments is our FACEBOOK ACHIEVEMENTS.

For those who haven’t heard of the term “gamification,” this is the concept of motivating “action” in a user-base by providing awards and public recognition for accomplishing certain tasks — in essence, making a “game” out of something that is typically seen as more “mundane.”   Of course, the most common examples of “gamification” are seen in video games themselves, when you “level up” or pass a certain stage or build a certain character to a certain level of “experience points.”  These are gamification elements because they provide an award for accomplishing a task or passing a milestone.

Relatively recently, businesses have started applying the same concept to motivate clients and customers to take certain actions. Four Square recognizes its users with Major badges, for instance, when said users visit certain local businesses with enough frequency.

Our own gamification functionality has been in development for a while now and is going to launch live within the coming months. Yesterday we posted an invitation on our Facebook page for Outskirts Press published authors to volunteer for an open Beta Test of the awards program.  We’re looking for 20-40 volunteers to receive their first Beta Award in recognition and thanks for helping us test this new feature.  They will be provided with instructions on how to notify us if something doesn’t work quite right.  Then, when it launches, Outskirts Press will be connected automatically with a user’s Facebook account and will broadcast the author’s major publishing & marketing accomplishments to all his or her friends.  Of course, an author can easily opt-out of the program at any time.  Based upon preliminary feedback, our authors are excited about the new feature and we are excited to be launching it for them soon.

Facebook Timeline Cover Graphics

In yesterday’s post I mentioned the three things to consider when creating your “Cover” graphic for your company FB page now that the Timeline theme has removed the ability to have “Welcome Pages.” Those three considerations are

1) Identify your company’s core benefits 2) Incentive ”Likes” in a similar manner to the previous Welcome pages 3) Aesthetically design around the FB elements that are super-imposed over the cover graphic

As a result of these three goals, here is the cover graphic we created for Outskirt Press (it might be a little “squashed” since the optimal width for this graphic is 851, which exceeds the amount of space available on this blog. Nevertheless it gives you the idea, and you can see the “real” cover graphic on our Facebook page by clicking here.

In our case, our core benefits are that we help authors write anything, publish everything, and market everywhere. So those benefit statements are a part of the design.

We incentivize links by highlighting the current months “perk” or “topic” along with the next month’s upcoming topic, and then we graphically point in the general vicinity of the “like” button of FB, as well-designed “Welcome” pages did in the past.  By referring to both the current and up-coming months, we give incentive for friends to “stay with us” even if the current month’s event/promotion is nearing the end.  And finally, we designed this graphic to aesthetically accommodate the FB lay-overs.  The “white space” underneath the couple is where Facebook overlays the avatar graphic, so we matched the treatment of that graphic, even down the 3 pixel border separating the gray lines from the image.  So it actually looks like this on Facebook:

And that brings us to the rest of the header space: the “About box, the photos, and the other three “navigational” graphics FB allows. We’ll discuss more of that next time…

Creating a cover graphic for Facebook Timeline

The “Survivor Graphic” I discussed last week was a stop-gap, a temporary solution to get something, anything, into the “Cover” spot when Facebook launched the Timeline lay-outs.  But it wasn’t optimal.  For one, it failed to say what Outskirts Press does – what its benefits are to its users/clients/authors.  And it didn’t compensate for the loss of “Welcome pages.”

Welcome pages, as many FB marketers know, were specific app-pages that could be created to incentivize likes, by promoting upcoming perks, drawings, promotions, etc.  I discussed how to create a Welcome page in a previous series of posts toward the beginning of this year when Outskirts Press was putting its own Welcome Page into use.  One of the nice things about the old Welcome pages was that by manipulating a setting in Facebook, you could direct new users to your Welcome Page rather than your wall, theoretically increasing the odds of them “linking” you.  Actually, this practice wasn’t theoretical at all — it was statistically proven to be successful.

The new Timeline theme removes the ability to set any other page as the landing page.  Everyone comes to the same page when they visit Outskirts Press on Facebook, and we can’t send them anywhere else, not even to an alternate app-page.

So, then, with the Cover Graphic, the question becomes, “How can I use the Cover Graphic to: 1) Identify my company’s core benefits and 2) incentive “Likes” in a similar manner to my previous ‘Welcome page’ while 3) aesthetically designing around the FB elements that are super-imposed over my cover graphic?”

That’s a tall order, but with some creativity and a talented designer, you can pull it off, and I’ll share how we did it for Outskirts Press tomorrow….

Customizing new Facebook pages

Since it could have easily been confused for an April Fool’s Day joke, Facebook decided to change all the Company Pages to the “Timeline” motif at the end of March, but certainly the close proximity to April 1st is not just a happy coincidence.  For entrepreneurs or companies that have spent a lot of time tweaking their Facebook profile and company pages to get them just right, having to start again from scratch is a little annoying. Note to Zuckerberg: Your hobby doesn’t have to become our hobby.  In all fairness, this change seemed inevitable because I’m sure the “old” way was overloading their servers.  The “Timeline” presentation of data is much more efficient in terms of server access for its approximately 500 million daily users.

Okay, so now that the change is upon us, in the coming days I’ll share some tips and tricks to help you change your page from looking like this (which is what ours at Outskirts Press looked like on April 1 – April Fools indeed)…


… to looking like this…



Facebook fan leader boards and “Fan of the Week” kudos

I know I should be discussing the proofing process at Outskirts Press, and I will get back to that next week, but in celebration of our passing 5,000 fans on our Outskirts Press Facebook Page, I wanted to mention some of the new apps we added to not only encourage more participation from our FB friends, but to give them recognition for that participation, as well.  Of course, anything that I discuss regarding Facebook is a little up in the air, since apparently, the Fan Pages on Facebook will be changing to a new design on March 30.   But if the “Preview” is to be believed, this new design will incorporate the oft-debated “Timeline” design that Facebook unveiled for the Personal pages a little while ago.  This re-design shouldn’t affect what we’re doing with our Fan Recognition Programs, which I’ll discuss now:

The first is a “Fan of the Week” award, which will publicly recognize a random fan of our Facebook page for participation on our wall — which gives public kudos to fans who have actively engaged in liking something, commenting on something, or posting something.  Each week, a new Fan will be chosen, recognized on our wall, and will be featured on a new Fan of the Week page on our Facebook Page, with his/her user profile “up in lights.”  The purpose, of course, is to encourage other fans/friends to participate, so they will become the next Fan of the Week. The more you participate, the greater your chances to be chosen as the Fan of the Week.

To that end, we also launched a Top Fans app, which goes one step further.  Every Sunday we will recognize the top weekly fans who are responsible for the most likes, the most comments, and the most posts.  The top 5 fans in each category will be listed on a new Top Fans leader-board page, along with a 4th category, recognizing the fans who have accumulated the most “points” overall (with certain engagements — likes, comments, posts — earning a certain number of points).

And in the coming months we will be launching our Facebook Publishing Awards, where certain milestones our authors reach in the publishing and marketing process are automatically broadcast to all their Facebook friends.   People closely watching my personal FB page may have noticed the first such Award come across my newsfeed a couple of weeks ago.  This will be a great way for us to help our authors better establish and earn the public recognition they deserve for their impressive accomplishment — successfully publishing and marketing a great looking, high-quality book!

And if there’s any doubt that all this “stuff” I’m talking about in regard to Facebook (including the tactics I covered yesterday) contribute to significant increases in social media “reach,” one need only look at this recent graphic generated by Facebook Insights for our Facebook Page:




How to Increase Facebook Fans (Likes)

Before I proceed with the production/proofing process series of posts, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate David Olson of Albuquerque, NM, who was the winner of a free Barnes & Noble NOOK in our random drawing on the Outskirts Press blog.   This was the way we celebrated reaching 5,000 fans on our self publishing Facebook page. And that gives me a reason to really quickly offer 3 steps on increasing YOUR Facebook fan base.

1. Create a Welcome Page that motivates visitors to your page to “Like” you by offering exclusive deals, promotions, events, information, etc. I’ve posted about how to do that here.

2. Engage your community with quotes, quizzes, polls, information, content, and rapid, helpful answers to their questions.  Yes, this is the time consuming part, and usually the step that either makes or breaks this 3-step plan.  In the case of Outskirts Press, we are fortunate to have a LOT of content to share on Facebook, so it’s more a matter of logistically and efficiently sharing it, rather than having to create it.  In our case we share writing and inspirational quotes twice a week (Monday and Friday), “Awesome Covers of the Week” on Wednesday and Saturday, “In Author’s Words” (inspiring and motivational comments and testimonials from our published authors) on Tuesday and Thursday.  This is in addition to the daily doses of information about publishing, “self publishing and book marketing” that is shared via RSS from our blog and the periodic polls and quizzes we hold to further engage our community.  Plus, with nearly every comment or question, we attempt to respond informatively, helpfully, positively, and with encouragement and professionalism.  I.e., this step isn’t “easy.”

3. Give things away.  This is actually a combination of #1 and #2 in addition to its own step.  You can promote what you’re giving away on your Welcome Page that you create; you can constantly mention it among the tactics you are taking in step #2 (particularly when you have a winner); and you can create a poll for what should be the next prize that is given away, which, in theory, should prevent those who joined solely for the award from “unliking” you once they realize they didn’t win.  And that takes us to our NOOK winner, which we announced this morning on our Outskirts Press blog.

Facebook landing page

I know I promised to talk about how to create a Facebook landing page, and I will, although that topic will probably have to wait until January. Because tomorrow’s posting is going to be a follow-up to the recent posting regarding Hootsuite and Google + pages for business and then for the next two weeks I’m going to do a series about the funniest contractual clauses I’ve read in other self-publishing agreements. Seemed like a good Christmas series of postings…

But, speaking of Christmas and of the Facebook landing pages topic that I’m pushing to January, I thought I would at least share our current Facebook landing page for Outskirts Press. Hey, you too can be eligible to win an Amazon Kindle, and perhaps even a Barnes & Noble Nook or an iPad 2.  Here’s what our landing page looks like (well, without the actual “Like” button, which is where Facebook comes in when you visit our page.)