The New & Improved Outskirts Press Newsletter

Last week when I blogged about our Best Book of the Year process, I mentioned that some pictures from the August 20th EVVY Awards would be posted on my blog soon.  The pictures I referred to were those taken by the CIPA photographers (I smiled for so many pictures as I accepted our authors’ awards that my jaw was literally beginning to hurt), and I figured they would be made available any day. I spoke too soon.

So rather than wait for their pictures to be posted, we used some of our own photographs that we took that night to complement our September 1st Newsletter article about the Best Book of the Year Awards.  It was a fitting debut, since this is also the edition that is unveiling our new & improved newsletter, with a better format and better content. You can see the new newsletter here.

“New & Improved” is a phrase we’re throwing around a lot lately, as we improve our branding, our messaging, our packages, our website, our communications, and now our newsletter.  But I feel in every instance of “new” those elements of our company have also been significantly “improved.”

  • Our branding is improved by being more on point with clearly defined colors, fonts, and language.
  • Our messaging is improved by being more helpful and author-orientated instead of “sales-y.”
  • Our packages are improved by including more elements our clients over the past decade have asked for.
  • Our website is improved by being responsive to all devices, being less cluttered and more cutting-edge.
  • Our communications (namely email) are improved by being more focused, more helpful, less sales-y, and responsive.
  • And our newsletters are improved by bringing all those previously listed improvements together.

The first newsletter is a good example of this, where you can clearly see the results of the brand and messaging overhaul. You can also see how we are providing free tips (in this case, an article about creating the perfect book title), and sharing more details about the amazing people behind the scenes at Outskirts Press, beginning with our Director of Operations, Wendy.

Noteworthy perhaps, is what the online newsletter doesn’t include.  The emailed version includes other articles and advice that are only available by subscribing to it or publishing with us (we send out two different versions — one for potential authors and one for published authors; and of course, the content is different, because a published author requires different information than a soon-to-be-published author). The online version, on the other hand, includes only portions of each emailed newsletter for the general public.

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And now that we’ve officially announced the upcoming Best Book of the Year awards, it’s time to choose our 3 finalists! They’ll be revealed next week on our blog. Stay tuned!

 

Responsive Webpages For Everyone!

One of the important factors of the New & Improved Outskirts Press has been our transition to responsive website design for our new clients. RWD websites look great no matter what device is being used, ranging from desktop computers to mobile phones, and every tablet in between.  Mobile usage overtook desktop usage in 2016 so this was the perfect year to make this switch.

Along with our all new-publishing packages comes all new inclusions, including Publishing Tips Sheets on the front-end and the Book Marketing RoadMap on the back-end. And every new author receives a responsive author webpage with social media integration.

That’s great for them! But what about our thousands and thousands of already-published authors?  Well, as of today, every published Outskirts Press author now has a responsive author webpage to showcase and sell their book just as beautifully on a mobile phone as on a desktop monitor. And those in the production and pre-production pipelines will have a responsive webpage waiting for them upon publication.

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The aesthetic nature of the new responsive webpages is one thing. But, these pages are more than just a pretty face.  Here are other amazing facts about the responsive author webpages available exclusively through Outskirts Press:

  • Outskirts Press authors have the choice of publishing under our imprint of “Outskirts Press, Inc” or  under their own publishing imprint name using our “Private Label ISBN” option, which registers an exclusive ISBN under their own publishing name.  A new feature of the Responsive Author Webpage is that Private Label authors have THEIR publishing name displayed at the top, rather than “Outskirts Press, Inc.”
  • A new menu bar has been added to the Responsive Author Webpages, which allows easy navigation to each section of the page: Book Details, Author Information, Book Excerpt, and Multi-Media. If an author has chosen to leave a section blank (didn’t add any multi-media, for instance), then that menu option is omitted automatically.
  • The pertinent sales information remains and contains the title, sub-title, author name, publication date, page count, and genre.
  • Every available edition of the author’s book is now available to purchase in whatever format (and from whatever source) the buyer prefers.  Paperback and hardback editions can be purchased directly from Outskirts Press for a 10% discount (authors still get their full royalty).
  • PDF Digital Download e-files are still available for instant download if the author added that option to the publishing process.
  • A new feature offers a direct link to the iTunes edition if the author purchased the Standard iPad e-book edition.  Still present from previous versions of the author webpage are links to the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which also brings shoppers’ attention to the possible availability of Kindle and/or Nook e-book editions of the book.
  • The book’s front cover is displayed along with a Facebook “Like” button. A new feature is the addition of the Pinterest “Pin it” button, so your visitors can easily “pin” your book cover to their Pinterest Boards.
  • The “Book Details” section remains, and is still modifiable within the author’s Publishing Center.  You can still use different font colors or hotlink to images with a rudimentary understanding of HTML. With this update, authors can no longer change their old author webpage layout or site colors.
  • The “Book Excerpt” section remains, and is still modifiable within the author’s Publishing Center. You can still use different font colors or hotlink to images with a rudimentary understanding of HTML.  A new feature is the clean omission of this section if an author has chosen not to include an excerpt.
  • The “About the Author” section includes the author’s biography (which is modifiable within the Publishing Center), plus the the author’s photo (if they provided it).
  • An exciting new feature of the Responsive Author Webpage is the “social media” connection in the “About the Author” section, whereby an author can add up to six direct links to his or her Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Linked-In, or Instagram accounts.  Just add the URL details in your Author Profile  for the “social media connection” functionality to be added to your Responsive Author Webpage automatically.
  • The slick new “Also by” section showcases the front covers of every book you’ve ever published with Outskirts Press (or your own publishing imprint), no matter what package. Click on the cover and you’re taken to that book’s Author Webpage (which is also in Responsive Web Design).  If you’ve published multiple books with Outskirts Press, as so many authors have, it’s like suddenly receiving a free multi-page, career website.
  • The “Multi-Media” section includes  Audio Excerpts recorded by the author and/or Book Video Trailers. A new feature to the Upgraded Author Webpage: The Audio files should now play perfectly on all devices, including iPhones.  This section is omitted if the author does not have an audio excerpt or a book video.
  • The Outskirts Press “footer” provides easy contact information to Outskirts Press (to resolve any potential ordering or technical issues for your readers), plus easy access to the full gamut of our Social Media Author Communities.
  • If the optional Private Label ISBN was used to publish the book, all the Outskirts Press “branding” is removed from the author’s new responsible webpage.

Now that every Outskirts Press author has a cool responsive author webpage, there are 10 best practices to keep in mind for getting the most out of your author webpage. And that is the topic of an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

 

 

Social Media Branding

All this week I’m discussing the New & Improved Outskirts Press, which began on August 1 with the unveiling of our new RWD website for new authors (see below), new packages for everyone, and new inclusions with all new services (like more free galley revision rounds, more free image insertions, Publishing Tip Sheets, the Book Marketing RoadMap, and a responsive Author Webpage for every new author).

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I’ll discuss all the new packages and new inclusions, beginning with the One-Click for Non-Fiction Suite tomorrow, but in the meantime, this new branding effort extends past our own website at OutskirtsPress.com and incorporates all our social media channels and platforms, all of which are available @outskirtspress on their respective sites, with the exception of the Outskirts Press blog, which is at http://blog.outskirtspress.com.  And, the exception of Google+, which for some reason insists on making their naming convention different from everyone else by adding a + sign.

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In case the message isn’t clear, we passionately believe your book matters, and we’ll make it your way at Outskirts Press.

We still have Pinterest and Instagram to go. But as they say… Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Stay tuned!

 

What’s new at the New Outskirts Press?

Today, August 1st marks an exciting new chapter for Outskirts Press, with the launch of our new RWD website. Over the past year I have been blogging periodically about our transition to Responsive Web Design, which, according to Wikipedia, is  “an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”

say-hello-RWD

But, more important than a cosmetic change are all the new enhancements and improvements that have been made to our client services and publishing services, as well.  Gone are the “old” publishing packages known as the Pearl, Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald.   Now we have all-new packages with all-new names — names that more clearly communicate their hierarchy to one another: Ultimate, Basic, Economy, and Full-Color. Over the coming days I will be discussing these new custom, a la carte publishing packages in more detail.

Our One-Click Publishing Suites remain largely unchanged, with one notable exception — the introduction of the One-Click Publishing for Non-Fiction Suite, which is  (as its name implies) the perfect bundle of professional services for all non-fiction books.

In recognition of this exciting new One-Click package, Outskirts Press is offering an introductory price savings of $500 for this first week of August only. The details for all our monthly promotional features can be found on the rotating image header on the front page of our site (which is also a new feature in itself).

When you’ve been in the self-publishing business as long as we have, a lot of things change — including website conventions (hence the RWD site) and client needs. When I founded Outskirts Press in 2002, one of our primary jobs was explaining what we did. Back then, the notion that we could take anyone’s manuscript and publish it and get it up onto Amazon seemed like magic to a lot of people.  So our “old” website and marketing out-reach did a lot of explaining of that concept.

Nowadays, nearly everyone is aware of their opportunities to self-publish a book.  They no longer need us to explain what self-publishing is, but rather, they need us to demonstrate why self-publishing with Outskirts Press is a better value for them than self-publishing elsewhere. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy thing to demonstrate in many ways, not the least of which is simply showing potential clients our hundreds and hundreds of testimonials.

In any event, this change to our basic approach affects not only the overall design of the new website, but the publishing services we now provide to our clients, as well.

In our 14 years of experience, we have learned first-hand that informed authors lead to successful books.  So our new publishing packages all include Book Publishing Tip Sheets, which are a collection of various articles, lists, and whitepapers filled with best practices about everything from better book titles to taking the perfect author photograph.

When Outskirts Press makes publishing a book so easy, it becomes easy for authors to forget an equally-important part of the self-publishing journey: book marketing.  Our famous and exclusive Marketing COACH is in the process of being improved as we speak (improving 2+ years of information is a daunting task).  And to complement the COACH emails, our new publishing packages all include The Book Marketing RoadMap, an informative series of articles and whitepapers focused on providing complimentary marketing advice to our valued clients after their book has been published.

This blog posting of what’s new is already becoming longer than I planned (because so much is new), so let me just quickly rattle off some additional new features:

  • additional proofing rounds
  • additional image insertions
  • new cover themes (plus new covers designed specifically for children’s books)
  • new author webpages with social media integration

The list of what’s new and improved goes on and on. So, what’s new at the New Outskirts Press?  A whole lot, as it turns out, and I’ll get into the details of all these new improvements in the coming days and weeks.

 

OUT with the old, in with the NEW

This post combines the two most recent “blog series” postings I’ve been covering over the past year.  The first series has discussed our milestone achievements in relation to our upgrading to Responsive Web Design, which I began discussing last September with this definition of RWD.

In the next post, I defined the 6 milestones we identified at Outskirts Press as we upgraded to RWD, and those milestones were:

  1. Landings Pages
  2. Email Communication
  3. Newsletters
  4. Author Webpages
  5. Outskirts Press External
  6. Outskirts Press Internal

Then, over the next 6 months, I posted about each milestone in order, finally coming upon #5 on June 23rd with the revealing of our new RWD External Website for new authors.

As I’m prone to do, I then switched gears and posted several times about how the new RWD site launch, scheduled for August 1, is related to a new branding strategy and how it all ties together for the exciting rebranding and launch of the *NEW* Outskirts Press.  That was the second “blog series”.

Now, to tie them both together, today I will discuss how the new branding will start to reveal itself to our current in-progress and published authors on the Internal section of the Outskirts Press site throughout the month of July as we get closer to August 1st.

The “internal” portion of our website is affectionately known as either the “Author’s Center” or “Publishing Center”, and is what all our clients see if they have published a book with us, or are currently in the production process.  For technical reasons beyond the scope of this blog (and my understanding), migrating the “Internal” portions of the Outskirts Press site to RWD is a huge undertaking, due to the programming complexity of what the Publishing Center is “doing” for our clients and their books.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to apply the *NEW* branding for our current clients.

For instance, this is a snapshot of the “current” Outskirts Press Publishing Center masthead as it looked as recently as July 1:

By comparison, the masthead on our new RWD site is much cleaner:

So as we begin to ramp up the new branding for our new relaunch, our current and published authors will see this version of the masthead below in their Publishing Center when they return from their 4th of July festivities:

The change of the logo from horizontal to vertical is moderate, but the removal of the “blue background” is quite a departure, as it has played a role in our website look for years. By “baby-stepping” these aesthetic changes to our current clients, we hope to avoid as much confusion as possible.  In the coming weeks, we’ll also start to see the “communication” we are employing to notify our potential clients, in-progress writers, and published authors of these exciting changes through our various social media (and direct communication) channels.  Stay tuned…

 

The “O” is for Outstanding

We’re in the middle of discussing the *NEW* Outskirts Press rebranding and relaunch. The rebranding process is already underway, as we’ve been discussing over the past several weeks on this blog. And the relaunch of the NEW Outskirts Press website is scheduled for August 1. With the relaunch comes all new publishing packages, branding, and messaging.

New “stuff” often means new graphics. In the previous post I discussed the impending retirement of our horizontal Outskirts Press logo (we’ll be using the “stacked” version exclusively). Today I will discuss the introduction of the new “O” mark, which will play subtle and not-so-subtle roles in much of the rebranding effort.

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Our new suite of publishing service icons will prominently feature this “O” when the new publishing packages are introduced on August 1 on the new website (more on our new packages in the near future).  This “O” will also play a small role in the graphic design of some of our advertising efforts, both online and offline, as we roll out new advertising and marketing campaigns.

You can see the “O” being implemented already, as the new .ico image for our current website at http://outskirtspress.com:

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If your own website doesn’t yet have an .ico image, it’s easy enough to add one. Simply create a high-resolution graphic (1200 or 2400 dpi) in .jpg or .png format, and then use an .ico converter on the web (easy enough to find with a Google search) to convert the image into .ico format. Then upload that .ico file to your website’s root directory.  It’s a small thing. But in the world of self-publishing, small things often make all the difference. Which is why Top Consumer Reviews ranks Outskirts Press #1.

 

Branding the new Outskirts Press

In my previous post, I announced the *new* Outskirts Press, which is scheduled to launch on August 1 with a new website for new authors, and new branding and new packages for everyone. As we gear up for that exciting launch, some new branding will start to “trickle” into our other online presences, beginning with this one.  For frequent readers of my blog, you know that “branding” is a common theme of my posts, and one goal for the launch of the New OP is consistency across all our various online channels.

So yesterday marked the launch of the new BrentSampson.com blog theme, and I’ll discuss a number of components of that theme today, so as additional Outskirts Press sites across the Internet re-brand themselves, those who are playing along can see what goes into a rebranding strategy.

I’ve taken a screen shot of this new blog, and I’ll discuss the following elements:

The first circled element is our trademarked logo.  We introduced this stylized dark blue/light blue logo back in 2010 in two iterations: a stacked version, like the one you see circled here, and un-stacked, horizontal version, in which “outskirtspress” ran together:

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Say good-bye to that horizontal version. Part of our rebranding exercise is using one consistent trade-marked logo everywhere — the “stacked” version.   The logo and placement on my blog also matches (as closely as WordPress allows) the placement on our new website when it launches later this summer:

If you look to the upper-right of both images above you will see a menu that offers links to our shopping cart, our contact us page, our author login page, and our bookstore, respectively. Those links are duplicated on this blog, along with the main menu choices from the new website (publishing, marketing, and writing services).  Until the new site launches, those links on my blog go to the current versions of all those pages.

Outskirts Press operates four different, active blogs, and the arrow on the left of the image above points toward the “title” that will designate the brand-identity of each blog when they each re-launch with consistent branding over the next several weeks.   Also acting as a “brand-identity” is the photograph in the right column of this blog, which the second arrow is pointing to in the image above. In my case, it’s an updated picture of yours truly (the last one was taken in 2002, so I figured it was time for an update).

The last remaining element is the red box, which is a place-holder for the “header” image.  The new RWD Outskirts Press website will feature a rotating header image that features our monthly publishing, marketing, and writing promotions (as demonstrated by the “Save 10% on Amazon Look Inside” in that mock-up image above).   Will those monthly same images play a role in the branding of our various blogs in the same “header space”?  Stay tuned to find out.