Denver-based Outskirts Press, which claims to be “the fastest-growing full-service book publishing and book marketing firm,” has just launched a self-publishing platform for authors targeting the iBooks platform, with an iPad/iPhone standard edition package for $299, according to an announcement made via the London Book Fair.

How this offering differs from the current “iPad/iPhone Premium Edition with Private Label iBooks Distribution” package available off the Outskirts website for $699 is not clear. The product blurb for the package outlines what it can achieve but not how it works – such as whether Outskirts undertakes to edit a manuscript delivered to it, what the formatting options are, what kind of publicity or marketing support, if any, is offered, etc. Given the number of add-on options available via the Outskirts website, such as a custom press release for $219 or five celebrity endorsements for $109, it’s reasonable to assume that many of these are offered as optional, but not cost-free, extras.

Smashwords in particular is known for its strong relations with the iBooks platform, and has nothing like this upfront cost structure. So although the quoted costs for Outskirts’ services don’t run too far past what you would normally pay suppliers for anyway if you went the full bells-and-whistles self-publishing route, it’s fair to assume that Outskirts has pitched its tent fairly squarely in the vanity self-publishing camp. Their site is also chock full of ads and promo buttons, with offerings like “Receive $300 in spending money during Mad Money Month.”

Just as a comparison, and not especially to boost Smashwords, here’s a sample of their literature: “We DON’T employ sales people.  We’ll NEVER try to sell you anything (because we don’t sell anything!). Our interests are 100% aligned with your interests.  Since we only earn income on commission, our business is entirely oriented toward helping our authors, publishers and literary agents reach more readers and sell more books.”

Meanwhile, “say good-bye to the rejection of traditional publishers and the two-year publishing cycle.  Say good-bye to the hassles of independent self-publishing, like guessing print-runs, managing inventory, and the responsibility of order fulfillment,” says the generic Outskirts introductory blurb. “Say hello to the flexibility and control of self-publishing combined with the full-service support and confidence of a book publishing company, all under one roof. Outskirts Press offers you the best of both worlds by combining the advantages of independent self-publishing with the advantages of traditional book publishing.”

Say goodbye to a fair slice of your money too, it seems. Just make sure it’s worth it.

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Paul St John Mackintosh is a British poet, writer of dark fiction, and media pro with a love of e-reading. His gadgets range from a $50 Kindle Fire to his trusty Vodafone Smart Grand 6. Paul was educated at public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, but modern technology saved him from the Hugh Grant trap. His acclaimed first poetry collection, The Golden Age, was published in 1997, and reissued on Kindle in 2013, and his second poetry collection, The Musical Box of Wonders, was published in 2011.


  1. I fully agree with Paul. For most writers, Smashwords make more sense. All you need send it is a Word file following a few rules. No payment at all, and their website makes it easy to manage your ebooks. Smashwords can take that Word document and put your ebook on almost every U.S. ebook retailer, including Apple. The one exception is hold-out Amazon.

    Smashword can’t handle complex formatting though. If someone is only interested in the iBookstore and has or can pick a Mac inexpensively, Apple’s iBooks Author is free. It handles ordinary text (such as a novel). It’ll also handle books with graphics such as picture storybooks or textbooks. Like Smashwords, ebook uploads cost nothing.

    There also Vellum, a new app intended specifically for publishing ebooks to iBooks, the Kindle, and the Nook. You can find it here:

    It’s still new, so the feature set in still quite limited. For now, think of it as a novel-only way to publish. I’m suggested as strong as I could to them that they need to give it a user-interface like Scrivener’s binder. That’d allow scenes to be rearranged rather than just chapters. With that, it’d be more than adequate for writing novels not just publishing them.

    The upside to Vellum is that they intend to make it a virtually error-free, completely non-technical way to publish simple ebooks to the major vendors. The downside is that you must pay them a per-book-published fee. Currently that is:

    1 book: $49.99
    10 books: $149.99
    Unlimited: $299.99

    And I believe those fees include any upgrades to the app in the future. It’s not a bad price. Run into a glitch getting Apple or Amazon to accept your ebook and you can easily spend hours figuring out what’s wrong.

    For those who don’t mind paying, who have a novel-like book they can write elsewhere, and who want no technical hassles, not even that of laying out the interior, it might be an good option. It’s certainly cheaper than going through $299 publishing platforms. For the cost of one book that way, you could potentially publish for a lifetime with Vellum. Just be sure you try it before buying the two pricier options. They have a version you can download and try for free.

    But don’t forget that all these solutions for the interior still leave you with a cover-like image to create. Make it attractive, perhaps by using a full-color photo, and make sure the title stands out well even when the image is small. You can see the cover of my latest book here:

    There are pictures from a stock photo service on the front and back along with black bars in which to place the title and author. You can’t get simpler than that. Just spend the time it takes to find just the right pictures.

    The covers, copyright and contents pages at that webpage are for the print version. The interiors are how the book looks on an iPad. Starting each chapter on a new page with the chapter title followed by a picture is a good way to make a book look good and avoid inconvenient page breaks in an ebook. I make all images 4 inches wide at 150 dpi and that seems to work well, as you can tell.

    I also must confess that both the print and iPad versions were done in InDesign. It’s pricey, $20/month for a one-app Creative Cloud license, but you can’t beat in for ability to make text look really good or to create both print and ePub versions from the same document. It also comes (free) with the website that’s hosting images of all my books.

    You can check out Smashwords here:

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

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