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August 25, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Postage Promotion

Whenever I think I've seen it all, something new comes along.

The explosive growth of self-publishing options over the past decade or so has spawned a mini-industry catering to writers trying to get notice for their books. From publicity companies (some competent, many not) to the marketing packages hawked by self-publishing providers such as AuthorHouse (typically overpriced and largely ineffective) to completely worthless pseudo-services (email blasts, online catalogs, book fair "representation"), self-published authors these days have near-unlimited opportunities to spend money on self-promotion.

Such as this one, from self-publishing service Outskirts Press: put your book cover on a postage stamp.

No, I am not making this up. From an Outskirts' press release, dated today:

Outskirts Press, the fastest growing full-service self-publishing and book marketing company, recently announced it is making available to its family of over 4500 published authors an opportunity to feature their book cover on customized first-class US postage stamps.

Every envelope they send out can then promote their own books with these new eye catching stamps. These are legitimate, custom First Class U.S. Postal stamps, and they come in quantities of 120, each with a color image of the author’s book cover.

This clever book marketing tool is just one more marketing device within an already expansive repertoire of promotional aids provided by Outskirts Press to its authors. Unlike many self-publishing firms, Outskirts Press understands the key role marketing plays in their authors’ success, and they continually develop new promotional and marketing services for their authors to use well beyond the initial publication of their work.

Of course, Outskirts' "new promotional and marketing services" are also designed to snag their authors' dollars. Prices aren't mentioned in the press release, but per this list of add-ons to Outskirts' basic publishing packages, 120 custom stamps will set an author back $149.

When was the last time you took a careful look at a postage stamp?


Unknown said...

This proves the publishing industry really needs oversite... or better education!

Victoria Strauss said...

Dan, this isn't the publishing industry, it's the self-publishing industry. Apart from the writers, there are few connections between the two.

Anonymous said...

Uhm... what was the last time I USED a postage stamp?

Daisy Bateman said...

Whether or not the stamp thing is a good or bad idea, what is definitely a bad idea is spending $149 on a the service when you can do it yourself for the cost of a $20 piece of software and the normal price of postage:

S.D. said...

I wonder if that's what they're using...

Cheryl said...

You can put just about any image you want on a postage stamp without going through a self-pub service, as Daisy points out. I used that program to put pics of my husband and me on stamps for my wedding invitations--I don't see why you couldn't do the same thing with a book cover image unless there's some sort of copyright issue.

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding clickability to Daisy's link.

The Outskirts deal is an even bigger waste of money than I realized.

terri said...

Well . . . whatever nanogram of respect I had for Outskirts just went flying out the window.

This 'promo technique' was also touted on the PublishAmerica message board as a 'great idea.'

I have no problem with legit self-pubbing, I think it has a place. But that is so ridiculous that it makes a mockery those who use self-pubbing for the right reasons.

Janet Reid said...

I actually love the idea of personalized stamps and I'm planning to make some with my shark avatar...but of course I agree with what Victoria is saying: this is a ripoff because of both the price and the underlying assumption it's an effective promo tool.

Daisy Bateman said...

Thanks for making that clickable, Victoria.

In general, I think the personalized stamps are a cute idea-- I have some friends who made them for their wedding invitations too-- even if they aren't likely to put your self-published novel on the bestseller list. But that "offer" is a ripoff in the first degree.

Kristi Holl said...

There must be eyes a lot better than mine out there, if they think you can read the title and author name on a book cover shrunk to the size of a postage stamp.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

Josin L. McQuein said...

Bleh - I saw this on a few self-publishing threads a while back (though not from the mentioned company). Aside from it being a bad idea, anyone can go to the USPS and make custom stamps, and anyone can have the image of their book cover made just large enough for the post office's meter mark to cover both the cover design and the name (along with the author's name). There's no need to pay another company extra money for it.

I'm not sure what the logic is for people to mail off things with their covers along for the ride (of course I find it weird that people do the same thing with their kids' photos.) I really don't think the mailroom where you pay your mortgage or water bill cares about the stamp.

Seriously, if people actually paid attention to the stamps, those thousands of expletive laced Post Office meters wouldn't have been in circulation last Christmas.

David Ebright said...

I saw this stamp nonsense via the usual spam blast from OP & laughed. No one could be THAT gullible - could they? For starters - do the math! Hello!! WHO REALLY LOOKS AT STAMPS? Diamond, Ruby, Emerald packages - pay an extra $500 for the 'returns program' - enhanced "marketing" package - bookmarks, blah, blah, blah!!! Ah..the sound of flushing money.

I used a POD company & I've been thoroughly satisfied - no hype, no upselling, no pressure. My sales (brace yourself for this one) are up & down based on my marketing effort & reader / teacher recommendations. I've haven't wasted a dime, haven't spammed a soul & don't gag anyone with mind-numbing sales pitches but, (gasp) I'm making a profit. Ain't gonna be quittin' my day job but that was never the plan to begin with.

Self Pub / POD - It's stuff like this 'promo' gimmick that makes it seem like such a grimy option.

Brett Slocum said...

Just a little fact checking. The postage in the Custom Postage from the USPS is not the normal price of postage. In the quantities listed (120), it would cost about $0.85 per $0.44 stamp, or $102.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on personalized stamps. The project I'm working on now (a photo essay on the history of the educational non-profit for which I work) could actually use this kind of marketing. Our big publicity problem is getting our alumni to open their mail (they think everything we send them is a fundraising letter).

Unknown said...

Unrelated to postage stamps...but I thought I'd share with you my limited experience with Author House. I contacted them by telephone a few years ago. They were very friendly and sent me their promo pack. I read through it and decided it was a waste of money and that it may not further my career as a writer to be self-published in any case.

I got a phone call a week later and I explained politely that I wasn't interested. A week later I got another phone call, a week later another and so on until five weeks down the line (I’m a very patient person) I said I didn't want to hear from them again. Another week get the picture. In the end I had to LIE and say I got a publishing deal. Even after this they phone me about every three months.

The money made must be pretty good if they can spend so much time chasing unpublished writers. Somebody must be paying the salary of that enthusiastic guy who keeps pestering me.

G. B. Miller said...

I rarely pay attention to what a picture is on a stamp, and I pay even less attention to the marketing e-mails I get from AH (Yeah, I use them. It is what it is).

And like one of the other posters stated, you can download the software and make them that way.

If you're gonna spend the money on something like that, spend with someone who needs it, not someone who don't.

Lydia Sharp said...


That is all.

Victoria Strauss said...

AuthorHouse has long been known for its high-pressure sales tactics. Presumably that's also now true for iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford--all part of the same company.

Kelly Schuknecht said...

As the Director of Author Support for Outskirts Press, I found this discussion informative and helpful. We always appreciate different points of view in regard to our publishing and marketing services. It’s true that a knowledgeable author with some discretionary free time can add their book cover to a first class stamp more cost effectively themselves than having us do it for them. Doing something yourself is always going to be “cheaper” than paying a company to do it for you. The knowledge of HOW to do something is the valuable part. Our marketing services are designed for authors as a convenience, and to give them “out-of-the-box” ideas they can use to promote their own books (with or without our help). Many of the marketing services and products we offer were specifically requested by our authors. Many of them may either not be as savvy as the readers of this blog, or may not have the time to devote to learning how to do it on their own. As a full-service self publishing company, Outskirts Press offers a variety of optional marketing products and services to help our authors promote their books. Authors are always welcome (and encouraged) to do those things themselves, and we give them a great many marketing ideas after their book is published. Some of them don’t have the time or knowledge to do it and would prefer that we do it for them, so we offer optional services and products to accommodate as many of our authors as possible. The success of our authors and their books is the most important thing.

Kelly Schuknecht
Director of Author Support
Outskirts Press, Inc.

Marian Perera said...

I do look at postage stamps, but that's because I collect them. However, if a stamp doesn't fit into one of the categories I collect, it's discarded. And I'm highly unlikely to look up books on the Internet because I've seen their covers on postage stamps, much less buy those books.

Plus, I reviewed a book printed by Outskirts once, and it could've used a good editor.

Anonymous said...

That comes to $1.25 per stamp. Something tells me the process of putting the image on the stamp is a lot cheaper than that.

Eirin said...

Kelly Schuknecht, you're selling bullshit. Expensive and superfluous bull.
Verbosity won't change that.

Dante d'Amore said...

After reading this great post and the followup comments I went to the "Preditors and Editors" site ( and the first thing I read was their article, "Some General Rules for Spotting a Scam Publisher."

It made me laugh out loud when I read halfway down the list and found this:

"Online forum criticism is frequently immediately responded to by a defender of that publisher."


Dr. J Stuart Rahrer said...

Dr. John Stuart Rahrer
I have explored organizations paying writers everywhere on the internet I wrote 1 article for ehow and waited for a response AFTER it was accepted and described as excellent. It was never posted and I wrote an email to determine why it was never posted. I kept receiving these articles that they would be back in 2 business days. This lasted for 6 weeks. Accordingly, I wrote a rather direct email asking about "Who's on first?" Nobody knew. Now they won't let me in to see my article. This is just one incident of many where scams involving money, lies, greed and stolen articles existed. I found only one organization that treated writers with respect and where you could write worry-free about scams. The requirements are rigourous, but that is why they have so many good writers who earn reasonable, decent money for their work. The organization is INFORMATION BARREL. i ENCOURAGE ANY OF YOU TO GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW YOU HOW WRITERS SHOULD BE TREATED AND EARN A FAIR WAGE FOR OUR WORK.

Dr. Johgn Stuart Rahrer

Kate Policani said...

Great Post and I loved the comments too!
I think the stamps idea is pretty weak for promotions. I personally wouldn't see a stamp and think, gee, I'd like to find that book.

I'm assembling a list of book promotion companies and what authors thought of them. I think publishers count, and I'm going to snag some of your stuff for it, if you don't mind.

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