“A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down…If it is a good book, nothing can harm her. If it is a bad book, nothing can help her.” –Edna St. Vincent Millay
Apparently there are millions who claim they’ve got a good book in them. Well, I think I’m one of them. This is the year I’m going to hopefully write the first of many. But as a wannabe writer I’ve got all of the obvious doubts. Do I have something meaningful to say? Will anyone want to read what I write? Have I got the time, patience, and tolerance to step into the minefield of publishing? And my greatest fear is rejection from that small group of people in New York who get to decide whether what I’ve written is good enough for people to read.
The good news is there’s another way. Self-publishing is the best thing that ever happened to writers and, like Marilyn Monroe once said, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” That couldn’t be truer for the publishing industry as it faces the digital revolution. Take a good look at Amazon and its fully integrated, well-thought-out, people-centered approach to publishing, content curation, and distribution. It’s pure genius. According to Amazon’s Russell Grandinetti, “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader.”
Today, the majority of books are still sold via old-school publishers, but there’s no question digital publishing will drive the future. If you’re an executive at any one of the traditional publishing houses, take a good look at the music industry to see what’s going to happen to you. Don’t put your heads in the sand like they did, you’re under digital siege and now is the time to act and reinvent yourselves. Digital disruption is obviously good news for both readers and writers. There will be a shift of power from the opinionated and capable few selecting which titles the public should read to an explosion of content where the public decides what is best to read. Old-school publishers will argue that the quality of content will decline, but all they have to do is look at the music industry to know that’s not so.
Make no mistake about it, the revolution has started. But with all that said, self-publishing is fragmented, complicated, and coated with a stigma all of its own. The self-publishing side of the industry has many parts and players, and can be equally as intimidating. And that’s where Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple evangelist and author of “Rules for Revolutionaries” and “Enchantment” comes in. Guy sees the new wave of self-publishing that’s becoming more like an artisanal publishing movement as good for content, community, and commerce. Guy’s written numerous best-selling books and had a recent experience publishing his last book that was so frustrating he decided to fuel the revolution by writing a complete guide to self-publishing.
“APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book” is a great read and a superb resource that brings everything you ever needed to know about self-publishing together in one place, through an entertaining format. According to Kawasaki, a successful self-publisher must play three roles: author, publisher, and entrepreneur–or APE. These roles are challenging but not impossible–especially if people who have done it before explain it to you. And that’s exactly why Guy has accepted the challenge of helping writers succeed as self-publishers as quickly and easily as possible. The book will become the de facto guide on self-publishing. Here’s a bit more insight into the book’s value:
Printed books are not going away anytime soon, but for a novice, self-publishing ebooks is probably the way to go. He’s not saying that you’ll make boatloads of money as a self-publisher, but the math works. Self-publishing is an inexpensive business, and the upside potential is there. But make no mistake, you still need to write a good book and market it well. According to Guy, it’s a lot like launching a startup. Entrepreneurs must create a product, test it, raise money, recruit talent, and attract customers at the same time.
The first section of the book looks at the market from an author’s perspective. Writing a book isn’t easy and the process is not always an enjoyable one, but APE puts everything an author ever needs to know about self-publishing in one place and takes the reader through the three stages of self-publishing (being the author, the publisher, and the marketing entrepreneur). Guy does this in a sequential and thorough manner, with the chapters prompting the right questions on whether you should write a book, how to write one, as well as showing you the tools needed and how to finance your book.
The second section of the book looks at the market as though you were a publisher. It lays out a step-by-step guide on how to edit your book and how to avoid the self-publishing look. It helps you understand book distribution and how to sell your book through Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. It’s a wizard’s guide to becoming your own publisher and gives you the knowledge to navigate the many steps.
The last section guides you through the steps of marketing your book, including how to promote it on social media and how to pitch bloggers and reviewers. It’s a very comprehensive, well-organized, and easy-to-follow section that will turn you into your own marketing machine.
What I enjoyed most about my time with Guy was the reminder that humility and empathy are among the finest of human traits, and when applied to solving design challenges or building a business, they are among the most valuable. We talked about how empathy might affect the future of Apple and how empathy is very present in Amazon’s genius approach to building its business. Listening to Guy’s perspective about what Amazon seems to be doing so brilliantly with self-publishing, my prediction is that we’ll be hearing a lot more about the impact Amazon is making on our lives than Apple in the very near future. Guy’s hope for APE, meanwhile, is that it helps drive major change in self-publishing the way Pagemaker did in desktop publishing.
–Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego. Clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.
[Image: Flickr user Jonathan Cohen]