FORBES / TECH
Mark Fidelman, Contributor
Mention Guy Kawasaki’s name and you instantly think of one of two things: Apple’s Social Evangelist or best-selling author. He’s combined both talents in his latest project, a book called APE (Author, Publisher Entrepreneur, How to Publish a Book) which is a comprehensive guide to self-publishing.
Do authors really need to read this book? That was the question on my mind when I reached out to Kawasaki to learn more. Kawasaki is a very busy guy, and I could detect from our interactions that he was passionate that every author be given the chance to learn the advantages of self-publishing.
From my perspective, he delivers.
“I wrote APE because I found out how hard it is to self-publish a book when I wrote What the Plus! It drove me crazy to think that people are struggling with a process that should be about creativity and the dissemination of information, not figuring out formats and reseller deals. So I wrote a book to solve this problem,” said Kawasaki. Therein lays the difficulty for most authors. Most would rather self-publish given the increased flexibility, time to market and higher royalties, but the process of creating a quality book and having it properly marketed is challenging.
“The process takes twelve to eighteen months to publish a book—Apple introduces new models of iPhones faster than that,” Kawasaki explains. In my interview with him, Kawasaki acknowledged that traditional publishers are behind, even detrimental to authors in some circumstances: “The issue is that they <publishers> are limited to the traditional way of making money: selling books printed on paper to customers who are willing to wait twelve months for a book and who use the publisher’s imprint as a proxy for quality. Those days are gone.”
I’d agree. Publishers need to evolve their business models to reflect a new reality and one that is closely aligned to the author’s. Currently there are several disconnects. Publisher policies of tightly controlled copyrights, an emphasis on paper and the printed book, a narrow focus on the book and not the author, and marketing through traditional channels – use to be the right model in a world limited by trees, shelf space and access to editorial expertise. But we’re not living in that world anymore.
Instead, publishers should aspire to provide a publishing launching pad where authors can launch their own moon shot, their own speaking career, their own online community, their own cause. By providing authors additional means to monetize their content, Publishers will make more money by aligning themselves to all of an author’s potential income opportunities.
For me, here are the 5 Key Takeaways from Kawasaki and his Book
1. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is generally detrimental to an author’s work.
Kawasaki believes that DRM constraints limit the distribution of their books. I’m not sure about that, but certainly the lack of DRM will provide more opportunities for people to read your book.
Kawasaki explains: “I focus on the joy of reading, so my advice is for authors to better monetize their IP by ensuring broad, timely, and inexpensive distribution to as much of the world as possible. Authors should trust people and not implement all sorts of heinous DRM. Life is simple: write a good book, get it out there quickly, price it reasonably, and trust your customers. ”
2. Build your personal brand before you start selling the book.
You can’t rely on publishers to promote your book anymore; Kawasaki says, it’s therefore imperative to build your own platform before the book is released. What he means is to build a network or community of people that are interested in your content. That way, when the book is released, you have thousands of people likely to buy it. That’s solid advice.
“The day you start writing is the day you should start building your brand,” Kawasaki suggests.
3. The secret for increasing an author’s odds for success are…
According to Kawasaki: “One method that no one uses, though it’s hardly a secret, is to solicit feedback on your outline and your draft. I solicit feedback from literally millions of people who follow me on social media by uploading the entire outline of a book when I begin writing. Then I offer the full manuscript to anyone who wants to edit it near the end of the process. This yields two great results. First, lots of insightful feedback. Second, the moment your book is available on Amazon, people who have really read it can post reviews.”
This is a big idea – by crowdsourcing the editing of the book, you become invested in its success. Your also more likely to buy it and recommend it to others.
4. You are your best marketing asset, but don’t forget the PR company.
For most of the book, Kawasaki and co-author Shawn Welch suggest authors need to “own the marketing” whether or not they self-published or work with a publisher.
“The lesson is that you need to conduct an introduction campaign that reaches out to hundreds of publications as well as your social-media following. I’m not suggesting firing a shotgun into the cyberspace, but there are probably 200 relevant targets for any genre. “
5. How to navigate the Amazon
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Kawasaki and Welch both believe Amazon has amassed an enormous amount of power in the publishing world: “When it comes to publishing, this is Amazon’s world, and the rest of us (readers, authors, and publishers) live in it.”
What I most like about the book, is how in the last chapter, Kawasaki and co-author Shawn Welch lay out exactly how they self-published APE. It’s exceptionally detailed.
The authors’ advice along with their experience woven together, delivers a guide worthy of any 21st century author. It’s a book that ties together the new publishing world with the new book publishing platforms and social networks for promoting them.
You can find other self-publishing advice, but none that delivers like APE.