Note: Today’s post is a special one – a Q&A with Guy Kawasaki, New York Times Bestseller, co-founder of Alltop.com and former chief evangelist for Apple. Guy has published both traditionally and independently. His new book, released today, is called Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. In the Q&A I ask him about his experience with self-publishing, and his thoughts on what makes for successful self-publishing.
But before we get to the Q&A, I want to ask you something. When you decided to self-publish, you thought it was the “easy” option, am I right?
If you’re nodding your head, you’re not alone. Most people think that writing the book is the hard part… many are unpleasantly surprised!
Successful self-publishing is more than just finishing the book (a mighty achievement in itself); it’s about figuring out how to efficiently and effectively make your book available to people, then how to find out who those people are, and then how to get your book into their hands.
You need a bunch of ideas, a touch of technology, a lot of hard work, oodles of persistency, and most importantly of all… the determination and confidence of an entrepreneur.
I talk about how successful self-publishing requires an entrepreneurial mindset a lot on this blog. We can’t just write all day and avoid the activities that a publisher would traditionally do after writing ‘The End’. And I’ve argued time and time again that we shouldn’t want to. Having control over the way our books look, feel, and are presented to the world is in my mind, one of the beauties of independent publishing. Out of necessity, I’ve even taught myself to lurrrrrrve marketing and I encourage you to do the same.
On our about page, I share how Brandon and I make a full-time living from our books and activities related to it, and though I never started out thinking I would make a business out of my writing and books, somewhere along the way I realized I was going to have to get innovative, entrepreneurial, and approach the process just like a small business.
So when I heard about Guy Kawasaki’s new book Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, I was super psyched that an influential figure like Guy is spreading a similar message about how to approach self-publishing.
The premise of APE is that when a self-publisher successfully fills the three roles of author, publisher and entrepreneur, the potential benefits are far greater and more powerful than with traditional publishing. Interestingly, Guy’s book Enchantment was a New York Times Bestseller, but when his traditional publisher could not fill an order for 500 eBook copies of the book (something I’m having trouble wrapping my head around…yes, eBooks), he decided to look into self-publishing.
(Btw, if you have never seen Guy talk about Enchantment, you should watch this video.)
As he talks about in the Q&A below, the process wasn’t quite as simple as it should be. APE is his answer to that problem – he teamed up with technology whizz Shawn Welch to write a “comprehensive and realistic” guide to self-publishing. I quizzed him about his experiences in self-publishing and thoughts on some of the finer points of the process.
You’ve said that your initial foray into self-publishing revealed a “complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process”. What was your biggest frustration with the experience?
I had two big frustrations. First, when I asked people who to go from Word to Kindle and iBookstore, I got multiple answers, some of which conflicted. You would have thought there would be one clear “best way” or something close to a best way. Second, my book had bullets, pictures, captions, and tables. You can’t just upload this kind of manuscript to any online resellers site and get anything close to what you want.
What qualities do you believe most successful self-publishers have?
The qualities that most successful self-publishers have is that they have written a book that appeals to a segment of people, and they are willing to work very hard. The first is probably the result of good fortune. The second is the result of guts and determination. Successful self-publishing is no different from other artisanal endeavors such as brewing, winemaking, coffee roasting, furniture making, clothing designing, and jewelry making. Imagine a world where you could only get beer, wine, coffee, furniture, clothes, and jewelry from only six conglomerates in a sector. That would truly suck.
Many of the independent authors I talk to are slightly older and are feeling frustrated by technology barriers that put them at a disadvantage in the current publishing climate. What advice do you have for the generation that didn’t grow up with the Internet?
They’re seeing the glass half empty. Would the situation be better if we were back in the Middle Ages and only royalty could afford scribes? The Internet is a massive enabler and flattener so that you don’t have to be, or be published by, Random House to succeed. Yes, it takes learning new technologies and techniques, but it is better to fly than walk, to upload to Kindle than suck up to a traditional publisher, and to build one’s own following than praying that your publicist is good.
This is entirely a theoretical discussion anyway because ebooks, tablets, and the Internet are horses that are out of the stable, and they’re procreating in the wild. We’ve gone from scribes to Gutenburg to desktop publishing to Kindle. There’s nothing anyone can do about this progression at this point except lead, follow, or get out of the way.
“Author, publisher, entrepreneur.” Independent authors are now filling the role of the traditional publishers, but what aspects of traditional publishing would you recommend authors do NOT try to DIY?
There are two areas that independent authors should not try to do themselves: copyedit the text and designing the cover. These are the two most obvious ways that self-publishers blow it. Copyediting and designing a cover are highly specialized skills that few self-publishers should attempt to do themselves.
Your top 3 tips for creating buzz/ marketing your book?
1) Ask people to test your book via posts on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You’ll be amazed by the amount of helpful and knowledgeable people who will contribute to the quality of your book for the intrinsic pleasure of helping another human being. You’ll get great feedback and build buzz in advance by doing this.
2) Ask these people to post reviews on Amazon as soon as your book is published. I’m not advocating that you pay people or create fake identities. I’m saying write a good book, let the crowd help you make it better, then ask them to post a review.
3) Send a copy to anyone who expresses interest in reviewing your book. In ebook formats, this costs you nothing to do. Let me show you the result of trusting people and taking care of anyone who asks for a review copy: http://www.guykawasaki.
Guy Kawasaki is the author of APE, What the Plus!, Enchantment, and nine other books. He is also the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College. Find out more about the book at http://apethebook.com/.