I'm excited to share with you today an interview with Guy Kawasaki, who is a NY Times bestselling author and entrepreneur, and who I have followed online for a number of years.
His most recent book is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How To Publish A Book.
You might think that there are already way too many books on this topic, but APE has a slightly different angle around ‘artisanal' publishing and entrepreneurship, which I like a lot. It's also significant that an author of Guy's authority in the business book market is advocating self-publishing.
APE includes some good chapters on avoiding the self-published look and guerilla marketing, as well as building an enchanting personal brand. Here's the interview with Guy along with some of my comments at the end.
You have had great success in the traditional publishing world with 10 books, including the NY Times bestseller ‘Enchantment’. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I decided to self-publish because I wanted total control over the marketing and selling of my books—particularly in the ebook format. Traditional publishers cannot handle sales directly to customers, sponsorships, and site licenses. These kinds of deals that are not publisher to reseller to customer give traditional publishers aneurisms.
Have you stepped away from traditional publishing for good?
I haven’t stepped away from traditional publishing. All it would take is a huge advance—huge enough so that I don’t care about the marketing and selling of my books. You can’t buy me, but you can rent me.
Would you combine traditional with indie in a hybrid model which many authors are now favoring but NY publishing is resistant to?
If a traditional publisher wanted to buy the printed rights and leave me with the ebook rights, I would do it. I actually have such a deal with McGraw-Hill for a book called What the Plus!
I love the term “artisanal” publishing. Can you explain what you mean by it?
My concept is that writers can control their craft from end to end. That is, they can control the content, cover, interior design, sales, and marketing just like an artisanal brewer, baker, or winemaker does.
How does this reframe the “stigma” of self-publishing?
It means that “self-publishing” or “vanity-publishing” does not translate to “My book wasn’t good enough for a traditional publisher, so I had to publish it myself.” One would never attach a stigma to an artisanal brewer, baker, or winemaker, so why should one attach a stigma to an artisanal publisher?
Many indie authors, myself included, use an ebook only model because financially, it is less of an outlay for a quality product. Print can be expensive to produce something that doesn’t look self-published.
But you present some compelling arguments that digital isn’t everything, so should we all be doing print?
This depends on the genre. The genre where ebooks are kicking butt is adult fiction. If I had an adult non-fiction book, I would publish it in printed and electronic format. If I had a photography book, I would publish it only in printed format. In ten years, I would print only a photography book.
Many authors/writers resist the term “entrepreneur.” Why do you think authors need to claim that term in order to be successful in this crowded market?
“Entrepreneur” sure beats “impoverished.” The reality is that artisanal publishing means there are more books than ever to choose from. Thus, it’s even harder to garner attention and therefore sales. Entrepreneurship—making a hobby into a business—is necessary to succeed. Returning once more to the artisanal brewer, baker, and winemaker, who would not consider what they do entrepreneurial?
Why is an author brand important?
An author brand is the foundation of entrepreneurship. It means that the author stands for something and owns, or at least represents, a genre. Gillian Flynn’s brand is crime novels. JK Rowling—no explanation needed. John Grisham is legal thriller. Anne Lamott owns the writer’s writer and messy faith brands.
Where do people start in order to build one?
We are in the best time ever to build a brand because of the ubiquity of social media. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all fast, free, and ubiquitous. I don’t mean only for non-fiction, technical authors to build a brand—any author can use social media to build a brand.
The goal is to build a following because you share valuable posts that are simpatico with your brand.
My recommendation is to start building a brand the same day you start writing a book. In a perfect world, you’d write two-three hours a day and work on your brand an hour a day. It takes at least a year to build a brand using social media.
There is no downside to creating your own brand so that you are not dependent upon your publisher because someday your publisher might not be there for you.
The ebook and publishing revolution has been US-centric for a few years now, but with Kobo moving aggressively into global markets that Amazon doesn’t dominate yet, what do you see as the future of ebooks in the wider global market?
The future of ebooks is bright around the globe. It would shock me if it’s not the dominant way to read books in the next ten years everywhere in the world. Some very smart people at Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung are doing their best to make this true. It’s hard to imagine that they won’t succeed.
How did you manage to get 145 reviews on Amazon in six days of which 135 are five stars?
I am tempted to tell you that you have to read APE to find out but that would be chicken. Essentially, I crowdsourced editing, and I offered a review copy of the near-final manuscript to four million social-media followers. This enabled me to have 1,100 people who read APE before it went live on Amazon.
Approximately four hours before Amazon turned it on, I sent an email to 1,100 people to ask them to post a review for me. I woke up in the morning, and there were forty-four five-star reviews. What does it take to make this happen?
First and foremost, it takes a book that people like. I could have asked 1,100 people to post a review and woke up to forty-four one-star reviews too. But beyond this, you need to trust people. I’m sure passed around my manuscript and so I might have lost some sales, but the alternative, fostered by not trusting people, would be a lack of reviews.
By the way, no traditional publisher would let its author do something like this.
Like I said, I want to control the sales and marketing of my books. That’s what artisanal publishers do.
Some of my own thoughts on the book
When Seth Godin left traditional publishing I thought the balance was tipping, but now I really think self-publishing has hit the mainstream. When authors of Guy's stature do it their own way, that is something worth paying attention to. It means the consciousness has shifted amongst the thought leaders, and that can only be a good thing.
- APE is a good primer for the new self-publisher. It does contain a lot of the basic information you need, from writing and editing, through publishing in print and ebook formats to marketing ideas. If you want a book that contains an end-to-end process, it's definitely worth the buy.
- Guy advocates using MS Word for writing, but I absolutely recommend you use Scrivener. It will help you write the book but also outputs the formats you need to self-publish directly to Amazon, Kobo etc. It's been a life-changer for me and means you don't have to rely on anyone else for your formatting.
- The book is US centric, so when you read it, remember that non-US citizens cannot publish direct on Nook PubIt, or use ACX (Audible's audiobook marketplace) at the moment. Hopefully that will change!