Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
APE by Guy Kawasaki takes a hard look at publishing in the digital era, from the point of view of someone who’s tried both the traditional and the digital route. I occasionally dream of writing a book. I have at least 2 novels and one business book in my head, but the level of work required to get from ideas in my head to a published book selling in bookshops is daunting, so I was hoping for practical steps – with a dash of inspiration.
APE is exactly that. The three sections cover the practical things you need to think of to write, publish and promote your book, always in an encouraging way. Here are the best bits;
“Vomit it out”, yes he really says that. Guy Kawasaki outlines a process for writing your book, asking the pertinent questions about a story, a pitch, creating an outline and doing the research. But the next step is to “vomit it out”. Which is about dumping all your ideas onto paper, knowing that the writing will change (possibly several times) before you get to publishing stage. To do this you must turn of your internal editor, that voice in your head that asks “is that fact correct, is that spelling OK, didn’t another writer already say this”.
Get your ideas on paper in an approximate structure – start with that.
Guy Kawasaki then crowd-sources feedback and advises writers to do the same, sure we’re not all going to get a million people to comment on Google+, but most of us could find 5 or 20.
The other best advice is “write every day”; every writer I know says this, and tries to make it part of their day.
There is a warning about the amount of technical information at the beginning of this section, and it’s a warning to listen to. The chapter is full of information on tools to edit, publish and distribute your work. I have to admit I did skim read the tool specific elements, I’ll go back and read them more thoroughly if I need them.
There is also a lot of detailed advice, things I’d never thought about;
- make sure the cover of your book works in a thumbnail format, including being able to read the name of your book
- chose a publisher name that is not your own name, show a little creativity
- test your e-book on multiple devices, I naively thought the formats would work across platforms, but in the e-book world that’s not true.
- pricing strategies and platform tools – with a helpful table of how commissions work per tool.
This is also the section where I had the biggest “aha” moment; I was half reading and half thinking “well this will be out of date by the time I get my act together and write a book” and then realised – actually that wasn’t true, or at least it’s potentially not an issue with digital books.
How can you promote your book? My mother is a writer, and I aware of hard she works to sell the book – and how little the publishing company does to help her – so I was curious to see what advice Guy Kawasaki came up with.
He talks about catalysing reviews, and does it – I am reviewing this because I responded to a tweet, and I know my audience is tiny compared to his twitter followers, but a lot of blog reviews means an increase in search rankings.
He has some other ideas that are more fun – offering a book cover in exchange for the receiver posting a photo of themselves with the book on social media. Creating an infograhic, which is akin to a viral ad, likewise creating banners and buttons for people to add to their blogs or website. He did both for Enchantment.
My one quibble was in a much earlier section. He mentioned that if he has books on sale after a speech, about 20% of the audience will buy, but “there’s no way that 20 percent of the people would have gone home and purchased my book online”. Perhaps not, but if your event has a good wifi connection 20% of your audience may download it before you finish speaking – what if there was a timed code for that so that they got an event related cover on their ebook.
There’s much muttering and hand-wringing about the demise of books and the challenges of publishing. Yet the mechanics of publishing and distribution in the digital age are low effort, the hand-wringing is really about the transformation of an industry. It is undergoing its own revolution, meanwhile people are still reading.
It still comes down to writing something people want to read. So, am I put off or encouraged by this book? Encouraged – have a more realistic idea of what it will take.
APE is currently on sale on Amazon and only Amazon, for the first 90 days after publication (from 10 December). Here’s the direct link to APE.