APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book is Guy Kawasaki’s new self-published ebook on, well, self-publishing and ebooks. The book opens with a short narrative about Kawasaki requesting 500 ebook copies of Enchantment from a traditional publisher, who was unable to smoothly complete such a seemingly-simple request. Penguin didn’t handle ebooks, and Apple suggested buying and scratching off 500 gift cards and entering 500 redemption codes into the App store. If that’s the best publishers could do for the author of a New York Times bestseller, Kawasaki thought, it might be time to think about a different model, like self publishing.
APE is overwhelmingly a guide to the world of self-publishing, but large sections of the book are thoughtful meditations on the nature of publishing, on defining oneself as an author, and what makes a successful book. One doesn’t need to fully agree with everything Kawasaki says in order to enjoy his thoughts on reading, writing, and publishing.
As Kawasaki reviews self-publishing options, there is a section on outlets that offer print-on-demand for physical, ink and paper copies, and Kawasaki discusses reasons to choose a hard copy. I’ve read dozens of impassioned, all-or-nothing essays on how either print is dead, or on how ebooks aren’t real reading, and it was really delightful to read nuanced thoughts on uses for hard copies. A church cookbook might be best suited for a print run of 300, or a first-time novelist might be best served distributing an ebook through Amazon. Kawasaki discusses e-publishing with a POD component, for any who author might want to hold his book or give it a physical, tangible copy as a gift.
While I try to view the value of my published pieces in other ways, like the publication’s circulation, the positive feedback and reviews, or even how much money I made, there is something very real and delightful about receiving one’s work in a tangible, dead-tree format. It is lovely to imagine other authors, more talented and more published than I am, considering the value of a physical copy of their work.
I’ve written before about how much I love reading on my Kindle, and the magical powers of having every book in the world in my purse. Thinking about the difference between physical books and ebooks reminded me that I’ve received physical review copies of two of Kawasaki’s previous books, Enchantment and Reality Check. Both of which I loaned to colleagues, and never got back. (Hey, Guy, I’m evangelizing!)
Kawasaki’s practical advice ranges from choosing desktop publishing software to realistically determining a book’s potential readership. He discusses building engagement with a personal brand, of course, and spreading awareness of a book without a traditional marketing team. There’s a nice reference to IndieReader.com, another one of my outlets, as a good connection for self-published authors. He warns would-be promoters against mass-emailing press releases to random people, advice that should be really obvious, but… I’ve gotten a lot of DEAR BLOGGER, BUSY MOMS LIKE YOU NEED OUR EXCITING NEW PRODUCT which makes it pretty clear that the sender has no idea who’s receiving the pitch. Kawasaki’s rule is to know the recipient’s first name, although I kind of enjoy adverts addressed to Ms. Paradox.
While the text is still enjoyable, and there’s still a lot of good information covered, Kawasaki’s self-publishing situation is quite different from most of his readers’. Most folks considering self-publishing are not SXSW and TED keynoters, they haven’t founded the popular content aggregator AllTop (Disclosure: This blog is an AllTop pick), they haven’t written several traditionally-published bestselling titles first. There is still valuable information on branding and engagement, but the scale of Kawasaki’s experiences is quite different.
APE has odd blank pages at random intervals, although not in the actual chapter on formatting one’s ebook to be read smoothly on all platforms. I don’t usually mind an odd formatting issue or two, because epublishing is still so new and growing, but it’s worth a giggle in a guide to epublishing.
As in his other books, Kawasaki mentions his love of Macs, hockey, and, most charmingly, his four children, whenever he has the chance. His longstanding crush on Macs seems enthusiastic and genuine, although the opening story, the experience that led to his frustrations with traditional publishing models, really seems to hinge on how awkward gifting on the Apple App Store is.
Overall, APE holds good food for thought on physical books and ebooks, on writing, publishing and reading, on books as artistic expression and as a saleable commodity.