Thursday, March 20, 2014

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur - Guy Kawasaki & Shawn Welch

The subtitle for APE is How to Publish a Book, and Kawasaki (and Welch, who is referred to in the third person throughout Kawasaki's first-person narration) do a pretty good job of delivering on it.

I've now read a few of these "how-to" books, and this one stands out for a couple of reasons. First, the authors are clear that you shouldn't be publishing just any old crap. A lot of books of this ilk recommend writing your "book" in a weekend, giving it a once-over, and slapping it up on Amazon -- often as a marketing adjunct to your other line of work. Kawasaki and Welch, to their credit, think even this type of would-be author should take the craft of writing more seriously than that. They advocate taking your time in the writing phase -- both in choosing your topic or story and in polishing your prose. They also urge the use of both beta readers and an editor. And they tell you to hire a cover designer. All good so far.

They also advocate striving for excellence in publishing your book. I love the term they've coined -- "artisanal publishing" -- and if I ever start my own publishing house, you can bet I'm going to steal it. Interestingly, they don't flat-out diss Smashwords, but it's certainly not one of their recommended publishing platforms; instead, they advocate uploading directly to the big players: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. (Apple's not a problem for them; as a tech guy, of course Welch has a Mac. Publishing straight to iBooks is trickier for the PC-bound, which is not a wrinkle the authors give much attention to.)

It's in talking about the entrepreneur leg that the book falters a bit for the average indie. If you've already got a following and/or you're rolling in dough, you'll have no trouble using their suggestions to send ARCs to hundreds of your closest friends and betas and/or crowdsource buzz on NetGalley at $399 per book. The rest of us will have to continue muddling along, building our platform one fan at a time.

I also wish the authors had spoken out against vanity publishing. Kawasaki and Welch lump the Author Solutions companies together with CreateSpace and Lulu as "author services companies." True, CreateSpace and Lulu offer a fee-for-service option to indies who don't feel capable of going it alone, or who simply don't want to take the time to learn. But they also offer do-it-yourself options for a whole lot less money, including -- hello! -- free. That's anathema to the business model of predatory vanity publishers like Author Solutions. For serious, guys, a real publisher pays you for the privilege of publishing your work -- not the other way around. Even if all you want to do is make Great-aunt Kate's recipes into a book for Christmas gifts for the family, I would never send you to Author Solutions or Publish America (which is now calling itself America Star Books). Your chances of getting ripped off are just too great.

I'll get down off my soapbox now. APE features some good advice and some innovative ideas. Like most books in this genre, readers should take what they need and leave the rest.