Kawasaki on Self-Publishing

Why did you decide to self-publish in the first place?

A few years ago the publisher of Enchantment could not handle an order for 500 ebook versions. It passed the sale to Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. These online resellers told the buyer that she had to purchase copies one at a time. She had 500 charges on her credit card. I couldn't believe that this sale was made this way. That was my tipping point. 

APE is your first collaboration. Why now?

Up until now, I knew—or at least thought I knew—everything I needed for the books I wrote. APE was the first time that I simply did not have the requisite knowledge—specifically, the technical aspects of publishing a book. At least I knew what I didn't know!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

First, the disadvantages: you don't get a large advance, you have to find and compensate all the vendors that you need such as editors, designers, and marketers. A traditional publisher takes care of most of the details for you. The advantages of self-publishing—or what I call "artisanal publishing"--is that you can control the total process including the content, design, and marketing. This also means you bear greater responsibility, however. As an artisanal publisher, you also make more money per copies. For example, you can make as much as 70 percent of the selling price of ebooks. For example, on a $10 ebook, you could made $7. This is several times what you'd make on the same ebook through a traditional publisher.

What’s your advice to writers in search of editorial services like copy editing and book design?

Your question pre-supposes the most important issue: that the author has decided to seek professional editing and design help. That's the hard step. The way to find competent people for these task is to ask around. You'll find that authors are happy to help you because they like to send business to freelancers--so that the freelancers will do better work for them. Some rough numbers for price: content editing  $1,000; copy editing $1,000; and cover design $1,000. We do have a way to help you find a good copy editor. Our copy editor created a copy editor's test that you can download from APEthebook.com.

What are the basics of cover design for ebook self-publishers?

Some people believe that cover design for ebooks isn't important because people won't be picking up books in stores. Nothing is further from the truth. The context of the display of your ebook is that it's on a Amazon page next to ten other ebooks, and all the covers are the size of a postage stamp. People can't pick up the book, turn it over to read the back-cover copy or open the book to read the flap copy. This means your cover has to be so compelling that people will click on it. Thus, you need a simple design with a simple and big font that reduces well. 

What do you say to writers who complain that they have neither the ability nor the desire to promote themselves?

Keep your day job or move back in with your parents. Artisanal publishing is hard: writing, publishing, and marketing. Each is necessary. And writing and marketing are done in parallel. Do you think that artisanal brewing, baking, or winemaking is easy? I don't. It's probably easier to work for Anheuser-Busch than starting your own brewery.

Talk about the various pricing strategies for ebooks.

Current wisdom is $.99 for a first-time author of adult fiction, $2.99 for follow on books, and $9.99 for non-fiction. The thing is that we're making this up as we go along. The beauty, though, of artisanal publishing—particularly of ebooks—is that you can easily and quickly change your prices to test price points. Pricing is an art—or getting lucky. It's certainly not a science. 

Once and for all, please explain “platform” and “guerrilla marketing” and how to use them to sell books.

The key to book marketing is realizing what people use as a proxy for reading a book to determine its quality. In the old days, the proxy was the imprint. If Random or Penguin published a book, it must be good. Today, few people know or care who the publisher is. Now people look at the number of stars of a book's rating and read a few reviews, or they depend on what people in their social ecosphere say about it. 

If you buy this theory, then building a platform is of paramount importance. With a platform, you can spread the word about your book and ask people to read it in advance in order to review it as soon as it ships. Members of your platform will also spread the word for you. Check this collection of reviews of APE: http://amzn.to/T37r5x. This wasn't an accident. 

What’s your outlook for the future of ebooks? For self-publishing? For traditional publishing?

Ebooks are about 10% of total book sales today. I don't think printed books will go away in the next ten years or so—I can't imagine a satisfying ebook version of Annie Leibovitz photographs. However, I'll bet that in ten years, ebooks are 90% of total book sales. This is especially true if the FAA removes the restrictions about reading tablets while planes take off and land. 

There will still be a role for traditional publishers because celebrities don't have the time, expertise, or inclination to self-publish a book. Also, traditional publishers and Amazon Encore will use the artisanal-publishing community as a proving ground and then snap up the cream of the crop. 

Still, the fundamental challenge of traditional publishing is to add value in a world where an author can hire many of the same people to edit and design their book that a traditional publisher would have used; where authors don't need a distribution pipeline to get dead trees to bookstores because they can use CreateSpace and Lightning Source to print on demand and distribute; and where people don't care about a book's imprint as much as its star rating and reviews.

How is APE doing three weeks after publication?

The results are promising, but not good enough to declare victory. Big numbers will occur only if APE helps catalyze an artisanal-publishing revolution where people who would have never written a book now do so just like Pagemaker catalyzed the desktop publishing revolution. 

What’s next for Guy Kawasaki?

Asking me this three weeks after APE shipped is like asking a woman who gave birth three weeks ago when she's going to have another baby. I'm still breastfeeding APE and trying to get it to sleep at night. I'm not thinking about the next thing yet. 

Here is more information about the book and some resources that you can use:

Name: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur--How to Publish a Book (ISBN 978-0-9885231-1-1) 

Bios, picture, and cover: http://apethebook.com/bookassets/

Website: http://apethebook.com/

SPIT (Self-Publishing Intelligence test):


Badges: http://apethebook.com/badges/