How To Self Publish A Book: Review of APE
Many people have on their bucket list that they want to write a book, although sadly never get around to writing it.
But even if they did manage to write it, with over 200,000 books published annually in both the UK and US they are going to have a hard time actually selling any.
Don’t believe me?
Just go into any traditional bookstore or browse the home page of Amazon and you’ll see books by Lee Child, David Baldacci, John Grisham, JK Rowling to name but a few. In non fiction you’ll see books by Walter Isaacson, Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Levitt and a host of biographies.
As Guy Kawasaki, former Apple software evangelist, venture capitalist, founder of Alltop and best selling author of Enchantment, Art of The Start, What The Plus! and now author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How To Publish a Book, says:
“Who gives a shiitake about your book?”
Why should people (customers) actually pay money and buy your book?
And that’s the problem that most first time authors face.
Because most people writing a book are answering a different question:
“How will I benefit from writing a book?”
Their answers to this other question include: “It’s good for my visibility.” “To make money.” “It will help me get speaking gigs and consulting engage- ments.” “It’s good for my company.” “It will make me a thought leader.”
Any of these reasons may be true for the author, but they are not relevant for readers.
Think about this:
How often do you look at a book and wonder how can I help this author achieve his or her goals?
I’m pretty sure your answer is the same as mine : “never”
Here are Kawasaki’s 4 good reasons (taken from APE) about why you should actually write a book.
Good Reason 1: Enrich Lives
The first good reason to write a book is to add value to people’s lives. Both writer and reader benefit when a book enables gains in these arenas:
• Knowledge. Science books explain how the world works. Business books explain management techniques. History books explain events of the past. Books like these spread knowledge and exper- tise. Example: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White.
• Understanding. Both novels and nonfiction can help people understand themselves and others. They can provide tools and techniques to foster greater awareness and comprehension of their lives. Example: Light in August by William Faulkner.
• Entertainment. Novels entertain people by providing adventure, fantasy, and out-of-the-ordinary role-playing. Some people want to be heroines. Some people want to be spies. I want to be a Navy SEAL. To each his own. Example: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Laughter. Some books brighten people’s lives with humor, mirth, or sarcasm. For me, there’s Fran Lebowitz’s Social Studies and Alice Kahn and Whoopi Goldberg’s Multiple Sarcasm. Another example: Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander.
Stop reading and answer this question: Will your book add value to people’s lives?
This is a severe test, but if your answer is affirmative, there’s no doubt that you should write a book.
Good Reason 2: Intellectual Challenge
At the tender age of forty-eight I took up ice hockey even though I had never skated before (there are no frozen ponds in Hawaii). Canadians will tell you that I was forty-five years too late, eh? I would never make money or earn a college scholarship by playing hockey. My motivation was the joy of learning the world’s most enchanting sport.
The second good reason to write a book is the same reason I play hockey: to master a new skill, not to make money. I found an extreme example of this in writing. Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a novel that did not contain any words with the letter “E.” It’s called Gadsby—50,000 Word Novel Without the Letter “E.” You can download a PDF if you don’t believe me.
According to the book’s introduction, Wright was tired of hearing “it can’t be done; for you cannot say anything at all without using E, and make smooth continuity, with perfectly grammatical construction.” He used a typewriter with the “E” key tied down so that he could not inadvertently use the letter. (Hat-tip to Andrew Keith for pointing me to this book.)
Here is a great passage from the introduction of Wright’s book:
“People as a rule will not stop to realize what a task such an attempt actually is. As I wrote along, in long-hand at first, a whole army of little E’s gathered around my desk, all eagerly expecting to be called upon. But gradually as they saw me writing on and on, without even noticing them, they grew uneasy; and, with excited whisperings amongst themselves, began hopping up and riding on my pen, looking down constantly for a chance to drop off into some word; for all the world like seabirds
perched, watching for a passing fish! But when they saw that I had covered 138 pages of typewriter-sized paper, they slid onto the floor, walking sadly away, arm in arm; but shouting back: “You certainly must have a hodge- podge of a yarn there without us! Why, man! We are in every story ever written hundreds of thousands of times! This is the first time we ever were shut out!”
In my book (pun intended), a book should be an end, not a means to an end.
Even if no one reads your book, you can write it for the sake of writing it. Memoirs, for example, fit in this category. And the number of people who want to read a book of such a pure origin may surprise you.
Good Reason 3: Further a Cause
The third good reason to write a book is to evangelize a cause. A cause seeks to either end something bad (pollution, abuse, bigotry) or perpetuate something good (beauty, peace, affection). Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is an example. Her cause was the environment, and her book resulted in the ban of DDT and catalyzed the start of the environmental movement.
To write such a book, you must go beyond explaining something to promoting a point of view and action. Note: an appropriate cause is seldom your personal wealth. A good cause is a much higher calling. Also, you can further a cause with fiction as well as nonfiction, so this applies to novelists, too.
The acid test for this kind of book is, “Do you feel a moral obligation to write the book?”
Good Reason 4: Catharsis
Way back in 1987, I wrote my first book, The Macintosh Way. At the time I was running a small software company, but it was not operating the way I thought it should. I wrote this book because I knew there had to be a better way to do business.
This experience taught me the fourth good reason to write a book: Writing is therapeutic. It helps you cope with issues that seem gargantuan at the time. The process of expressing yourself about a problem, editing your thoughts, and writing some more can help you control issues that you face.
Once you decide that writing a book will actually benefit the reader, then you should seriously consider purchasing APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How To Publish a Book as Kawasaki puts together in 268 pages (excluding acknowledgements, glossary etc) a definitive guide to self publishing your own book.
For Kawasaki, an established author, the journey to self publishing was borne out of frustration when asked by a major organisation if they could purchase 500 eBook copies of his best selling book Enchantment.
When the best solution that anyone could come up with was to buy 500 iTunes Gift Cards and scratch the silver strip off to use to pay for each book, he realised there must be a better way, and set out to navigate the minefield that is self publishing.
So Kawasaki teamed up with “tech wizzard” Shawn Welch, (author of several books on iOS development as well as several iOS apps) to produce an all encompassing book on self publishing.
Through the three lenses of Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur, Kawasaki covers each topic in turn.
Starting with author, he explains why you should write a book (see above), the tools for writing (he recommends MS Word due to it’s functionality) tools for keeping track of your references and compares a traditional publishing route compared with self publishing.
In the publishers lens, he talks about the publishing options e.g. physical book v’s eBooks, pricing, editing, creating a cover (very important on an eBook when your image is only the size of a thumbnail) avoiding the self published look by focusing of formatting and neatly laid out tables etc as well as the technical stuff in uploading to the popular online stores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Google.
As an independent publisher you won’t have a distribution network, so selling physical books in stores might not be an easy option for you, so there’s a chapter on using print on demand services like the Espresso Printing Machine although these services do have limited coverage to mainly independent and university book stores.
The final lens, Entrepreneur, Kawasaki deals with creating demand for your masterpiece by creating a platform and creating interest through collaboration with bloggers or using social media.
What Kawasaki points out well is that whilst self publishing is possible for newbie and niche authors, as an author you need to wear the 3 hats of Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur – being a good writer is not enough in itself.
Whilst searching on Amazon I was surprised at just how many books there are on publishing eBooks – especially on the Kindle – there are pages of them. I personally have purchased several; including How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months by John Locke and Make a Killing on Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook or Twitter) by Michael Alvear both of which I highly recommend. However, these books mainly deal with marketing your eBook and whilst they are extremely useful they aren’t as comprehensive in their coverage as APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How To Publish a Book
So, in summary, if you’re even remotely considering writing a book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How To Publish a Book will show you what you need to do to turn your humdrum cobbled together efforts into something that people will actually want to read (and buy).
One final thing. There’s a very useful website with Word Templates, Consultancy Conttracts to download and online resources such as copy editing tests and royalty calculators – available at: APETheBook.com