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Book Review: APE. How to Publish a Book: Author Publisher Entrepreneur

This post is about Guy Kawasaki’s latest book: APE How to Publish a Book: Author Publisher Entrepreneur.

I received a free e-book copy for review purposes.

After giving a less than stellar review of a previous book (Enchantment) by Mr. Kawasaki, I was surprised to be invited to review this latest one, co-written with Shawn Welch.

Fortunately, APE is a different beast and one that puts me firmly back in his target readership of relative newcomers to the arts of authoring, publishing and entrepreneurship.

Have Your Readers Do The Talking

I’ll get to the book’s content shortly but first I want to comment on the public relations (PR) approach Guy adopted to get this (e)book in the virtual hands of readers like me.

Although he writes about various self-promotional approaches authors can take in building a platform of readers and fans, it seems Guy gained much more by hiring a professional PR firm to help get people talking and tweeting about the book.

I noticed that he distinguishes between a type of priceless publicity where your fanbase does the talking and sharing, with another type that has an author cheerleading and, to be frank, engaged in relentless advertising bordering on hucksterism.

Indeed, I’ve come across a lot of the latter in online bombardments from self-publishing authors trying to drum up punters for their books. Of course, critics do quibble how easier it is for established authors like Guy to go the Pro PR way, while the great unwashed have to do the digital equivalent of going door-to-door and holding Tupperware parties.

I think such sentiments are largely unjustified because Guy has paid his authoring dues over the years and can afford to leverage whatever marketing muscle he’s got going.

I also think he wrote this book to show other authors how to ‘ape’ methods that worked well for him and can do so for them, with the book’s initial impetus coming from an established publisher being unable to meet a large ebook order for one of his previous print books.

Do Authors need Entrepreneurial Platforms?

A key message within the E component of the book’s triple theme of Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, is that budding authors need to begin building their platform and fanbase right from the get go. The days of big publishers doing this for most top-selling authors are also drawing to a close, and an author without an audience is art going nowhere fast.

In about fifty pages this section covers some of the latest ‘engagement’ tactics that self-published authors can draw on, and also gives solid advice on building a ‘brand’.

You can sum this up as three hours of writing and one hour of marketing for full time writers. Adjust accordingly if you are moonlighting (25% time spent in marketing.)

I found it interesting that using Google + was recommended as a more effective way of reaching fans and influencers than starting a blog. (Guy’s previous book was about Google Plus.)

For a new author, I’d agree it’s possible to connect and share with a wider range of people on Google’s social media platform than using an initially unknown blog. In fact, I’ve just started to resurrect my Google + efforts, as it’s probably where folks interested in my fiction niche (science fiction) can be found.

However, I feel this all comes back to content ownership and, quite frankly, no one knows how long G+ may survive and prosper. If it all goes ‘pop’ one sad day, what of an author’s content, comment and curation efforts?

While the risk of Google pulling the plug may be low, it’s not negligible, and I’m therefore cautious about positioning them as the hub of my blogging efforts.

That caveat aside, this section covers the well-trodden ground how a model author-in-the-making curates content, shares responsibly and hence builds ‘acknowledged expert’ status in their field or genre. (Although some might argue that this approach is more useful for non-fiction writers, and for consultants who are branding their name.)

Going Dark or Light on Social Media?

All good stuff, but for an alternative take on ‘social media’ from a now successful and prolific author, see this post on Joe Konrath’s blog: Konrath’s Resolutions for Writers” (scroll down to his 2013 resolutions.)

I mention Joe’s latest (2013!) minimalist advice on ‘social media for writers’ here because it’s all too easy to believe the marketing hype that many newbie writers and sundry social media promoters feel the need to surround themselves with, and forget that few readers are aware of these shenanigans.

People just want to read books!

Interestingly, Joe’s previous post to the one just mentioned was about ‘APE’. Not only is it worth reading (it’s an interview) but there’s also food for thought in the reader comments, where Barry Eisler weighs in.

The post is:  A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Interview with Guy Kawasaki

Perhaps a simpler world exists where authors write and readers pay, minus any of that messy marketing foreplay. Alas, the cold sheets of reality suggest such a place is a long way off for most beginners, and that they really do need to both write great art and let the masses know of its existence.

And therein lies a key differentiator between known and unknown writers.

Guy has a large following and was able to employ a PR firm to help light the fires of recommendation. (Although, having had a look at the Google + feed for the book, I think both writers have also made effective use of existing online connections and goodwill.)

How to Escape The Self-Published Look

The meat of the book is in the &Publications section which runs to about 150 pages. I found a lot of factual information here on how to edit, convert and upload a book to one or more of the many online marketplaces. All very interesting to authors weighing up self-publishing options and budgets.

The key message here is NOT to skimp on quality if you want to “escape the self-published look”, whether that be quality copyediting or cover design (especially so!)

And with new authors producing a virtual deluge of ebooks and ‘dead tree’ self-published books in 2012, many readers (and online publishers / marketplaces) will quickly figure out how to discard dross and embrace the work of professionals.

Conclusion: How to Publish vs How to Self-Publish?

Finally, I found the first part of the book, the ‘Author’, to be the weakest of the three, because most of this information is readily available from a plethora of “How to Self-Publish” tomes.

Nonetheless, it was interesting to read their take on changing publishing models, on how they outline books and use Microsoft Word, and get an insight into some (crowd)funding options for authors.

Would I pay $24.99 for the hardbook version? Probably not, since the Kindle version is only $9.99. If the authors update the book to keep pace with this rapidly changing world of ‘self-publishing’, including resource links from the book’s web page, then it might become a useful investment along the lines of an established style guide.

By the way, you can see Guy’s marketing mind at work when he describes why the book was NOT titled “How to SELF-Publish a Book.”