Newsletter #542 – All We Need to Know About Publishing a Book

Guy Kawasaki is a no-nonsense, down-to-earth writer. His 2013 book, written with Shawn Welch, doesn’t have a captivating title—APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—or APE_Coveran appealing cover (as you can see). Even so, it’s a goldmine of practical information on writing a book and getting it published. I started at the beginning, intending to read straight through. The writing style kept my attention, but soon I started skipping to later chapters. These promised to tell me how to write a book (I’m still learning), self-publish, sell to Amazon readers, build a personal brand, maximize the impact of social media, or use blogs to promote books.

The authors begin with questions about why anybody would write a book. They discuss the obvious goals of making an impact, sharing a story, or furthering a cause.  They dismiss the fantasy that most books are likely to generate a lot of money or fame. Also, they acknowledge that sometimes we write for ourselves, with little expectation that we will ever publish our work. I am writing a book like that now.

Kawasaki and Welch believe that overall the best way to produce a book today is to go the self-publishing route. Consider this:

  • The publishing industry is radically changing. Traditional publishing still has a role but a self-publishing revolution is in process. Because of this, authors should evaluate e-books, publishing on demand, and other newer trends before moving too far into the publishing process.
  • Consistent with the subtitle of the book, writers should know about three areas. First is how to be a good author.  Second concerns the intricacies of producing the book (especially if you are self-publishing and know little about things like editing, cover design, pricing, or dealing with Amazon). Third we need to understand marketing.  Even with traditional publishers most marketing falls on the author.
  • You may be a good writer with fame and great connections, but the whole world is not panting with anticipation for the opportunity to buy and read your book.

This is a realistic and potentially discouraging look at the realities of book publishing. Nobody asked for my endorsement but if you are passionate about writing and navigating the publishing process, then Kawasaki and Welch’s book could help. Please comment, especially if you are a writer.

  1. Gary, thanks for the review. I agree with the authors that self-publishing is the way to go these days. I self-published two books around 1999. I had to pay for 500 printed copies and my poor mother mailed each order for the next 7 years. The profit after mailing was about $0.75 per book.

    These days with on-demand printing (www.createspace.com) and ebooks, there is effectively no entry cost to publishing a book. AND, more importantly for my mother, no need to fulfill (mail) the orders yourself. It’s all automatic. The margins are much better, around 60% of retail. I now have 3 more books and a translation in print and ebook.

    With a very low barrier to entry, the challenge now centers on marketing. It’s a very crowded marketplace. The best help I’ve received lately on this is from Michael Hyatt’s book “Platform”.

    • Gary Collins
    • August 29th, 2013

    Thanks for your comments, Keith. As you know there have been huge strides in self-publishing and marketing since your mom was involved.

    I agree that Michael Hyatt’s stuff is helpful but he seems to have no awareness that most of us do not have the resources that he has. One of my friends prefers Chris Guillebrand’s “The $100 startup” but marketing is only a part of this. Since you are a coach you probably know the “Practice and Business of coaching” by Lynn Grodzki with a major section on “Entrepreneurship” which is essentially marketing. And that brings us back to the APE book where “Entrepreneur” comprises a large section of the book.

    • jenny_giezendanner
    • August 31st, 2013

    I wondered if you were writing tongue-in-cheek when you said that the title and cover of this book were not attractive? Maybe they aren’t beautiful, but they are memorable.

    • Hi Jenny, No I was not trying to be tongue in cheek. The cover communicates the book’s message and that makes it very good. But I think it’s an ugly cover. Why put an ape on the cover just because the title can be summarized with three letters.
      Having said that, I learned many years ago that attitudes toward covers are very subjective. What one person likes (undoubtedly the book authors liked that) other people don’t like at all. Probably my comment on the cover did not add anything to my post.

        • jenny_giezendanner
        • September 4th, 2013

        That’s okay. It may be ugly, but it sticks.

      • I love your response Jenny. You are right on. If it sticks it is doing its job whether people like me like it or not.

    • Larry Skahill
    • September 2nd, 2013

    Great post Gary. I too read “APE” and agree that it is a valuable resource for writer/publishers. I have a new phrase relative to writing:
    “Friends don’t let friends write books.”
    I don’t mean to be discouraging. Many have wrong ideas about writing and publishing and I was one of those folks. If one is sufficiently and properly motivated, and hopefully Christian authors are properly motivated, then go on and write.
    I own thirty-three books on writing, editing, publishing and marketing (Am I obsessive? 🙂 ). These don’t include source material books for writers of non-fiction i.e. “Christian Coaching” by Gary Collins, PhD. 🙂
    On quality writing, editing and publishing, I recommend Sol Stein’s “Stein on Writing” and “How to Grow a Novel.” Stein is a successful playwright, novelist, editor and publisher. Read elsewhere for modern publishing and marketing concepts.
    I also endorse attending writers’ conferences and soaking up the wisdom and experience found there. Serious writers belong to critique groups, not writers groups. Some groups are serious and others are social clubs. Recognize the differences.
    Finally, get professional help. Although the publishing revolution is opening doors, it opens the doors for hack work as well as serious, literary quality work. I have a professional editor, Mick Silva (love him) formerly of Random House’s Christian imprints, Multnomah and Waterbrook as well as Focus on the Family. I have professional graphic artists (interior layout and cover), a professional photographer and web-designer with twenty years of experience. I could not have won two Global ebook awards for best Christian and best Memoir of 2012 without the input of these professionals and most importantly, the blessings of God.
    “Christian Coaching” continues to impact my writing, coaching and life. Blessings on your new book Gary.
    And now, “to market, to market.”

    • Larry, I loved your post, read it several times. It gives the wisdom and seasoned perspective of an experienced writer and book publisher. In times when Internet publishing encourages sloppy writing and poor books, we need professionals with experience and perspectives like yours.Thanks so much for your comments. (What are you writing these days?)

        • Larry Skahill
        • September 10th, 2013

        Sorry to take so long to get back Gary, but my big brother just had a lung transplant at UCLA and life’s been crazy. Our gracious Lord used the brilliant and compassionate men and women of UCLA to give my brother new life. Praise God! Sad that a young man tragically lost his life that my brother might live.

        I am currently working on “Dive into the Incredible Life.” It combines exciting and true free-dive stories (where death is always lurking) with Christian Life Coaching in order to coach the reader into a life of service. Craziest story is a man ready to give his life saving his friend from a potentially twenty-five foot great white shark with nothing but a dive knife. The chapter explores what one is willing to risk for others.

        I intend to start a blog soon along these same lines.

        Thanks for asking. What is your next book about?

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