Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple evangelist, who is now advising Google’s Motorola group on product design, recently co-authored a book with Shawn Welch, called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, aimed at helping people understand the self-publishing process. Kawasaki offered WebProNews some additional thoughts on the subject, so if you’ve written a book, or are planning to, pay attention.
According to Kawasaki, there are three main benefits to self-publishing versus traditional publishing.
“Creative control, shorter time to market, and greater royalty per copy,” he says, noting that these benefits do, however, come with “greater responsibility for the quality of your book.”
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he adds.
When it comes to marketing and distribution, Kawasaki notes, “First, an author has to realize that whether her publisher does these things or she does them herself, the same things have to happen. Many self-published authors don’t realize this. Then the most powerful method is to use social media such as Google+, Twitter, and Facebook to develop a fan base that you own. This applies to traditionally published authors too.”
In 2011 the publisher of Kawasaki’s book Enchantment couldn’t fill an order for 500 ebook copies, he tells us. For that reason, he self-published his next book, What the Plus! (which we discussed with him here). He says that this experience helped him learn first hand that self-publishing is a “complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process.”
Though the book was self-published, it’s now available from McGraw Hill.
“I met an editor and one thing led to another, and I pitched her on the idea,” says Kawasaki of how the publisher came to pick up the book. “The book had been out about six months by then. I learned two things from this experience: first, a good publicist can get press that simply social-media contacts cannot. Second, non-fiction books need to be available in both electronic and paper format.”
According to Kawasaki, the ease of self-publishing means that the 99.9% of authors that publishers reject have an alternative. “It also means that the .1 percent of authors who use traditional publishing also have an alternative,” he adds. “If they can bring themselves to view this positively, it means that they can cherry pick books that are successfully self-published and turn them into even bigger sellers. That’s a huge ‘if,’ however.”
Those self-publishing books inevitably have to figure out how much they’re going to charge for them. You don’t want to set the price too high, where nobody will buy it, but you also don’t want to short change yourself. How do you know how to price it?
Kawasaki says, “My theory for ebooks is this: $.99 for a novice novelist, and $2.99 for an established but emerging novelist. When you’re proven, then you should go to $9.99. For non-fiction, you should start at $4.99 to ensure that people take your book seriously. Then you should go to $9.99 when you’re proven too.”
Obviously people are reading ebooks more these days thanks to ereaders and tablets. Tablet is Kawasaki’s preferred medium for books, “by far.”
“I’ve bought about 200 Kindle books so far,” he says. “I read five times the books I used to read before because of the convenience of Kindle books.”
Last year, we spoke with fiction writer Joe Lansdale, who told us that paperbacks (the smaller ones, at least) will soon be gone. When we asked Kawasaki for his thoughts on this, he said, “It depends on what he means by ‘soon.’ I’d say this is probably the first genre to go because people read this kind of books in large quantities so the frictionless buying of ebooks is compelling. Also, no one can see the cover of what you’re reading on a tablet, so you don’t have to hide Fabio’s picture. Finally, it seems like this is the genre where novice writers often emerge.”
Lansdale also said ebooks are too easy to copy, which can potentially cut into a writer’s sales.
“My logic on DRM is that it inconveniences legitimate customers and doesn’t hinder crooks, so you shouldn’t worry about it,” says Kawasaki. “I doubt that an author can sue or copy-protect her way to success.”
APE started off as a Kindle ebook, but is now also available in paperback.