Given the links on my site, it should come as no surprise to you that I have written a technical book, originally for a publisher, and then, once the copyright reverted to me, re-published by myself, first as a physical print-on-demand book, and then as an ebook.
(If you want to (re)read the blog posts about my experience in physical publishing, you can find them here, here, and here; my experiences with publishing an ebook were summarized here and here.)
So at the end of last year, when I got notification (probably an Amazon email although I forget) that Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch had written and just self-published a book about how to write and self-publish a book – kind of like Inception – my writing senses tingled. The title was entertaining enough to get the book on Kindle without waiting for reviews: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. Would this old publishing roué learn something new?
Turns out that, yes, I learned quite a bit. Kawasaki writes very entertainingly and directly and enthusiastically. There’s no wasteland here of stodgy grey multi-page paragraphs; instead it’s wham, bam, just the facts, ma’am. Lots of bullet lists, numbered lists, section heads, simple targeted paragraphs (and let me tell you this, these can be bloody hard to write). Up to date when published, and I’ve already had an update (gotta love Kindle).
In the first few chapters, there’s a bit of history about how publishing has traditionally worked, and then Kawasaki leads us into a long series of “How to” chapters: How to Write Your Book, How to Finance Your Book, all the way to How to Pitch Bloggers and Reviewers (I will note that I’m writing this without being “pitched” per se). There’s lots of good advice here from using an editor (don’t, for heaven’s sake, assume you can edit your own book), to getting a graphics designer or artist to design your cover (you have to grab people’s eyeballs for your book and you have surprisingly little time to do it), to how to market the things (setting the price, giving it to reviewers, thinking about the various plans that Kindle has for marketing (including the groin-clenching thought of giving it away for a week to get it onto people’s Kindles).
The book is chock-a-block full of information and tips and tricks. The author part of things was OK – after all this is where your creativity really comes into play, so if you don’t have that, you’ll find it hard to write a book – but then it got into the nitty-gritty of publishing, of typesetting, of which programs to use (essentially Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign), indeed of which hardware to use (given Kawasaki’s history, it’s a MacBook Air). This part was fascinating for me and no doubt I’ll be trying it out in the future. The last part of the book is all about how to market and sell your book, the entrepreneur part. Considering I’ve done bugger-all about marketing my book (and given it’s in dire need of updating), I’m continually surprised that it sells as well as it does (last year, I made about $300 in sales). Some of this, yes, I recognize that I should have done better at, and some of it is just not me. I’ll leave you to discover which is which when you read it yourself.
Indeed, that predicts my summary about this book: if you are thinking about writing a book and self-publishing it, get this book. It is very good. The enthusiasm with which is was written will certainly fire up your own. Since deep down it is really a series of How-To recipes, not a continuous narrative (although that’s how I read it), get it as an ebook so you can search it. That way, you will get the best use of it as you go through the process of writing, publishing and selling your own book.
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