06 December 2012

Book Review-- APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

PE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book (2012,  Nononina Press, 314 pages)  by Gary Kawasaki and Shawn Welch is breezy book which details the trials and tribulations of publishing a book.  Kawasaki’s  experience writing eleven previous books, which have included   entrepreneurial, motivational,  and technical topics, combined with his colloquial writing style helps make makes this  complex publishing system understandable without resorting to the trite  “For Dummies” approach.

Guy Kawasaki
Kawasaki’s inspiration for writing APE stems from his difficulty even as an established author to get 500 promotional e-books authorized while working through a traditional publisher and the I-Tunes store.  Friends suggested that Kawasaki investigate the advantages of self-publishing.  Alas, self-publishing is not as easy as just cranking out a manuscript, uploading it to an on-line seller and raking in the profits. Although the media buzz is that dead tree editions are history, but e-books only account for 10% of publishers sales.  So a prospective author should not totally discount the importance of getting a book printed.

Kawasaki’s quick survey of the history of publishing shows how computers and the internet have the potential for democratizing the dissemination of publication.  But APE is not simply a fanfare for the common man penning a tome.   The authors (though it seemed like just Kawaski’s narrative voice throughout the book) point out the pain and pitfalls of preparing a manuscript for publication.  But APE offers concrete suggestions on how to embrace the roles as author, publisher and entrepreneur to get their work onto readers’ bookshelves (or e-readers).

Kawasaki is an enthusiastic proponent of what he terms artisanal publishing (self-publishing).  Artisanal publishing requires greater involvement by the creator of the book but also allows for more control and greater profit potential (albeit without the traditional publishing “Advance Fee”).  It was surprising to  learn that 150 years ago Walt Whitman self published  Leaves of Grass.  Kawasaki  gives a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages of traditional publishing and the brave “new” world of artisanal publishing which leverages the internet and just-in-time manufacturing techniques to a self publisher’s advantage.

APE is good about not favoring one source or platform.  The book strives to give balanced appraisals of both electronic publishers and author-service companies producing hard copies. By citing concrete examples, Kawasaki points out that decisions on how to publish are dependant on market, content, and how much entrepreneurial involvement an author desires.

I became acquainted with Guy Kawasaki through his prolific posting on the Google + platform.  APE shows how Kawasaki puts aspects of guerilla marketing of his works and social media publicity into action.

Do not mistake  APE as being  a pollyannish paean to artisanal publishing.  Kawasaki forthrightly shared details regarding self-publishing experience with his prior book.  Six months of self publishing sales of What the Plus!: Google + for the Rest of Us  were quickly eclipsed by a  smart, concentrated media blitz from  a traditional publisher for a trade book edition.

APE is an eminently readable technical manual on publishing with lots of white space. I was able to read it in one sitting (although I skimmed the audio book and foreign publishing section).  As a lover of aphorisms, I appreciated the pithy quotes at the start of each chapter as well as punctuating the prose. As an e-book enthusiast, I appreciated the hyperlinks in the PDF edition, though this version did not display well on my Kindle 2.

There were a few aspects of APE which I did not like.  Some of the information struck me as cut and paste filler, such as  the CIA’s listing of the top 25 most populous countries. While the tips on Google + were relevant, they seemed cribbed directly from Kawasaki’s prior book.    Some of the asides written in the book sound as if it was taken from dictation (e.g. Walkerville Publishings proximity to the second best baseball team in 2012).   Although I am sure that Kawasaki and Welch put plenty of thought into their title and cover, to me  it can be quickly mistaken as “How to Publish a Book”  APE.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur is an invaluable book for prospective authors who are keen on getting a nuts-and-bolts guide on how to publish a book.

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