Book Review: “APE: How to Publish a Book”, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
Guy Kawasaki’s last book, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions” offered some tremendous insights into business transformation. Formerly chief evangelist of Apple and currently founding partner of Garage Technology Ventures, Guy has been there since the beginning, watching and participating in the growth of our disruptive industry. I’m always interested in hearing what someone so close to the very creation of tech has to say, and I was not disappointed.
“APE: How to Publish a Book” isn’t your ordinary how-to. Yes, it gives you incredibly detailed, insightful, and useful information about publishing your own book, but it also gives us a glimpse into the changing nature of the publishing industry itself. It’s not just about how to do it, but why you should (or shouldn’t) do it, and why it’s being done on such a large scale. The book is written in Guy’s usual engaging and friendly style, making this an easy and fun read—while still containing every single detail you need to publish your own book. In case you’re wondering, APE stands for “author, publisher, entrepreneur”, and has nothing to do with monkeys.
The book very appropriately starts out asking why—why should you write a book, and once written, why should you self-publish it? The publishing industry, thanks to readily available software and self-publishing platforms, is undergoing disruptive change. It’s been democratized. Whether that’s a good thing or not is subject to much conversation, and it’s true that traditional publishing houses have the advantage of a slew of editors, designers, fact-checkers, publicists and marketers, all of whom work together to add to and enhance the individual author’s talent. A self-published author often has to rely on his or her own skills across all areas, or if they are lucky, the skills of well-meaning friends and relatives who may or may not be particularly skilled. Despite the obvious advantages of traditional publishing though, the deck is stacked against you from the beginning, as Guy points out in his section, “The Reality of Traditional Publishing”. Traditional publishing is limited and constrained.
The one bit of information that is a bit off the mark is his advice to use crowdsourcing for the cover art. There are countless sites out there where amateurs, some of them even talented, can participate. Here’s how it works: A book author puts out a request, and then hundreds of graphic artists spend time creating cover designs to submit. The author selects one, and the winning entry gets paid. The rest have wasted their time. Professional artists never use these sites (because they like to get paid for their work). If you want a good design, just select a competent and professional design firm and pay the money.
The book outlines several major reasons why authors self-publish, and it’s not just because you can’t get accepted by the mainstream publishing houses. You may not get that extended support team traditional publishing houses provide, but you get content and design control—something the traditional publishing houses never give you. Not to mention, you’ll get faster time-to-market, and a much bigger piece of the pie.
Much of the first part of the book is about the industry itself, and about answering the big questions. After a very detailed look at the way the publishing industry is changing, Guy and Shawn get to the heart of the matter—how do you do it? It turns out there’s a lot more involved than just writing, and to their credit, they offer very granular details of every single thing you need to know, starting with what type of computer to use (a Mac, of course—as if Guy Kawasaki would recommend a Windows machine!). The authors give valuable advice in the mechanics and logistics of doing the writing itself, how to create the final copy for the print-on-demand venue, and then how to sell it once it’s done.
The book devotes a good number of pages to the editing process, and speaking myself, as one who has been on both the writing side and the editing side, I’m glad it does. Self-publishers may be far too tempted to crank out their masterpieces and then resist changing a single word. However, the authors rightly point out, every author in the world needs a copyeditor. Guy and Shawn themselves are humbled by their own experience, writing that in the case of this book, 75 people reviewed the manuscript, and the copyeditor found 1,500 errors. Sound like a lot? Not really. Were these authors less experienced, there would have been a lot more, trust me.
The authors leave out nothing, devoting ample time to minutiae, such as serial commas, and incorporating valuable details on how to sell the book through a variety of venues, such as Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Kobo. They didn’t leave out those all-important details that self-published authors always forget until the last minute, such as how to convert files into the formats required by the self-publishing venues (complete with screen shots and step-by-step instructions). It’s obvious that this book was written by people who have been there, done that—and have been hands-on involved in every single step from conception to production to sales. If you’re going down the self-publishing path, this book has information you’ll want to know.
Without a doubt, this is the most complete and entertaining book on self-publishing on the market. If you’re looking for a guide to self-publishing that guides you through every step of the way, and also gives you insight into the industry itself, look no further.
Techie.com gives “APE: How to Publish a Book” five robots out of five!
Price: $9.99 Kindle eBook
Shawn Welch is the author of From Idea to App, iOS 5 Core Frameworks, and iOS 6 for Developers as well as the developer of several iOS apps. Previously he worked as a senior media-editor for Pearson Education. He also helped pioneer many of Pearson’s earliest efforts in iPad solutions. Welch has a BS from Kansas State University.
Guy Kawasaki is the author of APE, What the Plus!, Enchantment, and nine other books. He is also the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.