Why should anyone give a shiitake about your book?

That’s the first question to ask yourself, writes Guy Kawasaki in the opening chapter of a definitive new book on self-publishing, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, written with co-author Shawn Welch.

Kawasaki is passionate about writers creating worthwhile books for principled reasons. To make a difference in people’s lives, to promote great causes, or to tackle intellectual challenges are a few of the bona fide motivations on his list.

So if you’ve got a great reason to write a book, and you’re thinking about publishing it yourself, Kawasaki’s guide will take you the rest of the way. It’s the best, most thorough book I’ve seen on self-publishing to date, packed with valuable information, techniques, tips, and advice for every author.

Who is this Guy?

Guy Kawasaki has written eleven books, including the New York Times bestseller, Enchantment, and his own self-published book What the Plus!

I interviewed him previously about his innovative process of getting a cover design for his book Art of the Start.

He’s also co-founder of Alltop.com, the “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and he’s the founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital fund for tech entrepreneurs. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple.

The artisanal approach to self-publishing

In this book, Kawasaki has coined a new phrase to describe the kind of self-publishing he endorses: Artisanal Publishing.

Here where I live, the San Francisco Bay Area, the word artisanal is applied to uniquely handcrafted foods, like breads and wines. As in, which cheese would you rather eat: Velveeta, or a clothbound aged sharp cheddar created by an artisan cheese maker (who also milked the cow)?

So I get it when Kawasaki asks, “What would you rather read: a mass-produced or artisanal book?”

“Artisanal publishing is the concept of authors writing, publishing, and lovingly crafting their book with complete artistic control in a high-quality manner,” Kawasaki writes. “In this new approach, writers are no longer at the mercy of large, traditional publishers.”

What a cool way to put it. I’ve long advocated that authors take charge over every part of their work’s creative and business process, and escape the restrictions and powerlessness of being published traditionally.

Market your book for as long as you want people to buy it

Kawasaki’s ideas about creating a brand or platform are among the most inspiring messages in the book. He describes creating an online persona built from the author’s authentic personality to market and sell the book. Crafting this public face is a mandatory prerequisite, he says, a major, must-do part of being an author these days.

“All authors should take control of their fate,” Kawasaki writes.

He’s right. I tell authors to think of marketing as an essential part of their creative process. Who can express better than you the core vision and value of your work? Who cares about it more than you? You don’t have to dress up or take acting lessons or post on your blog ten times a day. You can pick and choose what new marketing techniques are comfortable for you and do it all from home, in your pajamas.

Kawasaki lays out a compelling approach to selling your book during interactions with all readers, actual and virtual print and broadcast media, book bloggers, reviewers, post commenters, and any other in your social network. Here are his three pillars to building a great personal brand.  The book drills down into detail, but here’s the basic structure.

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Guy Kawasaki’s three pillars of a personal brand

Trustworthiness

“If you want people to trust you, you have to trust them first,” Kawasaki advises. “Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they are good until proven bad. Then give them another chance.”

He emphasizes the importance of doing what you say you’re going to do, doing it early, and if there’s a cost, coming in under budget. And if you can’t, never wait until the last minute but tell everyone as soon as you know there’s a problem — all of the above being excellent ways to demonstrate trustworthiness.

Likeability

“Give without expectation of return.”

Put the other person’s needs and gratification before your own. Sure you want to sell books, but that only happens when you provide something of value, entertainment, inspiration or guidance to other people’s lives. It’s not “What can I get out of this person”, but rather “How can I help them”.

Competence

You’ve got to be reliable, authoritative, well prepared and with impeccable content. Your book and everything you say about it must be accurate, well researched, original and as flawless as possible – whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, technical or fanciful.

You’re the boss, so own the niche.

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Kawasaki’s book also offers meticulous detail about financing your book, how to avoid the “self-published look” by choosing a beautiful font, proper spacing, getting an effective cover, converting and uploading a Word Doc to eBook, using print-on-demand services, pricing, and many other aspects of self-publishing, self-marketing, and social media, and a sympathetic but ultimately scathing indictment of traditional book publishing.

Navigating Amazon

“Self-publishing is an Amazon world,” Kawasaki cautions. “You’d be foolish to ignore it.”

He’s included in the book an outstanding glossary of Amazon goods and services offered to indie authors from Kindle Direct to their print division CreateSpace to Amazon Author Central plus too many others to mention here. I had no idea, for example, that you could hire people on Amazon Mechanical Turk to identify bloggers who might review your book. Or that Kindle Serials is looking for unpublished stories that can be released in a paid subscription format, shades of Charles Dickens.

Could be worth the price of admission.

But what about developmental editing?

A soft spot in the book is Kawasaki’s skimpy discussion of working with an editor.

At one point he writes that “Self-publishing can be a lonely path. In particular, you might not have an editor who is a mentor, advisor, and psychiatrist.”

But then, after suggesting an author should send beta versions for comments to friends, family, and co-workers, plus crowd sourcing with a questionnaire on Google+, face book, and twitter to find factual errors and typos, he recommends only a copy-editor for a final go-through.

The concept of a developmental editor doesn’t appear in the book, nor are there any recommendations for professional feedback on the core content, story, characters, organization, and style of the book. In my long years of experience, most successful authors do work with developmental editors (some call us content editors) and the earlier in their creative process the better.

Self-publishing authors especially must take on the responsibility for acquiring this specialized kind of editing, given the deluge of competing titles of all sorts now available. Consequently, I advise every author to find an experienced editor with a track record of bestselling authors to insure that the line-by-line structure, plot, and literary craft of their book is as good as it can be.

But aside from this missing link, I’d recommend APE for all authors who are serious about their writing and want to be sure it has the biggest possible market.

If you doubt for a moment that you need to read this book, take the Self-Publishing Intelligence Test that Kawasaki links to in his promotion for the book.  It’s fun and I discovered a lot I didn’t know.

What about you?

What’s your take on Kawasaki’s concept of artisanal publishing? He imagines self-publishing authors adopting the artisanal approach as a bragging point. He’s always been something of a visionary. What do you think?

11 Responses to Why should anyone give a shiitake about your book?

  1. Monica Shaughnessy

    This is absolutely the direction that savvy writers should be moving in, though easier said than done. I’ve been keen on the concept of “hand crafted” books these last few months, comparing them to artisanal cheese or craft beer or hand-carved furniture. It’s really no different. But to elevate content to artisanal status, writers must establish themselves as story tellers with a unique message and brand. That’s what I’m hard at work on now. Wish I had a web link to put at the end of this message, but my site is under construction!

  2. Bridget McKenna

    I’ve self-published a handful of my own previously-published short stories and one nonfiction book for writers, and I’ve also helmed a computer game company’s ebook arm, but I’m always willing to learn more. I’m eager to start reading APE and find out more that I don’t know.

  3. Carmen Anthony Fiore

    I’ve got 28 fiction and nonfiction titles on my Amazon Kindle bookshelf to date, but I wasn’t aware of the Kindle Serials opportunity platform. I’ll give it a look. Thanks for the heads up. Entrepreneurial writers have to be open to all avenues of promo as well as the business and artistic sides of writing and publishing.

  4. Industry News-December 16 » RWA-WF

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  5. Shawn Welch

    Great review Alan, thank you. Just wanted to point out while Guy and I didn’t use the word “development editor” we recognized the importance of using a content editor. In chapter 8 (How to Edit You Book) we emphasized the need of using a content editor for the feedback you demonstrated in this write up, whether it be from friends, communities, crowdsourced, or hiring a professional.

    But I agree we did go after copyediting more so than content editing. In a future revision, we’ll consider giving both equal weight!

    -Shawn (co-author of APE)

  6. Ebook and Publishing Industry News (Dec 15-16th, 2012) | @ebookmakr blog

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  7. Alan Rinzler

    Shawn,

    Glad to hear you’re considering more weight for developmental editing. In artisanal publishing, the words, the purpose, focus, structure, core meaning, originality, literary craft and artistic style of a book is actually a lot more significant than whether words are spelled correctly or a comma is out of place (although that’s very important too!)

    And since it takes much longer, it’s something a writer needs to start early in the creative process.

  8. Dawne Webber

    I’ve been leery about self-publishing thanks to the research I conducted while preparing to query my novel; self-publishing was considered a definite liability according to most sources.

    The concept of artisanal publishing has given me a new perspective. I’m looking forward to learning more about it and can’t wait to read the book.

  9. a think about | self-publishing like an artisan & an entrepreneur « Endless Hybrids

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  10. Ted

    I just finished Guy’s book and thought it was excellent. I got the e-book and it actually had a section from you on developmental editors. (must have been added after your review?). I’m sold on the concept…do you know a good one in Atlanta? Thanks very much.

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