By December 12, 2012 Read More →

Guy Kawasaki on the Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish

Guy Kawasaki on APE

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Guy Kawasaki on the top 10 reasons to self-publish.

Guy is a a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, bestselling author, and Apple Fellow.   Above all, Guy is a down to Earth unleasher of goodness, and he drives with a simple mission to “empower people.”

Some of Guy’s books include The Art of the Start, The Macintosh Way, and Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.  And now, Guy has a new book in town, just in time for the holidays.  It’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.  As the name implies, it’s all about self-publishing and how to control the publishing process to produce high-quality books.

I asked Guy if he could share his best insights on self-publishing, and here is what he had to say …

The self-publishing revolution is in full swing because we’re at a great time when tablets have reached critical mass, connectivity is ubiquitous, and people want to spread, not horde, their knowledge.

Thus, the time for every author to consider self-publishing is upon us. I’ve written a book called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book to explain the process. Here are the top ten reasons why authors should self-publish their books.

  1. Content and design control. Self-publishers can control what’s in a book, how long it is, and how it looks. They only answer to themselves for most aspects of their books.
  2. Time to market. Self-publishers can get their book to market in less than a week once it’s copyedited. Traditional publishers take six to nine months to get a printed book to market, and they will not release the ebook version earlier than the printed version.
  3. Longevity. Self-publishers can keep their book in print forever—or at least as long as it takes for readers to discover it. Traditional publishers stop marketing a book once sales decline.
  4. Revisions. Self-publishers can revise books immediately with online ebook resellers and printers that are working “on demand.” Traditional publishers can take months to fix errors because they print revisions after they’ve sold off current inventory.
  5. Higher royalty. Self-publishers can make more money. Amazon pays a 35 percent or 70 percent royalty to ebook self-publishers. On a $2.99 ebook, most authors make approximately $2.00.
  6. Price control. Self-publishers can change the price of their book at will. For example, they can set a lower price to try to sell more copies or set a higher price to communicate higher quality.
  7. Global distribution. Self-publishers can achieve global distribution of their ebook on day one. For example, Kindle Direct Publishing will list an ebook in one hundred countries. Apple’s iBookstore reaches fifty countries.
  8. Control of foreign rights. Self-publishers determine who buys foreign rights and for how much. They can make more money because they are not sharing foreign-rights revenues with a traditional publisher.
  9. Analytics. Self-publishers can receive real-time or near real-time sales results. Traditional publishers provide twice-a-year royalty statements—imagine running a business with two sales reports a year.
  10. Deal flexibility. Self-publishers can cut any kind of deal with any kind of organization. Traditional publishers only sell to resellers except for bulk sales of printed books to large organizations.

About APE

Written by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book (ISBN 978-0-9885231-1-1) presents persuasive arguments for why authors should choose self-publishing and how to execute this strategy. The thesis is powerful yet simple: filling the roles of author, publisher and entrepreneur yields results that rival traditional publishing. Guy and Shawn call this “artisanal publishing”–that is, when writers who love their craft control the publishing process and produce high-quality books. Visit http://apethebook.com/ for more information.

Photo by ShashiBellamkanda.

20 Comments on "Guy Kawasaki on the Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Thanks Guy,
    I’m in the midst of a self-publishing project (ebook and membership site) and this was another encouragement to press on and ship it!

  2. This is very unbalanced advice. I can list at least 10 reasons NOT to self-publish. The first three:

    – The quality of the print run for your print-on-demand paper version will look terrible. If you want high-quality printing, you will need to fork over thousands of euros/dollars as an investment in designers and printing.
    – You won’t be in the stores, where many people still see and buy books. You won’t be in universities, magazines, or other places that can matter.
    – Your book will be perceived by some as “inferior” because obviously “you couldn’t find a publisher”. Your book will be mentally categorized with all the other crap that people are self-publishing. How do you distinguish yourself from that?
    – And so on…

    I know what I’m talking about, because I did both traditional and self-publishing. People need fair advice, not unbalanced arguments favoring just one side.

  3. Melba Tolliver says:

    If a piece is clearly titled 10 Reasons to Self Publish , it’s obviously not about why you should Not take that route.

  4. JD says:

    @ Jurgen — That’s a lot of assumptions, and Melba pointed out the right meta-point.

    That said, I’d like to clear up some of your assumptions and myths rooted in your personal experience:

    – If you self-publish, go the extra mile when you explore your options. For example, if you use Lightening Source, it’s the same press the big shops use, it’s high-quality, and you can distribute through the big channels. Most people don’t know this option. It’s more work. It’s print on demand, so not thousands up front.
    – Additionally, hire a professional designer and editor with a track record, if your readers will value the results.
    – In terms of reach, some publishers are happier to pick up a book that’s been tested in the market, after you’ve proven success and reduced their risk, so it can be a stepping stone.

    Self-publishing does not equal low-quality — your other choices do.

    I did my first six books with the traditional publishing path. It’s great if you’ve got the channel. I also learned a lot doing self-publishing for my first-time, and I’ve been in the top 10 in time management on Amazon. People are surprised when they find out I self-published because the book feels good in their hands.

    I’m tempted to write my own “tell all” on self-publishing. I might if there’s enough appetite.

  5. @J.D. – You ignore all the reasons why people outsource and delegate work to professionals and specialists. Of course we can do everything ourselves! Using very similar arguments I can argue that people should do their bookkeeping and tax forms themselves, instead of paying accountants to do it. “You will have your financial statements so much faster!” “You will be in total control!” “You can change your financial records anytime you want!”

    I find it a bit silly.

    For every benefit there will be a drawback. I’m not saying there are no benefits. I just find it uninteresting without listing the drawbacks.

    With “high quality” I don’t mean just the quality of the paper. That’s the least important part. Have you seen the Business Model Generation book? Please explain how one could do that yourself + printer, and without paying a whole bunch of experts…

  6. Rachel Thompson says:

    This is not an either or situation. Persons who work hard at it, and learn how to maximize the effort can do very well self publishing. On the other hand, authors without business experience may get screwed royally by publishers. Either way, the author must learn all about both businesses in order to use them to the best advantage. Artists with good business skills will do better in both cases.

  7. Matti Hjelm says:

    I agree with that the post is inbalanced, only favoring selfpublishing. My conclusion after reading
    all comments is that if you know what you are doing selfpublishing CAN have advantages that are impossible to reach
    otherwise and that Appelo is a bit to strongly emphasizing his point.

  8. JD says:

    @ Rachel — So true, and well put.

    It’s really a game of knowing how the system works, and knowing how to play your best hand for the situation.

    I know many authors that would be better off self-publishing, and many authors that should never self-publish, for various reasons. For some people, it’s as simple as they don’t have the marketing arm. For others, they need the structure of a publishing team and schedule. For others, it’s a math thing. I’m lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes view from my seasoned publisher friends, and success as an author is often a portfolio play, or first to market in a volume-scale play with buzz, or differentiation in a way the market values.

    But the beauty of today is how many options are available. The challenge then is how to navigate and exploit these options with skill, and that’s part of what Guy’s book does. Another key is self-awareness, knowing your strengths and limitations and how to design a winning strategy.

    @ Jurgen — Assumptions again (I’ve never shared how/when I recommend self-publishing, or how I outsource or delegate … someday I might, but I haven’t yet.)

    I do agree with Guy’s list of benefits. I know plenty of the downsides, but I would not expect Guy to focus on them, given the title.

    To avoid the broken record of wanting downsides from a top 10 article, use my contact form and we can philosophize on the ups and downs, and rather than make assumptions, you can ask me for my opinions, experience, and lessons learned.

  9. @JD – You dismiss my comments as “assumptions”, but I dismiss yours as “confirmation bias”. You agree with those who have the same point of view about this as you have, without pointing out their assumptions. At the same time I give a few valid arguments (such as, you will have to pay professionals out of your own pocket) that you simply ignore.

    Sorry, not only the blog post is unbalanced. Your response to my observation is so too. I will leave it at that.

  10. JD says:

    @ Matti — Can you point me to your favorite “top 10 reasons” article that has pros and cons? Now I’m curious — I’ve never seen a balanced top 10 reasons article, but I’m open.

    Separately, if you’d like a balanced article on the pros and cons of self-publishing or choosing between traditional and self-publishing, I could write one, if that’s your ask, but I won’t call it “top 10 reasons …”

  11. JD says:

    @ Jurgen — To clarify, a top ten reasons article is biased by design.

    I think your points on the downsides of self-publishing are perfectly valid.

    I think your statements about whether I outsource or delegate are assumptions, because you never asked me what I actually recommend, just stated as facts.

    I like the fact you push the envelope.

    Given the scope of the article, do you think Guy did justice to the benefits?

    Would you like me to write a deep article on the pros and cons — I won’t call it a top ten reasons — and you can review it or pair up on it before I post it — how does that sound?

  12. I’ve found Guy to be a fantastic, dynamic presence on the web. He’s promiscuous on his twitter feed: twitter.com/holykaw Always interesting stuff & all too often compelling!

    I was surprised by the “controversy” in the comments. The purpose of the post struck me as fairly presented, not intended to be an all-encompassing characterization, but one with a clearly & fairly presented premise.

  13. James Pailly says:

    I’ll agree with Jurgen in that it is good to know both the pros and cons of self publishing. I’ve seen enough self published books to know that most people are doing it wrong–little to no editing, poor cover art, cheap bindings–but I’ve also seen a lot that are done well.

    I think this is the way publishing will be done in the future, and we all should start thinking of ourselves not just as writers but also small business owners.

  14. Matti Hjelm says:

    Yes I agree, “Top 10 reason’s”-lists are unbalanced. It’s more valuable to get lists of both pro and con. That’s the best ground for making a decision.

  15. JD says:

    @ Jimmy — I think that’s what always struck me about Guy — he shares freely. He likes to help people, and it shows.

    I think the controversy is reflecting a pain point, where folks experienced key challenges with self-publishing, but you’re right — the article is a top 10 on the benefits/drivers, not a pros/cons.

    @ James — It is good to know the pros and cons.

    I might actually consider the cons more as challenges, risks, or issues. I think stepping back, it’s also important to first know where and when self-publishing makes sense, and to know what’s possible — the good, the bad, the ugly.

    It’s actually why Guy wrote his book — there are lots of surprises and ways to fall down.

    @ Matti — I think one of the challenges with information on the web is gathering the right pieces to make effective decisions:

    – benefits / drivers
    – pros / cons (or trade-off matrixes)
    – how to / steps
    – lists of strategies/tactics

    There are lots of ways to slice and dice, too. For example, this post could be a pros and cons — a different title and focus. Or, there could be a follow up with an article on the top 10 downsides of self-publishing.

    I can’t argue which strategy is more effective, since I think it depends on what you want to focus on, so it’s more of a subjective choice.

    I’m a fan of leading with “why” — since it really sets the stage.

  16. James Pailly says:

    Thanks, JD. I definitely think of them as challenges to overcome, not reasons to give up on self publishing.

  17. If one really likes people, enjoys sales or promotion, is a self starter, demands self control of content, likes to brand and market i.e. give the flavor of the image themselves…and might like to gross higher profits per unit delivered then self publishing is a no brainer. If I were speaking with a person who is chronically shy and wants to stay that way… publishing via a established house would be a wise choice given they have a agent or negotiator with them to ensure a fair or good deal is being hashed out. This too is a no brainer.
    I believe your long term career path of being a author or producer of purchasable content makes a hugh difference. Someone like Tony Robbins was one book published and distributed traditionally.. while the majority of his content is in audio cd’s and sells for $300 a program. Its obvious the $300 a program is a self published shin-dig and it allows high to communicate value, allows him to make his learners “think” before they spend, and allows him to keep full control of his content which is especially important when your using language for transformative purposes as it purposefully breaks rules to perform pattern interrupts(bad habit cessations) and increase motivation simply and quickly. I would hate to explain that to a editor who simply hasn’t studied a lick of NLP, Hypnosis or key salesperson ship. When we sell idea for money and for helping people self sell on their own excellence… we need full control or may easily become handy capped by a bureaucracy that has done amazing things like -Fail To Publish “Chicken Soup For The Soul” Series 133 Times- The mostly widely bought book brand n title in humanities history.

  18. Oh~ And Buy The Way, lol. I have a wonderful group of people who are ….highly educated…. that are drooling at the chance to edit and format my dyslexia and spelling monstrosities for free;-) These people are my friends and clients. Im grateful that i have such esteemed, highly degreed supporters in my world to “help” with my “unruly” needs. Before anyone might like to chomp at the bit of my 1st post lacking a few s’s and things like that, all I can say is O.C.D. is lovely thing when used wisely. So enjoy! Im sure ill mis-spell more for you to point out or not point out but then again… the rest of us value ideas to the extent we can appreciate them past the ugly envelopes (Guy Kawasaki reverence) they may be written on at the time, in this case… a lovely web page. Too-she & Thank You In Advance:- ) Friends and Supports Alike.

    N PS if there is anyone else reading this who thinks freely but spells terribly… you too will find friends of value who will enjoy reading your work and cleaning up the “lint of the carpet” if you will, of your spelling or dyslexia challenges not only because they care for you and can be of necessity but also because they would like the opportunity to be close to “one doing a brave thing”, either for self inspiration or for vicarious values of myriad descriptions… which ever, or both, as the case may be~

    They can also handle the occasion run on sentence hehehehe too. ahha; )

    @JD Author. Well said. What? Yes. I dig your gentlemanly nature! Great Vibes Brother:-)