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Guy Kawasaki and the art of self-publishing

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 - 3:26am IST | Place: Mumbai

Guy Kawasaki talks on how to publish a book and on what should aspiring entrepreneurs do next once they have an ‘idea’.

Guy Kawasaki is the author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, 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. In an interview, Kawasaki talks on how to publish a book and on what should aspiring entrepreneurs do next once they have an ‘idea’.

What made you write APE?
I self-published a book called What the Plus! earlier this year and learned how difficult the process is. I felt a moral obligation to help my fellow authors figure out how to make self-publishing as easy and effective as possible.

Why should anyone self-publish a book?
If a traditional publisher offered you a nice advance, my advice is to take it and run. That said, traditional publishers turn down the vast majority of books. It is a closed and inefficient system. Self-publishing—or what I like to call “artisanal publishing—gives control back to the author in terms of content, design, and marketing.

Should entrepreneurs write books?
An entrepreneur should write a book if he has something valuable to say. This eliminates most entrepreneurs. They should write a book after they succeed, not in order to succeed. And if they truly are entrepreneurs, they shouldn’t have time to write a book. And they certainly shouldn’t pay someone to write a book for them. Writing a book, like being a venture capitalist, is something you do at the end of your career, not the beginning.

How does one go about self-publishing a book?
There are three stages: author (writing), publisher (editing and laying out), and entrepreneur (bringing it to market). A traditional publisher has to do the same things. It’s just that I believe self-publishers can do this as good or better.

What are the pitfalls to avoid?
There are three big pitfalls: first, writing a book for the wrong reasons such as to make a quick buck or to position yourself as a thought leader. The marketplace sees through such insipid reasons. Second, over-paying service companies who promise to make your book successful. The most you should spend to self-publish a book is around $4,000. Third, not hiring a professional copy editor. The odds of you being a good copy editor is zero, and nothing makes a book suck like the lack of copy editing.

How can lesser known authors who self-publish reach out to the masses in terms of distribution?
The day you start writing a book you should also start building your platform by using services such as Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You should write two to three hours a day and use social media an hour a day. Every day. For a year.

A lot of aspiring entrepreneurs have ‘great ideas’, but how do they successfully productise them?
Great ideas are easy. Implementation is hard. The first step for entrepreneurs is to build a prototype and get to market. Market research and business planning are over-rated. Step one is to make something tangible. The best market research is putting a product out and seeing if people will buy it. The best business plan is to create something great and sell it fast. This isn’t rocket science. It’s mostly hard work and luck.

Rahul Varshneya spends his time between coaching aspiring entrepreneurs in launching their ventures, apps and websites, and building Arkenea Technologies.

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