By GEORGE T. JOHNSTON
Is there a book in you? I’m guessing that if the thought has come up or if someone you know has said, “You ought to write a book,” because of all the great life experiences or knowledge you have shared with friends, then the answer is probably “yes.”
Over the two decades of producing this column, I’ve written about many authors. Many did it via traditional means, i.e., finding an agent, landing a deal with a publisher, getting an advance, etc. I’m guessing former Rafu Shimpo English section editor Naomi Hirahara, who writes the Mas Arai mystery series, falls into this category. The latest installment, incidentally, is titled “Strawberry Yellow.” (I also mention Naomi since she’s the one who greenlighted this column way back when.)
One author I’ve written about several times is entrepreneur, salesman and motivator Guy Kawasaki. The first time I wrote about him for this column was June 9, 1993, when he was the speaker at an Asian Pacific Alumni of UCLA event.
His first book, “The Macintosh Way,” was written in 1989, and Kawasaki has continued since then, with 12 books under his belt now. If anyone knows about getting books published, it’s Kawasaki.
In recent years, though, I’ve also written about authors who have self-published books, most recently Edward Iwata (“Fusion Entrepreneurs: Cross-Cultural Execs & Companies Revolutionizing the Global Economy,” Sept. 27, 2012), Mari Kimura (“Fish & Fashion,” May 12, 2011), Jikun Kathy Sankey (“My Name Is Mahataa,” Aug. 18, 2011) and Steven Fujita (“Sword of the Undead,” May 27, 2010).
Self-publishing, it turns out, has taken off big time recently, part of the larger trend of democratization via technology. Thanks to relatively inexpensive computers, software and other digital technologies, the tools of production and means of distribution for all sorts of creative endeavors — writing, drawing, painting, broadcasting, filmmaking, photography — are in the hands of more people than ever.
Book publishing is no different. A generation ago, it was far more difficult to get a book published than now. Talent alone was no guarantee that a big book publisher — and it took the resources of a big publishing firm — would sign an author. But presuming you had the required talent and some good fortune to get a book deal, it was still beyond the capabilities of mere mortals to get that book printed and distributed without a deep-pocketed publisher.
If, however, you couldn’t land a book deal but had some financial resources and the gumption to forge ahead, you could self-publish your work. It was, however, considered a second-rate avenue to getting published. It was derisively called “vanity press” because publishers also acted as gatekeepers that presumably kept crackpots — including well-to-do crackpots — out of normal publishing and distribution channels.
Now, that no longer holds true, crackpot or no. Not only has self-publishing improved its reputation (established authors like Stephen King and Barry Eisler have gone that route in varying degrees), getting your book published is cheaper and easier than ever, thanks to the aforementioned technological advances that has put the tools into the hands of nearly anyone.
The wrinkle now is that, with the explosion of tablet computers — Kindles, iPads, Androids, et al — with e-reader capabilities, electronic books have begun to grow as a category. The advantages of e-books are many, including speed, cost, space-savings and more.
But if you are inclined to self-publish, you probably still could use a guide — or in this case, a “Guy-de” — and that’s where Kawasaki’s latest book comes in.
Titled “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur — How to Publish a Book” and written with Shawn Welch, this new book touts itself as an “everything-you-need-to-know” resource. So far, it’s holding true for me as I read it. Over the weekend I bought and downloaded my electronic copy using the Kindle app to read on my iPhone and iPad via Amazon, taking advantage of the “Mother’s Day” special I learned of from Kawasaki via LinkedIn. (So what if I’m not a mom?! It was a good deal!)
Even at the normal price of $9.99 as an e-book ($24.99 in paper), it’s a deal for the knowledge and wisdom contained within. On Kawasaki’s website, “APE” is described as “…300 pages of tactical and practical inspiration. People who want a hype-filled, get-rich-quick book should look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want a comprehensive and realistic guide to self-publishing, ‘APE’ is for you.”
Also worth noting is that Kawasaki and Welch came up with a new term to describe modern-day self-publishing. They call it “artisanal publishing,” which is a nice term with no baggage, to distance it from “vanity publishing” and “self-publishing.”
As one can tell by the acronym APE, it’s worth noting that there are three distinct yet related areas the book addresses. As a self-publisher, one needs to be able to perform not just as an author, but also as a publisher and entrepreneur. I personally found out the same thing in filmmaking when I made my documentary a few years ago. As challenging as making the film was concerned, marketing and distributing it was equally tough in different ways. Same too for self-publishing, it appears.
“APE” has 29 chapters. Some titles include: “Should You Write a Book?,” “A Review of Traditional Publishing,” “The Self-Publishing Revolution,” “The Ascent of Ebooks,” “How to Guerrilla-Market Your Book,” “How to Share on Social Media” and “How to Pitch Bloggers and Reviewers.”
If you think there is a book in you waiting to make it onto the page, be it paper or pixel, you can’t do better than by starting with reading “APE.” Or, make it easy by visiting ApeTheBook.com to get a preview of what the book might do for you.
It still won’t be easy, writing your book. But there’s really not too today much stopping a motivated person from becoming a published author now, thanks to Kawasaki, Welch and “APE.” I hope I can “ape” Kawasaki and someday write a book of my own too!
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached via email. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2013 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.