Monday, December 10, 2012

Interview with Guy Kawasaki


Joe sez: These past few weeks I've been finishing up the third Chandler book (after FLEE and SPREE) with Ann Voss Peterson, and ignoring all things Internet.

Next week I'll do my annual New Years Resolution for Writers post, but until then Barry Eisler has allowed me to post an interview he did with Guy Kawasaki, who just wrote an ebook that the majority of my blog readers will be interested in. Here's Barry and Guy:

Barry: Barry Eisler here. Joe has generously offered to host this interview I did with Guy Kawasaki, the former Chief Evangelist of Apple; serial entrepreneur; lecturer; and writer of numerous books on marketing, start-ups, and entrepreneurism. I just finished Guy’s extraordinary new book, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book, and it’s easily the most comprehensive, best organized, nuts-and-bolts-useful work on self-publishing I’ve seen to date. I think Guy has written the bible on self-publishing, and I expect it will be recognized—and widely used—as such.

There’s a funny, and I think telling, story behind how I got my advance copy of APE (the book launches today). A few weeks ago, I did an interview for Tim Ferris’s blog in which I discussed my favorite books on marketing (the interview hasn’t run yet, but here’s a link to Tim’s blog). Among the works I discussed were several by Guy, including Selling the Dream: How to Promote Your Product, Company, or Ideas—and Make a Difference—Using Everyday Evangelism (highly recommended for anyone trying to make a living through writing). A few days after I sent in my thoughts for Tim’s blog, Guy contacted me on Twitter. I emailed him and asked, “Is this about Tim’s blog?” He told me no, he wanted to know if I’d join him for a panel at the Churchill Club on The Future of Publishing (December 18 in Santa Clara, California). I told him hell yes, I’d be honored, and mentioned that I’d learned a ton from his books. To which Guy told me the honor was his because he’s a John Rain fan and because the book I did with Joe on self-publishing—Be the Monkey: A Conversation About the New World of Publishing—is part of what inspired him to write APE.

I was really struck by that. Reading Guy’s books made me a better evangelist, meaning what I learned from Guy both inspired and shaped what I was hoping to accomplish with Be the Monkey, and then Be the Monkey inspired the guy who inspired me! I love karma. As for both these books featuring simian references… well, I like to think there might be something to it, but it’s also possible that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Now let’s learn a bit more about this terrific book—straight from Guy.

1. Guy, there’s more on this topic in APE itself, but can you tell us a bit about why you decided to write the book, which, while drawing on your core areas of expertise in marketing, entrepreneurism, and evangelism, is also a departure for you? Can you talk a bit about why you decided to self-publish it?

I wrote APE because of my experiences self-publishing a book called What the Plus!. I wrote What the Plus! because the publisher of Enchantment could not fill an order for 500 copies of the ebook version. By self-publishing What the Plus!, I learned firsthand how idiosyncratic, confusing, and inefficient that process is, and I decided to do something about it. As Steve Jobs used to say, “There must be a better way.”

2. You’ve published about a dozen books with legacy publishers like Harper Collins and Penguin. Were you tempted to go that route with APE?

I did run it past my agent and the publisher of Enchantment, but we couldn’t come to terms. The core problem was that I wanted to retain ebook rights and sell the paper rights. That said, for a sufficient amount of money, anything is possible.

3. What did you see as the pros and cons?

The advantage of a traditional publisher is that it takes care of so many details for you such as content editing, copyediting, cover design, interior design, printing, sales, distribution, and returns. It also provides a large advance. The disadvantage is that it rightfully pays you a lot less and reduces your flexibility. Of course, if no traditional publisher wants your book, then you don’t have to weigh the pros and cons. You just do what you have to do.

4. I like the title you chose—not “How to Self-Publish,” but “How to Publish.” I like it first because your thoughts on how to package and market a book would make the legacy publishing industry more effective, so in that sense the book is applicable to anyone who wants to effectively publish a book, not just to self-publishers. But there’s another reason you chose the title, one that’s a manifestation of one of the marketing tips in the book. Can you discuss why you chose this title?

I chose the subtitle “How to Publish a book” as opposed to “How to Self-Publish a Book” because I used the Google Adwords keyword site. There you can enter various terms and find out how many times people search for it. I leaned that people search for “how to publish” fifteen times more often than “how to self-publish.” That was the end of that discussion!

5. I’m continually fascinated by the politics of publishing—by what I see as a struggle between a publishing establishment and a publishing insurgency. Joe and I touched on the politics of publishing in Be the Monkey, and naturally one of my favorite sections of APE was the one that put the current battle in publishing in a historical context. Some of that history was new to me, and I wondered if you could talk a bit more about it here.

The historical trend of publishing, like many other industries, is towards democratization and an open system. It used to be that only the church and royalty had scribes. This meant a lower level of literacy, and that one had to go to church to learn about God. Then Gutenberg invented the printing press, and it was possible to print many more copies of the Bible. Now people could learn about God by reading the Bible without going to church.

Fast-forward to the introduction of Macintosh, LaserWriter, and PageMaker, and now anyone with these products could print a book. The current curve doesn’t even involve printing: anyone with a computer, a word processor, and Internet access can upload a book to Amazon. Then anyone with a computer, smartphone, or tablet can read the ebook. The democratization of information is not something to get in the way of.

When the industry crossed the chasm from print to ebook, the rules changed. There were physical limits to publishing: how many titles a store could physically display and stock. This meant that gatekeepers—arbiters of taste—were necessary to act as filters. If Random House or Penguin published a book, it must be good. And only a Random House or Penguin could print the book on dead trees and get the dead trees to the store.

This isn’t true anymore. Do you care who published a book? Do you even look to see who the publisher is before you buy a book? I don’t. I just look at the number of stars it has on Amazon and read a few reviews and buy it. Seconds later, I’m reading about John Rain and the yakuza. [Excellent choice. J]

6. How do you envision the future of publishing? Is it an either/or universe, a Manichean battle between legacy and self-publishing, paper and digital? Or can different systems and formats coexist? Do authors have to choose an entrée, or can they choose a buffet, instead?

First, here’s a surprising statistic: only about ten percent of the publishing business is ebooks. It’s going to be a long time before all books are electronic—probably never for a coffee-table book of Annie Leibovitz photos. The thoughtful and informed response to this question is “it depends.” Most of all, it depends on what type of book we’re talking about. Adult novels, I think, will be the first to go mostly electronic. Photo books will be the last.

There will continue to be the “big six” or so traditional publishers who are looking to find and keep blockbuster authors like you and J.K. Rowling. [Did I mention Guy is a very nice person? ;)] One thing is still true: most authors want to be published by Random, Penguin, etc. Who doesn’t want a big advance and all the hand-holding.

When the dust settles, I hope self-publishing empowers “everyone” to write a book. The cream will rise to the top. Then the traditional publishers will acquire those titles and sign those authors to future deals. This is the genius of Amazon Encore—Amazon’s system of watching what sells well and acquiring the title.

It’s also probably the madness behind Penguin buying Author Solutions and the lunacy of Simon & Schuster partnering with Author Solutions after the Penguin acquisition. Why both companies are trying to buy their way into self-publishing astounds me.

7. You’re a pretty smart guy with impressive experience and credentials in business. If you were hired as a consultant to help legacy publishing executives adapt to the changing world in which the industry finds itself, how would you advise them?

I would take a cue from what’s happened in the tech and venture capital space. It’s much cheaper and easier to start a company today because of Open Source tools, cloud-computing, and virtual teams. Venture capital is less necessary, so now firms like Y Combinator help companies start with $25,000, and many startups also raise money on Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

The publishing equivalent of Y Combinator is a writer’s incubator—real or virtual—where you can raise $25,000 to write a book. The company would receive 10-20 percent of the book’s earnings for this “seed-stage” investment. The publishing equivalent of Indiegogo and Kickstarter is Unbound and Pubslush. All four organizations are interesting plays. So in addition to creating a Y Combinator of publishing, I would look at buying, investing in, or starting an Indiegogo or Kickstarter for books.

8. Beyond writing the best book possible, what do you think is the most important thing for a self-published author to understand and implement to maximize her chances of commercial success?

The most important thing a self-publisher has to understand is that the hard part of publishing a book is marketing it, not writing it. On the day you start writing your book, you should start building a marketing platform, too. I recommend three hours per day writing and one hour per day building a social-media presence. You cannot wait until you finish your book before you start building a marketing platform. Life for a successful author is doing things in a parallel, not serial manner.

Thanks, Guy. Again, the book is APE and it launches today. You can also follow Guy on Twitter at @GuyKawasaki and on Google+.

66 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:06 PM

    I find it interesting that this book just came out today yet already has 63 5-star reviews, almost none of which are verified purchases.

    Does the book contain a chapter on how to do THAT?

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  2. This made my jaw drop when I read it:

    "The most important thing a self-publisher has to understand is that the hard part of publishing a book is marketing it, not writing it. On the day you start writing your book, you should start building a marketing platform, too. I recommend three hours per day writing and one hour per day building a social-media presence."

    What happened to actually writing a great book, which I still consider the HARDEST part of the whole process? Or is it all about marketing now?

    I find this pretty depressing.

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  3. Tess--

    I used to be all about marketing. Now, I don't do any marketing. I focus on writing great books (to the point where I haven't blogged in six weeks because I've been writing).

    Don't be disheartened. Your books continue to be high-quality, and you and I don't need to worry about marketing because we already have fan bases.

    The thing is, I think a large part of the reason we have fan bases is because we write good books.

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  4. Does the book contain a chapter on how to do THAT?

    I've blogged about that. Give advance copies to your fanbase. Been doing that for years.

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  5. Joe,

    you and I have been in this biz long enough to know that too much devotion to marketing is distracting, energy-sapping, and ultimately self-defeating.

    You're wise to save your energy for the book-writing. I know I've backed off myself, and am rarely accepting speaking gigs these days. There are only so many hours in a day; make them about art. Commerce will follow.

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  6. make them about art. Commerce will follow.

    I agree. But for newbies just getting started, then need to make some publicity noise or they won't get noticed.

    But I'd rather shoot myself than ever go on another book tour.

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  7. Anonymous2:10 PM

    To me it seems like the ratings and reviews for this book have been gamed. Many of the reviews are more like treatises than reviews, they're just not natural. Many of them also take the exact same format: here's what part one is about, here's what part two is about, etc.

    I also find it interesting that the book purportedly tells authors how to succeed yet it does not appear that either author of this book has ever written or published a fiction book. It's funny that not one of the now 70 5-star glowing reviews notes this.

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  8. How appropriate that Barry Eisler point me to a book by Guy Kawasaki since I discovered the John Rain series from Guy mentioning it on a podcast I listen to.
    Synchronicity.

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  9. Tess, I agree -- for me, the hard part has always been writing the book. Even 200 bookstore visits in 15 days was a joke by comparison. I have a feeling Guy might rephrase that if he could, but I can't speak for him. For me, the point is that books don't sell themselves, no more than any other product -- so you have to have a plan for building awareness and desire, and you have to execute on that plan. All of which takes know-how and drive.

    Joe beat me to another point: what makes for cost-effective marketing for your first book, when no one in the world has heard of you, is likely different from what's cost-effective for your 10th, 20th, etc book, when (hopefully) you're a big bestseller. Certainly I've changed my marketing tactics as my circumstances have changed. There were things I did for my first several books that I think were well conceived and well executed at the time, and that I would never do now because my circumstances have changed and the old tactics are no longer cost-effective.

    As one example, around 2004 and 2005, I think I hit five or six mystery cons a year (and Joe was at all of them). In the summer of 2007, I drove coast to coast and back again, personally visiting 350 bookstores to meet staff and sign stock (some of that overlapped with Joe, but he was also busy visiting over 500!). I think all those efforts were instrumental in getting me where I am today. And I would do them again if I were sent back in time. But I would never do them now. There are more effective things I can do from the base I've built (thank God).

    Anonymous, another explanation for what looks like review gaming is that Guy has a large and loyal following (1.2 million Twitter followers, for example) and is savvy about getting out review copies to people he thinks are likely to talk up the book. I'm one such -- he sent me a copy; I read it and found it terrific; asked Joe if I could interview Guy here; and posted an Amazon review, too. No gaming; just smart, dedicated marketing leveraging a substantial base he's spent years methodically building.

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  10. GB, that is awesome -- thanks for letting me know.

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  12. Evangelist? Ugh. These kind of guys make me throw up in my mouth. Every single word they utter is sales & marketing.
    I meet them often, even when they're your friends, you find it hard to trust them because they are just always 'on'.
    Now he's on to the next big thing.

    I am all for marketing, don't get me wrong, but it is these "entrepreneurs" that taint the business. I see hundreds of these books from authors that have published nothing but books on how to publish! They will do and be whatever they have to to make money.

    Anyway, just happy to see another post! Was getting worried there ;)

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  13. We all want more sales, but few of us want to do the selling. For me, and for most writers I assume, the heart of the matter is always the writing itself. Selling will always be secondary. The best advice in the world on building a platform doesn't hold a candle to the starburst that appears when I write a great page. What writer can possibly say: "I can't wait to sit down and spend the afternoon promoting my work," when the alternative is writing something of merit? May we curse the day when marketing takes precedence over the act of creating. As much as I hope and work for more sales, I can never put the business of publishing before the art of writing.

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  14. Barry, absolutely true that one's marketing strategies change as one's career matures. A few things I've discovered with time:

    Marketing to writers' conferences is time wasted. I hardly sell any books at writers' conferences. Aspiring authors don't want to read your books; they just want to suck information from your brain so they can sell THEIR books.

    Speaking at libraries is a far better proposition. People who show up at library talks actually like to read -- and often buy -- books.

    A book tour is worthwhile only if someone else is paying for it. And if there are press interviews included.

    Your best investment in time is simply to write the next book. The more output you have, the more real estate you'll get in the bookstore.

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  15. Best advice I ever got, and the only advice that worked, was from Joe when he wrote, "Write the best book you can, get it edited, get a good cover, upload it....and get back to writing the next one. Your ebook won't ever go out of print, and has a long time to find an audience."

    That simple advice blew me away. I stopped trying to recreate the abnormal success of others, or find a magic formula, and got back to work.

    In the same amount of time I spent agonizing over marketing my first book, I wrote the second one, plus a short, and got them both uploaded.

    Now that advice is my holy scripture for self-publishing. It didn't cost me any money, it took me five seconds to read it, and it worked like a charm.

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  16. Jarrah, that's quite a broad brush you're painting with. I don't know Guy personally, but I've learned a ton from his books, and profited from it. Maybe when you wrote, "I meet them often, even when they're your friends, you find it hard to trust them because they are just always 'on'," you should have stuck with the singular pronoun throughout? For accuracy if for nothing else.

    David, I think every point you made is valid. There's no one-size-fits-all answer on the optimum mix of writing and marketing. Every writer has to decide for herself, and it sounds like you've found the mix that works for you.

    Tess, agreed on all, especially the last paragraph (amplified by J Fields). No matter what else you do, the single most important marketing you can do is to write another book. For any quibblers out there, I don't think it follows from this that the *only* marketing you should do is to write the next book. Maybe getting enough sleep is the single most important health activity you can do, but that doesn't mean it would make sense not to eat right, too. But it's important to understand the time value of your time so you can prioritize and maximize the returns you get on your time.

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  17. Barry, yes, admittedly it was a broad stroke and I'm obviously venting some. I'm sure he is a nice guy and I have no doubt there is value in his book.

    My comment was not a critique on your interview skills at all ;)

    But these Apple guys especially ruffle my feathers, because they have actually marketed themselves so much, to appear that marketing and selling itself is actually a creative artform. As if they are the great artists of our generation.

    I'm not talking about designers or writers that work for marketers. I am talking about the sales guys.

    Anyone can argue that, but there is a big difference between skillsets and creative art.

    Anyway, that's far off the topic. And I do think that strong marketing is definitely a necessity, especially if you don't have a strong and established fan base.

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  18. And I think that's where most advice falls short. For an unknown author with an ebook, following endless lists of people on Twitter, creating a fan page on FB and struggling to gain Likes and Friends, and the other hustles of marketing, mostly serve to annoy friends, family and strangers alike.

    I'm just skeptical of systems that are used by those who had a fanbase from legacy publishing to build on, a large budget to promote with, or a helping hand from a fellow author with a fanbase to borrow. All good ways to find success, of course, but not the experience of most in our expanding publishing world.

    I'm more inspired by authors who had a good book and got lucky. So far, I haven't seen a legitimate system that holds up for a newbie with little capital, no contacts and was brand new to books.

    Besides Joe's system of do it and keep doing it.

    As opposed to many other systems of finding those elusive readers of your genre, who gather mysteriously in the far reaches of social media or other obscure locations on the interwebs, awaiting your savvy arrival armed with the one trick no author has ever tried on them before...

    Go on Amazon forums and read what most readers think about self-pubbers marketing strategies.

    From what I have seen, their preference is identical to Joe's advice.

    One quote from a forum I'll never forget: Don't come looking for me. I'll find you. Or not. Either way leave me alone.

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  19. Oh, one caveat.

    I'm all for freebies. If that's marketing, then I do it.

    Also, I believe in marketing to fans....and letting them promote forward.

    More free advice from this blog that worked.

    I sound like a hater. I'm not against books on marketing, I just think they capitalize on the desperate attention- hungry new author, when the simplest advice is the best.

    New authors have nothing. It's reverse farming. You can't tell a guy to plant a book and water it. You have to tell him to plant a book, let it grow, THEN water it.

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  20. Anonymous9:15 PM

    "another explanation for what looks like review gaming ... "

    Thanks for your opinion that there is no gaming, only something that "looks like gaming".

    if that's the case, you must be in total awe of this book. Your book HARD RAIN has gotten 73 5-star reviews since it came out 8 years ago. This is a great achievement. I salute you.

    But this book has gotten 93 5-star reviews in half a day, WITHOUT GAMING.

    The conclusion is that this is one of the best books ever written! The unbiased, non-gaming reviewers have spoken. No wonder you're in awe. I know that I am.

    It's especially awe striking in that these authors have done such a good job explaining how to successfully do something that neither has ever done, at least when it comes to writing fiction.

    Truly extraordinary.

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  21. ...ignoring all things Internet.

    That's what all of us should be doing most of the time. The best marketing for our books is our books.

    Out of curiosity, Joe, how many words per day have you been writing while on hiatus from the Internet?

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  22. Well, anonymous, apart from the fact that I never said, and nor do I believe, that "there is no gaming," I guess it comes down to semantics. If you think doing such effective pre-launch outreach that a hundred people are motivated to post reviews on publication day ipso facto equals "gaming," then yes, Guy has clearly gamed the ratings of this book.

    Of course, by this definition, Random House is gaming the system too every time it sends a review copy and publicity materials to Janet Maslin at the New York Times. Ah, the shamelessness of trying to persuade people to review your book! The rot runs deep and wide indeed...

    I'm not sure what writing fiction has to do with anything -- as APE says in its own title, it's about "How to Publish a Book," not "How to Publish Fiction."

    As you say: truly extraordinary.

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  23. I just published my work for the first time; it’s a great feeling to see something that I have written go up on Amazon. I plan to do some promoting, being new at this no one knows who I am. But for now I think that I will follow Joe’s advice and just keep writing and get the next part out as fast as possible.

    It’s not much but it’s a start.
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AM9899I

    I probably wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for this blog, so thanks Joe.

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  24. Anonymous4:41 AM

    Joe - I'm assuming you missed a point that was raised in the comments of your last post, or you would surely have addressed it. Forgive me for jumping topic on this thread, but I wanted to flag it up to give you the opportunity to respond now.

    You asserted that the rash of Amazon review deletions was triggered by the No Sock Puppets Here letter. But it emerged that the Amazon review delations began at least two months BEFORE the publication of the letter, meaning your post was based on a false premise.

    Would you care to comment now?

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  25. Barry said : "Of course, by this definition, Random House is gaming the system too every time it sends a review copy and publicity materials to Janet Maslin at the New York Times. Ah, the shamelessness of trying to persuade people to review your book! The rot runs deep and wide indeed..."

    Barry, I've changed my mind about Amazon new policy regarding reviews. I used to find it reasonable, now I find it hypocritical.

    What made me change my mind is Harriet Klausner : 28366 Amazon reviews ! (book reviews).

    It's hard to me to believe one person could read so much on a lifetime, but even if we admit it, that person had to be paid to write so much reviews. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense.

    So, now, I think Amazon should have signaled the paid reviews with a logo many years ago, and should have paid an investigation team to attribute that logo, and investigate about all the reviews being made. Amazon should only allow reviewing with proper identification.

    But not only Amazon. The others, too : Kobo, Apple, Smashwords...

    That's human work, not algorithms.

    Professionnal reviews, paid ones, should be distinguished from free reviews.

    If it's impossible to do, I see no other solution than the dismantling of all the reviews.

    And yes, Joe, I would like to see the answer to that question too : "You asserted that the rash of Amazon review deletions was triggered by the No Sock Puppets Here letter. But it emerged that the Amazon review delations began at least two months BEFORE the publication of the letter, meaning your post was based on a false premise."

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  26. Amazon review delations began at least two months BEFORE the publication of the letter

    Amazon has been removing reviews for years. But they didn't target author reviews en masse until the sock puppet petition.

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  27. Anonymous11:25 AM

    "Amazon has been removing reviews for years. But they didn't target author reviews en masse until the sock puppet petition."

    No. The specific wave of review deletions your post was about began at least two months before the letter. This is documented in various places online, including a forum you linked to discussing this very topic. You didn't notice it affecting you until later, but the fact remains this Amazon policy predates the NSPHP letter.

    A comment directly addressing this issue, rather than trying to sidestep it, would be appreciated.

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  28. Great post! Joe, glad to see you back. I'm looking forward to reading your New Years Resolution for Writers post.

    I was on the fence about buying Guy's book, but now I'm going to. And perhaps "Selling the Dream" as well. Thanks so much to the three of you--Joe, Barry and Guy--for all you've done.

    Cheers!

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  29. I thought maybe the absence might be some sort of social experiment (for you and/or Barry). Glad to see you back.

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  30. Anonymous12:55 PM

    'Waaah! I'm a delicate genius who only wants to write, not market my work.'

    There's a phrase for you people - starving artist.

    Like the rest of the self-employed world, you better learn to wear multiple hats and perform many types of jobs within a small business, including some jobs (like marketing) that you see beneath you.

    Both Barry and Joe beat the streets for months on end many years ago, on their own dimes nonetheless, and now they rightfully enjoy the many fruits of that labor.

    And they don't have to do it again.

    One of my bosses once told me something that stuck with me forever: "If you spend 6 solid months doing whatever it takes to market your business, you'll likely be able to enjoy the rewards for decades to come."

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  31. As long as there are organizations of self-published writers working the internet for each other, and as long as reviews are posted by people who haven't read the book, and all of this produces fabulous sales, this socalled "business" of self-promotion sickens me.

    I still hold on to the thought that good books will eventually gain traction, but God knows the reading public doesn't seem to know the difference.

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  32. Like the rest of the self-employed world, you better learn to wear multiple hats and perform many types of jobs within a small business, including some jobs (like marketing) that you see beneath you.

    Show me an effective, efficient, and practical way to market a book, a way that's better than writing my ass off and getting another and another and another title on the shelf, and I'll do it. Unfortunately, there aren't any effective, efficient, and practical ways for authors to market their own books, and another "How to" book (there are hundreds!) certainly isn't going to change that.

    I just got a "Follow" notification from an author who has over 58,000 followers on Twitter; his most recent title is ranked #180K+ on Amazon. Go figure. Maybe he should stop tweeting so much and spend more time on his writing.

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  33. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Anonymous said:

    "But this book has gotten 93 5-star reviews in half a day, WITHOUT GAMING."

    You're right. This is really a book for suckers for marketing hype and get rich quick schemes.

    Gotta give these marketing guys their due. They might not know how to write a book but they can sure sell one.

    95 5-star reviews in half a day and we have to argue about a definition of gaming the system. Give me a break!

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  34. If you can sell, sell. If you're great at, and enjoy marketing a book, do so. You will probably do quite well...

    For those of us who aren't particularly good at it--and don't enjoy it--I see no evidence of its effectiveness.

    All I did was write and write and write--and I switched genres recently when I felt I needed to get in somewhere with a bigger audience.

    That is what has allowed me to work as a writer for the last year and a half, and be quite comfortable.

    But there is no one way, you just have to know your strengths and play to them, imo.

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  35. Stating it slightly more clearly--marketing gurus will do very well marketing books. They would also do well marketing vacuum cleaners and cars.

    Writers who don't market very well, imo, tend to waste their time as marketers.

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  36. Brilliant! I've just borrowed myself a copy of APE. Can't wait to dig in and take notes...

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  37. "But this book has gotten 93 5-star reviews in half a day, WITHOUT GAMING."

    You're right. This is really a book for suckers for marketing hype and get rich quick schemes.


    You’ve read the book, have you? Because I’m about halfway through it now, and haven’t found the get-rich-quick scheme yet.

    As for the 93 reviews, there’s a good reason for that; Kawasaki describes the process fully in Chapter 8. Basically, he used Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to ask his readers to help him, effectively crowdsourcing the editing. Since Kawasaki is already a very well-known writer, he got an enormous response. All these people who were involved in the editing process could also be tapped for things like early reviews; they had, after all, read the book well in advance of the publication date. That won’t work for you and me, because there aren’t hundreds of people who follow our every fart and yawn. But it works for Guy Kawasaki.

    In short, it isn’t gaming the system; it’s exploiting his existing brand name as a writer.

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  38. Jude Hardin said:

    Show me an effective, efficient, and practical way to market a book, a way that's better than writing my ass off and getting another and another and another title on the shelf, and I'll do it.

    I know of a way, but it involves having big bouncing silicone breasts and your own reality TV show. It won’t work for me, and I have a sneaking suspicion it wouldn’t help you much, either. But boy, the Official Gatekeepers and Custodians of Literary Art sure seem to lap it up.

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  39. Anonymous5:22 PM

    "As for the 93 reviews, there’s a good reason for that; Kawasaki describes the process fully in Chapter 8. Basically, he used Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to ask his readers to help him, effectively crowdsourcing the editing."

    If that's the case then these people were involved in the production of the book. Per Amazon's TOC, they are not allowed to write reviews.

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  40. King said in his book "On Writing" that most books on writing are bullshit, his included. I imagine it's the same for marketing and publicity too. Other than the basics, what works is what works. Saying anything is better in such a subjective world is silly, but one some people profit very well from in a book they write.

    People want easy. It ain't easy. There is luck... and there is educated guesses fueled with luck.

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  41. Anonymous7:35 AM

    No one knows how good your writing is...only how good your marketing is.

    You can write the next Moby Dick and it's going nowhere if you don't find some way to get attention and eyeballs.

    Free downloads, book tours, social media, even some paid advertising in my experience worked to varying degrees.

    None are magic bullets in and of themselves, but spend an hour a day for a consistent 6 months and it will pay off to some extent.

    Amazon does the heavy lifting with their 'also bought' algorithms - but you have to sow those seeds.

    Those who own bricks and mortar small businesses have to often clean the toilets themselves instead of hiring a janitor.

    Marketing is the online equivalent. Don't rule out outsourcing the act to an expert - much like you do your cover design and/or editing.

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  42. Anonymous7:46 AM

    'show me what works and I'll do it' - how lazy of you Jude.

    No one showed me, and I asked no one, I learned myself the hard way through trial and error. Plus, what worked for me in 2010 likely isn't working now in the same manner.

    I believe Joe once went on a crazy book tour to 150+ locations, he also once mailed something like 12,000 bookmarks to libraries - have you done that yet, Jude?

    None may have led directly to a boatload of sales, but he sure built a base of interested readers to harvest later on.

    I've been asked the 'show me' question dozens of times, and none of those people have gone on to do much of anything in terms of sales.

    I simply found successful indie authors within my genre and copied what they were doing - it's not rocket science. I dedicate 10% of my earnings to marketing at this point.

    If you are a thriller writer I would not go to Stephen King for marketing advice, but there are dozens (hundreds?) of authors selling $10k worth a month through Amazon.

    Find them, study them, copy them. In the process you will discover your own path.

    And regarding this blog: I come here for the indie writer info, I am not a thriller reader.

    But after 2 years of lurking I read AFRAID when it was free, and I am hooked. I've since paid for 2 other Konrath and Crouch offerings. They both have a lifetime customer in me.

    Never, ever would I have found either author without this blog providing relevant info to my profession.

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  43. 'show me what works and I'll do it' - how lazy of you Jude.

    How anonymous of you, Anonymous.

    Show us your name so we can check your sales rankings. I have a sneaking suspicion they're not very good.

    You can't tell me what works because you don't know. Nobody does.

    Joe made it big selling $2.99 ebooks. He had eight or nine novels lying around doing nothing, novels that his agent couldn't sell to publishers, and he was able to get them up all at once and put some good covers on them and sell them at a low price while the boom was in its infancy. It had nothing to do with drive-by signings or library mailings. He'll be the first to tell you that those efforts didn't pan out the way he wanted them to. And he'll be the first to tell you that this blog has nothing to do with his sales numbers.

    I believe that the best marketing for our books is our books. I believe that an author's time is best spent writing more books, with a goal that every new title be better than the last.

    I've written four novels and two novellas and a short story in the past eighteen months, and I'm 10K words into fifth novel. Sorry if you think that's lazy, Anon, but it's the best I can do.

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  44. Anonymous says:

    "No one knows how good your writing is...only how good your marketing is. "

    Ah, but they WILL know how good your writing is after they read your first book. And all the marketing in the world won't sell your SECOND book if the first one sucks.

    Brilliant marketing may help sell your first book, but most writers I know aren't in this to sell just one book; we want to sell our entire body of work. You can't build a career as a one-hit wonder. You need to write a good book, and then another and another. It's the only way to get return readers.


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  45. Brilliant marketing may help sell your first book, but most writers I know aren't in this to sell just one book; we want to sell our entire body of work. You can't build a career as a one-hit wonder. You need to write a good book, and then another and another. It's the only way to get return readers.

    Exactly. I'm not saying that marketing, in a traditional sense, can't be effective, just that most authors don't have the means to effectively market themselves. That's one of the reasons I signed with Thomas and Mercer. Amazon does have the means to market my books effectively, and that's exactly what they're doing. I'm getting some good targeted visibility, so the rest is going to depend on how well my work is received. And, of course, a little luck wouldn't hurt.

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  46. Interestingly, Amazon does not require that people actually buy or read a book to review it, even if a product is not out yet (Although, of course, the rules that apply to Tmothy Ferriss may not apply to other authors. That's Amazon's decision)

    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/on-amazon-cooking-up-friendly-reviews/

    QUOTE:
    “We do not require people to have experienced the product in order to review,” Craig Berman, an Amazon spokeman, said. “Some people write reviews on why they decided not to buy, or write a review as a gift giver rather than the product owner.”

    I still maintain that it takes far more creativity to market a book than to write one. Doesn't bother me what other people think. As the saying goes, better to be happy than right.

    Scott

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  47. Anonymous3:14 PM

    Hi Jude-

    I'd love to not be Anon, but I have my reasons in remaining so.

    I've got a dozen titles in the top 29,000 of the Kindle store, but zero in the top 1,000. Prices are from $0.99 to $3.99. I've sold 100,000+ copies in the past 22 months. I was rejected by trad publishers 500 times in 4 years because my genre was 'too small' and 'winding down'.

    You don't have to believe those figures, but they are what they are.

    Of course you have to write good books to keep your audience coming back, but you also have to find an audience in the first place.

    Marketing is an art in itself, just like writing. You must provide some value to your Twitter and Facebook followers beyond screaming - Buy my book! Joe does that well here.

    One of the points in John Locke's book was to become 'one of us' with relation to your readers. Your FB and Twitter interactions need to be from one friend to another, not from a seller to a buyer.

    The greatest thing about social media is interacting with your readers individually, something that most authors don't bother doing.

    I am doing it, it takes an hour or more each day, and it works.

    I wish each of my 10,000 followers Happy Birthday, for instance. I doubt Stephen King or James Patterson does that, that is the indie advantage, use it.

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  48. I've got a dozen titles

    I rest my case. ;)

    100,000 copies over 22 months = an average of only 12 copies of each book per day. If most of them are getting 70% royalties, that's a decent living.

    But you don't get twelve books written by hanging out on Twitter and Facebook. I'm just not convinced that social media help sales enough to warrant the time suck. It's fun, and I do a bit of it myself, but I pretty much consider it goofing off.

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  49. Cristianfromoz1:41 AM

    Joe...

    Glad to hear you've been hard at work on Three, which explains your blog absences. I'm reading through Spree currently, loving it !!! and I have already pre-purchased Three...cannot wait...! keep up the good work mate - of course, equal praise must go to Anne VP.

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  50. I haven't read this book, but it's apparently Kawasaki's advice is more relevant to writers of nonfiction, who have actual expertise in their subject. They can blog, guest blog, do interviews, give advice on their expertise, and so on. They certainly can benefit from social media by proving their expertise.

    Fiction writers can't.

    But I believe nonfiction writers have just as much right to read this blog as we fiction writers. They too get screwed by traditional publishing.

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  51. Richard, I agree, this book sounds relevant mostly for the nonfiction writer who's marketing himself as the product, and who may have only one book to sell.

    For fiction writers, it truly gets down to how good the book is; the writer's identity is far less relevant. The best way to sell your work as a novelist is to do what Jude and Joe do: write good books and keep writing them.

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  52. God this marketing crap is depressing. I'm a writer, not a travelling salesman. I had fun with the Kindle experiment but let's face it - it's just a bubble. I'm going for a real publisher for my new book.

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  53. Larry2:58 PM

    I've blogged about that. Give advance copies to your fanbase. Been doing that for years.

    Joe, and anyone: can readers who didn't buy or downloaded free copies on Amazon give reviews? I don't think they can. I've tried to review books I downloaded for free, and couldn't.

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  54. can readers who didn't buy or downloaded free copies on Amazon give reviews?

    Yes. You have to have an Amazon account, and you have to have made a purchase at some time.

    So fans who haven't ever bought anything from Amazon wouldn't be the best candidates for ARCs, if you're expecting a review from them.

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  55. "I find it interesting that this book just came out today yet already has 63 5-star reviews, almost none of which are verified purchases.

    Does the book contain a chapter on how to do THAT?"

    Why is that particularly interesting? I'm sure the book was sent out to a number of readers, probably fans of Guy's who were anxious to read the book and agreed to give him a fair review in exchange for a copy.

    This is done all the time by the Big Six—ARCS sent out for review—and many indie authors do the same.

    So I'm not sure what you're suggesting.

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  56. Tess said, "Marketing to writers' conferences is time wasted. I hardly sell any books at writers' conferences. Aspiring authors don't want to read your books; they just want to suck information from your brain so they can sell THEIR books."

    Ain't that the truth. The only reason I go to conferences anymore (and it's been a while) is to meet up and have fun with friends.

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  57. But isn't a little "marketing" necessary to get "discovered?" I don't think just writing a novel and uploading it and the great cover will do the trick by itself. I agree though that I'd much rather spend my time just writing and editing, tan worrying about twitter and facebook. But I've got about 30 short stories up on the major retailers under my name and a pen name and in various genres. Some have never been discovered. One story took on a life of its own and got hundreds of buyers. I have no idea why. Then of course retailers change their rules and their algorithms and you're back to zero.
    So what's the general consensus? Marketing or no marketing?

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  58. of course, equal praise must go to Ann

    I give all credit to Ann. Working with her is amazing. She brings so much fun and energy to these books. And though she may not find it amusing when a reviewer praises me for a scene that she wrote, it amuses me to no end. :)

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  59. Kristi7:16 PM

    Who cares how good of a writer you are? If you want to sell a lot of books you have to write what people buy.

    You only need to be a good storyteller, not a good writer, there's a difference. You can be a horrible writer, hire a line editor clean up your sentences or trade favors with a writer that can actually write. Lord knows the bestsellers lists are filled with people that prove that time and time again.

    Write what people buy. Know who your audience is (Tony Morrison's is different than EL James') and give your readers exactly what they want.

    It's that simple. But most people want to make it more complicated than it should be as they waste their time talking about prepositions and metaphors, bitching about how horrible traditional publishers are, agents that "don't get them" or how anybody who dares to charge for their services is automatically a scam artist (bullshit).

    If you want to win a Pulitzer and paint pictures with your words, good luck with that; meanwhile bestselling authors (not best-written authors) will be cranking out eBook after eBook selling circles around their counterparts.

    They may never with a National Book Award but Lord knows they'll pay their mortgage.

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  60. Keep on writing. and writing... aaaand... god my fingers are bleeding

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  63. Anonymous7:59 AM

    I sse you were mwntionws in a NY Times article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/technology/amazon-book-reviews-deleted-in-a-purge-aimed-at-manipulation.html?hp&_r=0

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  64. Anonymous7:52 PM

    The best way for an unknown author to sell many copies of their book is to get signed by one of Amazons new imprints. I signed with Montlake Romance for my debut novel and sold 20,000 copies in the first 30 days. Their marketing muscle is unmatched, and my ebook royalties are twice that of big six imprints. I also got total cover control, an unheard of thing in traditional publishing.

    Alternatively, major book bloggers are your friend. That's how Amanda Hocking and Colleen Hoover achieved success, among others. Twitter is a complete waste of time, but Facebook is useful for communicating with fans. So is occasional direct mail, but very little else will help you if you have written a book no one wants to read. It must be well written, not even spectacular by any standard, but it absolutely has to be saleable.

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  65. Anonymous8:28 PM

    "Joe Konrath said...

    'make them about art. Commerce will follow.'

    I agree. But for newbies just getting started, then need to make some publicity noise or they won't get noticed."


    Hey Joe what can newbies just getting started do to make some publicity noise to get their book noticed?

    Great blog.

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