I’ve been reading Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book. Kawasaki does a very nice job of describing and explaining each part of the process, stressing that an independent writer in today’s market needs to be all three of those things if he or she is going to succeed while giving practical advice on how to make each part of the process work.
I liked the book and have to say I’m 100% on board. At the same time, I’m finding myself struggling with internalizing the basic philosophy behind the book–which isn’t much different than the things I’ve been reading from other people on the web regarding success in indie publishing. It makes sense; it’s just hard to do. And I wonder if the book shouldn’t be titled APES: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Split-Personality Disorder.
One of the Big Ideas in the book has to do with using social media to promote one’s work. But you don’t want to do it in such a way that you’re screaming “BUY MY BOOK!” in every post. That’s just obnoxious. It’s blatant self-promotion, and those messages get lost in a sea of similar sales pitches. What’s to distinguish you from the next guy shouting the same thing? Nothing.
So, instead the APE’s goal is to present him or herself as a likeable person on social media, as someone trustworthy, giving, and honest. With luck, the APE will be seen as an expert in his or her field and will seem like someone worth paying attention to, someone whose book will seem worth a try.
All well and good. Makes perfect sense. But it is a bit crazy-making, too.
Let’s say you’ve spent between six and nine months writing, polishing, and editing your book. Maybe you’ve dropped some money on an editor and a cover designer. At the same time, you’ve been establishing your author platform, blogging and connecting with people on social media; you’ve made some e-friends and you’ve been mobilizing your real friends as well (probably to the point of being irritating, but sometimes that’s what friends are for). Now you’ve just hit “publish” on the e-book and paperback versions of your baby. Do you want your next several posts to shine a spotlight on your generous, trustworthy, likeable self? No. You want to scream, “BUY MY BOOK!”
But should you? Probably not. That’s where the split personality kicks in. You’re wearing (at least) three hats: the author, the publisher, and the entrepreneur. But to really make that last part work, part of you has to forget that it’s one of your hats. People are going to see the APE’s book through a variety of channels, but they’re going to see a lot of other books, too. What makes potential readers pull the trigger on one book over another? It’s certainly not the author screaming “BUY MY BOOK!” They’re more likely to buy the APE’s book if the author is a known quantity–someone they’ve read before or heard of, someone whose book is reviewed comparably (and favorably) with other books the reader has enjoyed. But those things take time, and when there’s a part of you (the BUY MY BOOK! part) that’s been hoping all the pre-release efforts will yield some serious sales and the mythical-but-possible foot in the door, then it’s hard to let time run its course.
When getting ready to release The Girl at the End of the World earlier this month, I spent a lot time blogging on related subjects and trying to get the word out. When the book came out, it sold about as well as my first book did almost two years ago when I’d done ZERO prepping. Disappointing? Kind of. Surprising? Nope.
I put up a quick post on Google+ a few days after the release, letting people in a Writer’s Community know what I’d done to promote the new release and asking if there was anything else I should try. One wise person commented that it’s easier to make friends than it is to sell books.
I saw his point.
But I hadn’t read APE yet. Now that I have, I really see his point.
So, hard as it is not to shout “BUY MY BOOK” or to think it when someone “likes” my Facebook page without making a purchase, the best thing to do when the APE has reached the “E” in the acronym is to go back to the A and start the next book, keeping the entrepreneurial efforts going but not getting obsessed by them. The APE needs to remember not to let Entrepreneurial failure (or even success) define him or her, but should try instead to look forward, letting e-friends and actual friends and strangers and future friends know about the next project, hoping (without getting hung up on the numbers) that here and there someone will actually click through on a link.
I haven’t exactly mastered that, but I’m working on it. As much as I want to shout “BUY MY BOOK,” I’ll just thank you instead for reading this far. And if you’re curious, you can take a look at my Books or Stories links. They’re right up there at the top of the page.
And if you don’t, that’s okay. I can handle it. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll stop in again to see what else I’m up to. Maybe you’ll let me know what you’re up to, also. Maybe we can have a little conversation about it. In the end, that’s probably going to do both of us more good than if you drop four bucks on my Amazon link, or if I do on yours.