Here’s the problem with self-publishing: no one cares about your book. That’s it in a nutshell. There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each. Your book won’t stand out. Hilary Clinton’s will. Yours won’t.
So self-publishing is an exercise in futility and obscurity. Of course, there are the stories of the writers who self-publish and magic happens and they sell millions of books, but those are the rare exceptions. How rare? Well, on the order of 1 or 2 per million.
If you like those odds, go for it. If you don’t, and you still have a book in you, then please, please read Guy Kawasaki’s book APE: How to Publish a Book, co-written with Shawn Welch. It will save you from yourself and that obscurity.
I can give an unqualified rave for the book – if you’ve already decided to self-publish. If not, then you need to think about the only serious quibble I have with APE first. And that is that for most people, the task of developing what the publishing world calls a ‘platform’ is simply too time-consuming and too difficult if you don’t have one already. Guy’s naturally optimistic about creating a platform, because he has an incredibly strong one that he’s developed over a number of years and a number of successful ventures. But if you’re starting from scratch, it’s a different story. Sure, celebrities and CEOs have a huge leg up, but I’m talking about most of us.
What is a platform? It’s getting enough people to care about you and your book, through social media, traditional media, word of mouth, bake sales – anyway you can. It’s creating a community of people with a genuine interest in the idea you’re putting forward. It’s the way in which you create a strong brand around you and the book and get the world to pay attention.
Yes, the good news is that you can create a platform with social media, and that it is virtually free except in terms of your time.
But the bad news is that in a world that is completely oversaturated with traditional media, information, news, hype, marketing, books, other platforms, social media, blogs, magazines, online magazines, advertising everywhere, television, and so on, it’s incredibly difficult to stand out.
To do so, you have to craft an extraordinarily compelling message and story, create a clever platform around it that makes sense for what it is and who you are, and then have the patience to do what it takes to develop that platform through the social media and traditional media you’ve chosen. It can take years.
Do you have the stomach for it? If so, then Guy’s book is your bible. This wonderful book will help you avoid all the pitfalls that await the unwary and inexperienced self-publisher. And those pitfalls are legion. Don’t even think of getting started until you’ve devoured APE. (Which, by the way, stands for “Author – Publisher – Entrepreneur” — all the things you need to be to self-publish.)