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Take Charge of your Inner APE
on 10 December 2012
Electronic publishing has been the latest revolution in publishing, and it's another step in direction of democratizing and making more accessible all kinds of printed text. Unfortunately, despite many great strides forward, the actual publishing process still remains arcane and complex. However, over the past few years many new tools and services have sprung up that greatly simplify electronic publishing. They make it more possible then ever before for authors to control the entire publishing process - from book's conception to the final distribution and marketing. Becoming a self-published author is now not only relatively easy to accomplish, but it has increasingly less of a stigma than in days past. There are several good resources for potential self-publishers, and "APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur - How to Publish a Book" is probably the most comprehensive and informative introduction to this subject that I've come across.
APE has come about out of Guy Kawasaki's frustration with traditional publishing. Even though he is a well known and influential public intellectual and author, Kawasaki decided to go the self-publishing route out of desire to have more control over the entire publishing process. The traditional publishing houses, despite their immense clout, are not the most flexible and up-to-date venues for getting your work written, published, and promoted in the way that you would like. Self-publishing can go a long way towards helping you achieve the goal of "artisan publishing," as the authors of APE like to refer to the kind of publishing that creates unique high-quality books.
Unlike many similar books, APE doesn't waste much time on philosophizing and rhapsodizing on the virtues of self-publishing. This is not a book filled with the authors' musings on the subject and rehashing of war stories. It's a no-nonsense book that is filled with straightforward, actionable and most current information and advice available. Having said that, each one of the chapters in the book could in principle be made into a book in its own right - there is just too much information out there and no single book will every be comprehensive enough to include everything that you as an author (or an aspiring APE) might wish for. The book is aimed at beginners, and can serve both as a textbook and a reference. I suggest that you read though it once cover to cover to get the ide of the big picture, but come later to individual chapters and topics as you go though your own publishing process.
APE makes many good points and suggestions, and it's impossible to list them all. Bellow you'll find my own main takeaways from each of the three main sections of the book.
*** Author ***
Authoring seems to be the easiest and most straightforward of the three parts, but it's here that most of us will probably need the most help. The reason for this is can be summed up with one simple word: copyediting. I've been aware of the importance of copyediting (as well as content editing) for the purposes of serious publishing, but APE really drove home the message that this is one professional service that you MUST spend some money on.
*** Publisher ***
This is probably the part of the book that most aspiring authors will be least familiar with. The kinds of services that are available out there for various aspects and approaches to publishing is staggering, and it's good idea to get some insight into the pros and cons of various options. APE does a great job of weaving though various options, and gives you an idea of what to look for depending on what your interests and aspirations are. I have used some of the online publishing services that are suggested in this book (I've self-published my Ph.D. thesis with CreateSpace) so can vouch that information about them is accurate and informative. Again, you will have to decide for yourself what works the best for you, but APE will help you make very informed decisions.
*** Entrepreneur ***
The term "entrepreneur" has come to mean many different things, but for the purposes of this book and self-publishing it primarily means that you and you alone are responsible for your book's marketing. Fortunately, thanks to various social media and online forums it's become easier than ever to launch a grassroots marketing campaign with various online influencers and trendsetters. The use of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ is a must. The book gives several useful tactics and ideas on how to approach potential reviewers. This is a good general advice, but like most of the material in APE an entire book could be written on how to approach individual reviewers. (I myself could write a whole chapter, if not a short book, on what to do and what not to do when approaching Amazon reviewers.)
*** General Points ***
The big point, and the one that APE explicitly makes, is that when it comes to publishing Amazon is king. You should familiarize yourself with Amazon and all its services and idiosyncrasies. You should almost definitely promote and maybe even publish your book though Amazon affiliated services and sites. This doesn't mean that you should avoid other options, but as an aspiring self-published author you cannot avoid Amazon. This point cannot be stressed strongly enough.
*** Few Other Points ***
I have some limited self-publishing experience, based on which I can make an assessment of the advice given in APE. About a year ago I decided to self-publish my Ph.D. thesis. A Ph.D. thesis is the kind of publication that, if you are lucky, your adviser might read and a few other defense committee members might leaf through. So I decided to give self-publishing a try. This was in a way a very low-risk venture, especially with the free or low-cost publishing options that are nowadays available. So I edited the PDF file using InDesign, uploaded it to CreateSpace, and voila, within a couple of weeks my masterpiece was available to the whole world through Amazon and several other online venues. (You can get your own copy [...].) Furthermore, for my own writing (including this review) I almost exclusively use Microsoft Word and I work on my MacBook Air. These are the platforms that APE strongly endorses, and I over the years I've come to the same conclusion: when it comes to serious writing, they are easily the best for the task.
The book includes an extensive glossary at the end that covers most of the publishing and technical terms and topic that were covered. An index would have been even more useful, but this is probably one of the trickier things to pull off. I would have also liked a separate bibliography or a list of useful sites and resources. Most of these are covered throughout the text, but having a single place where to look them up can be very useful.
Unfortunately one thing that I take away from APE is that it's still very hard, if not impossible, to self-publish scientific and technical e-books. It seems that e-book formatting is not very forgiving with even the simple tables, and can wreak havoc with more complicated mathematical formulas and diagrams. Furthermore, the small screen of most e-readers is not exactly conducive to reading of technical documents.
*** Conclusion ***
Once you get into the whole self-publishing process, you will probably need to consult many additional sites and resources. However, as single stepping stone for all of your further self-publishing needs and inquiries APE is probably as good of a resource as you will find. Tis is especially true if you consult the book's website and various online forums to which the authors are actively contributing. This is a 21st century guide for the 21st century publishing.
****** Review copy provided by the APE ******