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Guy Kawasaki on APE-ing a Writing Career

Dec 10th, 2012Business, Design, Education, Interviews
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures.  His latest book, APE – Author Publisher, and Entrepreneur breaks down self-publishing, giving you a detailed blueprint for publishing your writing.  (Photo courtesy of subject)
Your top tip for a newbie with a story idea, looking for an editor/publisher:
My top tip is to not look for an editor or publisher but to begin writing. Write for the sheer pleasure and challenge of the process. A very good test for one’s seriousness as a writer is whether you’d write a book even if a traditional publisher hasn’t sent you an advance for $100,000. Because the odds are extremely low that this will happen. To use another industry, would you play music only if a label bought your song?
So start writing. Keep writing. Then when you’re done, pitch publishers because they will require a completely done manuscript anyway.
My second-best tip is that the day you start writing, you should also begin to build your marketing platform if you know for sure that you want to publish a book. When you finish your book and you self-publish it, you’re going to need a platform to sell it from. It takes a year to build a platform so get started now.
The challenge with self-publishing is marketing – you’ve got to do it all yourself and try to create buzz.  How best can one do that?
First a duhism: the best source of buzz is a great book, so write a great book.
Second, not such a duhism. Here’s a mental framework from which your tactics can flow. Think of NPR. It provides great content 365 days a year. A few times a year it runs the fundraising telethons. The only reason why we tolerate the telethons and some of us even give money is because NPR has earned the right to fundraise because of its great content.
What does this have to do with a self-publisher? You should constantly provide content via Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that is valuable to your followers. This will establish you as a sector expert. Then when your book comes out, promote it all you can and ask people to spread the word. This will work because you’ve earned the right to promote your book because you’ve been curating great content.
What is your take on the changes in media/ publishing-  are you at all worried about the influx of content (some of it good, some of it questionable)?
I believe in the saying, “Let a hundred flowers blossom.” I hate a closed system where a handful of people or entities pick the winners. I say give everyone a Macintosh, Word, and access to Kindle Direct Publishing. Let’s see what sells and what doesn’t.
What do you think it takes to be a writer in today’s world?   Is it harder, easier, require you to be a multitasker, an entrepreneur?
It takes talent, moxie, and the willingness to work hard. This hasn’t changed much in the past two thousand years or so. What has changed is access to markets. Because of technology more people can reach more markets, so it’s easier to be a writer than ever. “Easier, ” though, is not the same as “easy.” For sure you need to be a multi-tasker because you need to build your platform as your write your book unless you make it.
APE gives a great overview of how to take a project from idea to reality – what piece of the puzzle do you think is the harder to achieve – is it the idea, the financing, the distribution – and what’s your advice for getting over that hurdle?
Ideas are easy, and it doesn’t take much money to write a book. By far the hardest thing to achieve is awareness of you as an author and awareness that your book exists. There is no shortcut to achieving awareness. The totality of writing a book involves two to three hours of writing per day and one to two hours of marketing per day for twelve months. That’s “all.” This is why there are so few successful authors. It’s not easy. If it were easy, more people would do it.

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