Balancing the Artist with the Entrepreneur: Why Book Publishing Requires Both

Last week I shared that the three parts of publishing a book were writing it, producing it, and marketing it. Each of these aspects has a creative element and a business element, which must be balanced, kept in a respectable tension.

The pure artist says, “Let me create without interference; I don’t care about commercial viability; just let me be me.” The pure artist will likely starve or need to get a day job.

The pure businessperson says, “I will only do things that will make money, the more the better. I’ll follow trends and jump on any bandwagon moving in the right direction.” The pure businessperson may put food on the table, but will sacrifice his soul in the process; her writing will have no heart.

The pure artist and the pure businessperson cannot survive apart from each other. They must embrace the skills of each if there’s any hope for success – however they choose to measure it.

  • Writing the book is where the artist flourishes, yet the entrepreneur cannot be excluded from this phase. The art of organizing words must be guided by a knowledge of what is able to be reproduced and of potential interest to the buying public.
  • Producing the book has a creative element, but it is directed by the entrepreneur. Yet the entrepreneur must not remove the artist at the risk of producing a bland, boring book.
  • Marketing the book requires mostly the entrepreneur, though the artist needs to add his or her flare, embracing activities that produce energy and avoiding those that are draining. Yes, the author must market, but the entrepreneur needs to guide activities to what the artist can reasonably handle. If marketing kills the artist, there will be no more art.

Publishing a book requires we be an artist and an entrepreneur, embracing both and ignoring neither. May your artist side hear your entrepreneur’s voice, and may your entrepreneur side listen to your artist’s heart. That’s how to publish a book.

Are you more artist or entrepreneur? How do you let both skills be part of the process?

Six Downsides of Self-Publishing

In my post “Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish,” I listed several advantages of self-publishing. Although compelling, there are also downsides. Consider these six items:

1) Quality is Often Lacking: Traditional publishers put their books through several rounds of editing, to produce the best possible product. The temptation of self-publishing is to skip these steps. Even if a professional editor is hired, the chance of her or him catching everything a traditional publisher would in their multiple rounds of review is slim. But too often, authors self-edit or tap a friend who, although well-intended, lacks the needed experience. From a production standpoint, there’s no reason for substandard output anymore. But it’s too easy and too tempting to cut corners.

2) Credibility May be Illusive: Although self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, some people still consider it a second rate option.

3) Self-Promotion is Required: Self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing, promotion, and sales.

4) The Author Must Become an Entrepreneur: Self-publishing is a business, requiring an investment of time, effort, and money – all with no promise of a return. It’s risky.

5) Limited Distribution: Although some distribution options are available, they don’t match the reach of a traditional publisher.

6) No Advances: Self-publishers must shell out money to publish; advances are not part of the equation.

Six Flavors of Book Publishing

In last week’s post, I talked about traditional publishing and vanity publishing (once the only two options), with hybrid publishing now filling the space between. Hybrid publishing is a combination of the two, with varying options.

Although hybrid publishing is a common term for this ever-evolving assortment of book publishing options, it’s also a descriptive name, with some book publishers opting for other labels.

One reader mentioned entrepreneurial publishing. I like that. It reminds us that publishing a book is a business and the author needs to take part in the process in order to be successful.

Indie publishing (short for independent publishing) or indie press can take on a wide array of meanings, from a traditional publisher that is small and therefore independent, to a niche publisher, to self-publishing.

Custom publishing is a broader term that in addition to books can alternately cover magazines, newsletters, brochures, or whatever else can be imagined.

However, regardless of the label, the main thing is to analyze what they do and don’t do, determine how money flows between publisher and author (and in which direction), and realize this is a business, for both publisher and author. Then, after finding the one that’s the best fit, carefully read the contract, and hire an attorney who is familiar with publishing agreements.

Happy publishing!

What other labels have you heard of for book publishing?

Book Review: APE

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book

By Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

There are many good (and a few not so good) resources that cover self-publishing. Some are in the form of books, others as podcasts, and more as blog posts.

By far the best I’ve seen is the book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. APE is an acronym for Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur, representing the three phases in self-publishing a book.

As the distinction between traditional publishing and self-publishing fades, the evolving consideration morphs into mass-produced versus artisanal publishing, a term Guy and Shawn advance as a new way of comprehending self-publishing. The vanity publishing of yesteryear can be smartly rejuvenated with a fresh perspective of artistry, hence the concept of artisanal publishing.

After all, who are writers, if not artists? So why not extend artistry to the production and dissemination of their work? The idea of artisanal publishing provides new opportunities for innovative writers seeking to share their writing with others.

APE is an essential guide for the beginner and intermediate level of self-publishers. Even the experienced practitioner is sure to pick up some new ideas. Though I wouldn’t advise anyone skip the author section, for those with a publication-ready book, the publisher section may be the place to start.

[APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. Published by Nononina Press, 2013, ISBN: 978-0988523104, 410 pages.]

The Ultimate Self-Publishing Guide

There are many good (and some not so good) resources that cover self-publishing. Some of these are in the form of books, others as podcasts, and more as blog posts, all from industry insiders.

By far the best one I’ve seen is the book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. As the APE acronym implies, the book contains three parts. The middle section, P for Publisher, covers self-publishing, giving a thorough explanation of all aspects.

While the coverage stops short of being comprehensive – an all-inclusive manual would be both unwieldy and immediately out-of-date – it offers the best self-publishing resource available. Guy and Shawn share detailed information on the options available to self-publishers, based on research that would be too time-consuming for most people to amass.

APE is an essential guide for the beginner and intermediate level of self-publishers. Even the experienced self-publisher is sure to pick up some new ideas and pointers. Though I wouldn’t advise anyone to skip the author section, for those with a publication-ready book, the publisher section may be the place to start.

The Potential of Artisanal Publishing

In Guy Kawasaki’s new book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, he advances the term “artisanal publishing” as a new way of looking at self-publishing. The vanity publishing of yesteryear can be smartly rejuvenated with a fresh perspective of artistry, hence the concept of artisanal publishing.

As the distinction between traditional publishing versus self-publishing fade, the evolving consideration morphs into mass-produced versus artisanal publishing. After all, who are writers, if not artists? So why not extend artistry to the production and dissemination of their work?

The concept of artisanal publishing opens new doors and opportunities for innovative writers seeking to share their writing with others.

People like the output from artisanal bakers, might the output of artisanal publishing be just as tasty?

Going APE Over Guy Kawasaki

I don’t normally mention books I haven’t read, but after hearing a podcast with the iconic Guy Kawasaki about his new book, I’ll make an exception. Guy’s latest contribution to society is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. Can you see why I’m mentioning it?

APE is an acronym for Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur, representing the three steps or phases in self-publishing a book. Each step is progressively harder, with the writing phase being the easiest and the entrepreneur needing to focus on the business side of the product, including promotion.

According to Amazon, APE, first released on January 7, 2013, has already undergone an update, with version 1.2 available since March 5.

Not only is APE on my reading wish list, it’s also at the top.

Traditional Published Authors Need to be Entrepreneurs, Too

Last week I pointed out that self-published authors need to be entrepreneurs and listed what that entailed. The reality is that traditional published authors need to adopt this same mindset, being entrepreneurial as well.

A given requirement is writing a great book.

The next step is finding an agent, who will find a publisher. To get the attention of both, many writers first hire – and pay – a proofreader, line editor, or copy editor to help them make their work the best it can be before the agent or publisher even sees it. They will also need to conduct market research in order to write a compelling proposal. Success will largely hinge of them having a platform, from which they can sell their books.

Landing an agent, who will hopefully land a publisher, doesn’t mean the author’s job is done. The author must also promote, market, and sell their books. Yes, the publisher will do this, but they’ll expect the author to do so as well. No one will be more passionate and have more at stake than the author. This may involve hiring a publicist.

So the traditional published author needs to also adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, handling the following tasks:

  • Build a platform
  • Conduct market research
  • Hire a proofreader, line editor, or content editor
  • Find a publicist
  • Handle marketing and promotion
  • Plan advertising

[What if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur and just want to write? There’s another option: become a ghostwriter.]

Self-Published Authors Need to be Entrepreneurs

In the rapidly changing world of book publishing, an emerging reality is that self-published authors need to be entrepreneurs. Writing a great book is not enough; penning compelling content is only the first step.

Authors desiring to self-publish their work need to view their book as a product and themselves as an entrepreneur; they must develop, execute, and fund a business plan.

The self-published author becomes a production manager, analogous to a general contractor overseeing the construction of a house, in this case, his or her own house.

So it is with self-publishing. The self-published author/entrepreneur/general contractor needs to direct, oversee – and pay for:

  • Proof reading, line editing, and possibly content editing
  • Cover design
  • Interior layout
  • E-book conversion
  • Printing
  • A publicist
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Advertising
  • Distribution

They must also:

  • Pay all the preceding vendors before any money comes in
  • Conduct market research
  • Handle book returns
  • Collect payments and deal with bad debt (the people who don’t pay what they owe)
  • Set up a business and all that is entailed, including licensing, legal structure, payment of taxes and fees, completing required forms and reports, and so forth

As these lists demonstrate, much work is required in order to be successful in self-publishing. For the non-business minded, these tasks are overwhelming, sucking the life out of them and their writing.

However, for entrepreneurial-minded authors, these activities are invigorating, offering great potential and reward.

The personality and strengths of each writer will determine if the self-publishing road is the right road to take.