The changing face of publishing March 22 2013

Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch recently published an excellent book called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, and it's only available on Amazon for the first 90 days rather than in all bookstores everywhere. This is probably driving a lot of people crazy, and making a lot of other people think "Hmmm." Amazon's foray into publishing rather than simply distributing books (see The Domino Project and its subsequent demise) had a lot of people scratching their heads. Now, mind you I've been a Kawasaki fan for many years--The Macintosh Way is probably the first book of his that I read, and ironically enough it's about the 'guerilla management' style of Apple Computer, where he previously worked, a company known for its "Think Different" tagline--so it's not as if he doesn't have the track record to go the traditional route. This is what I find so interesting about the way publishing has changed. There are no rules anymore. We're a part of that. Kawasaki's a part of it. Everyone who takes a chance and puts their work out in a new way is making a difference in the industry...testing, trying, experimenting. I asked Kawasaki for some background on why he decided to publish APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book this way, and here's what he told me during the pre-launch period for the book: Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish
1. Content and design control. When you self-publish a book, you control what’s in it, how long it is, and how it looks. However, if your book isn’t good, you have no editor or editorial board to blame. 2. Time to market. You can get your book to market in less than a week once it’s copyedited. A traditional publisher takes six to nine months to get a printed book to market, and it will not release the ebook version earlier than the printed version. 3. Longevity. Traditional publishers stop marketing a book with little input from the author. As a self-publisher, you can keep your book in print forever—or at least as long as it takes for readers to discover it. 4. Revisions. Traditional publishing can take months to fix errors because publishers print revisions after they’ve sold off the current inventory. Self-publishers can revise books immediately with online ebook resellers and printers that are printing on demand. 5. Higher royalty. The royalty you receive from a traditional publisher is 10 to 15 percent of proceeds of the sales of your book. Amazon, by contrast, pays a 35 percent or more royalty. 6. Price control. Self-publishing enables you to change the price of your book at will. You can set a lower price to try to sell more copies or set a higher price to communicate higher quality. 7. Global distribution. Self-publishing enables you to achieve global distribution of your ebook on day one. Kindle Direct Publishing will list your ebook in one hundred countries. Apple’s iBookstore reaches fifty countries. 8. Control of foreign rights. If your book is successful, foreign publishers will contact you to buy the rights for their country. In this scenario you might make more money because you’re not sharing revenue with a traditional publisher. 9. Analytics. Most online ebook resellers and print-on-demand printers provide real-time or near real-time sales results. Traditional publishers provide twice-a-year royalty statements—imagine running a business with two sales reports a year. 10. Deal flexibility. As a self-publisher, you can cut any kind of deal with any kind of organization. Traditional publishers only sell to resellers except for bulk sales of printed books to large organizations.
I want to examine these factors in the light of what Cooperative Press does with craft and craft business publishing. 1. Content and design control. We bridge the gap between traditional publishing on this one. The majority of our authors prefer to leave layout/etc to us, although once everything is pulled together, we give them input on changes, and what they'd like to see. At the beginning stages of a book, Elizabeth interviews the author and asks them to describe how they'd like the book to "feel," what sort of look they envision, etc. It's a great example of partnership in action and it exemplifies our "partners in publishing" tagline. 2. Time to market. As many of you know, the very MOMENT the digital version of a book is ready, we release it. No waiting for the print copies to arrive. No 'seasons' like a traditional publisher. When it's done, it's done. We don't sit on it! 3. Longevity. We're all over this. I can tell you, for example, when Alasdair Post-Quinn's Craftsy double knitting class went live, his book sales took a lively bounce upward, and we did everything we could to make sure previous Extreme Double Knitting purchasers knew about the class. 4. Revisions. Our digital versions have always been easy to update, especially when purchasers have us place a copy in their Ravelry library, because Ravelry makes it so easy to send file updates. Now that we've switched over to smaller, on-demand print runs for the paperback books, we can update them equally quickly. 5. Higher royalty. We do this, too. After expenses, we're splitting (or in some cases, paying 60%) of book proceeds to the authors. 6. Price control. This is open to us as well...and I won't go into details here but we've got some interesting projects brewing behind the scenes on this front. 7. Global distribution. Where would we be without our beloved readers in Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany and other countries? As shipping costs skyrocket, we've noticed a transition over to more and more download-only sales instead of print. 8. Control of foreign rights. Not super-applicable here, but if there are any publishers who want to do translations/sales of CP books, we're all ears! 9. Analytics. We can run reports continually, and we pay out royalties to authors quarterly. We're also working on improving our overall analytics to increase and expand sales. 10. Deal flexibility. Yes, yes and yes. Doing a crafty event? Want to buy some copies wholesale? Let's talk. Yarn crawl, and you're not sure how many copies you'll sell of Book X? Let's talk! It's interesting to see how these factors line up whether you're doing it all yourself, or working with a publisher like Cooperative Press. I can tell you from my previous history writing books for big publishers that this is not the way things happen there. In February, I was fortunate enough to speak at O'Reilly's Tools of Change publishing conference in NYC on niche publishing, using knit publishing as my example. I also attended the rest of the conference, and spent a few days trying to absorb as much information as I possibly could without exploding. The biggest takeaways? No one has the One True Answer anymore. We are all striving to make changes for the better. We can learn from each other. Which segues into something I've been wanting to do for a while: offer my Get Published class online again. If you didn't know, we've been teaching classes using a website called Ning for a few years now. It's been some time since we've done the publishing one online, and with things changing so quickly in the industry overall, I think it's time to do it again. You can indicate interest in the thread there, or here in comments. I look forward to hearing what you have to say, or what questions you have for the publishing world as it evolves.