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eBook Disruption Picks Up Momentum With Major Authors

03/18/2013 03:42 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2013

Why would an established author with NY Times Bestseller credibility jump a prestigious publisher ship and self-publish ebooks instead? It's not what you probably think, at least not according to  Guy Kawasaki, one of two authors I know of who jumped from brand-name to self publishing. 

Guy Kawasaki's latest book is both self published and all about self published: Called APE (for Author-Publisher-Entrepreneur), the book is all about how to develop, publish, and market your own ebooks. For anybody interested in writing an ebook, it's a step-by-step guide: full of real advice, practical, easy to follow and use. I recommend it often. It's already helped me with some of my projects. 

APE Author Publisher Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki cover

"It's not just the trend toward ebooks," Kawasaki told me earlier this week. True, Amazon recently announced that ebooks sell better than printed books on its sites; however, ebooks are growing but still barely a fifth of the total market, according to Publishers' Weekly. And Guy himself says only a tenth, citing bookstats 2012. He told me: 

  • He turned down a two-book offer of more than half a million dollars, to self publish APE;
  • He gets more royalty (70 percent of $9.99), 
  • more control of creative, production, and promotional efforts (i.e., selling to someone like you), 
  • faster time to market (48n hours vs three to six months), 
  • faster revision time (he and his team update once a month, from the time they upload the file to it's for sale is 24 hours, their print-on-demand service produces new versions in two days). 

But he also added a sense of risk and responsibility on the downside:

  • For example, I had to find and pay the cover designer and copyeditor. Luckily my co-author could do the production. 
  • I also paid for a publicity team and the tshirts. 
  • All in, I probably spent $25,000. 

And it's not about something publishers do wrong. He told me he liked his last publisher a lot (Penguin's Portfolio brand published his books EnchantmentThe Art of The Start, and Rules for Revolutionaries, all of which are best sellers.). He added: 

I would work with every one of the people at Portfolio/Penguin if they were freelancers. This isn't about the people. The issue is the traditional publishing system.

The author I know of who took this same path is Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow and many others, who coined the phrase "viral marketing. His late 2011 announcement that he was done with traditional publishing got a lot of press. He said: 

The ebook is a change agent like none the book business has ever seen. It cuts the publishing time cycle by 90%, lowers costs, lowers revenue and creates both a long tail and an impulse-buying opportunity. This is the most disruptive thing to happen to books in four hundred years.

What we see here is pivotal: self-publishing used to mean lesser work that couldn't find a publisher. Now it means disruption is gaining momentum.