Jul 21, 2013

Solo? Oh no! Get a friend and publish a book today!

Everyone is Doing It!

Many years ago, I told a college roommate that one day I'd like to be an author. He said: "I wish you well. Many have tried." So it goes. Then, I sat on that for more than a decade, all the while thinking things up about what I could write. But, I never wrote a word. Has that ever happened to you? Have you every wanted to be an author, but unsure how you could do it? Words live and die in our own heads, don't they?

This guy - James Altucher - is one of my role models in self-publishing. He just published a book called Choose Yourself! on Amazon - you can find him on twitter: @jaltucher

Partly from James's example, and also through goading from a friend (Azat Mardanov), I just published a book on coding bootcamps: Choosing a Full Time Programming Course.

Leanpub Rocks

I used a platform called Leanpub. Apart from the fact that it was the platform my co-author was using, I used it because:
  • It's free. No upfront cost - Leanpub makes money through rev-share. There is no cost to write a book and publish. If you start selling, they take a small cut (50 cents a copy + 10% of sales). 
  • I could sell before I built - You don't even have to write the book. You could create a mock-cover and sample that essentially acts as a landing page. Put a price and a link and see how many people actually sign up for email notification. Isn't that smart? (What's a landing page? Read and learn on wiki: Landing page)
  • It's simple -  formatting - basically you write to a text file and use markdown tags to indicate headings, links, bold, italic, etc. (Here's where you can learn more about writing in Daring Fireball: Markdown)
  • Suited for the web - It's a platform built for the modern age. Publishing generates pdf, mobi, and epub copies on the fly.

Fresh off the press - actually no press involved - just clicks

Lessons from the First Attempt

What I can share by way of my own experience is:
  • Ship early and ship often - This is Leanpub's own mantra (publish early, publish often) and a common creed in the software tech world. Even in the tech hub of San Francisco, people still think that the book has to be just so, or that you can't ship something with typos. Well, that may be true of printed books, but for electronic books, what's a typo? Just go back and fix it and re-publish. It's just like lines of code.
  • Solo? Oh no! - Even though I wrote or curated the bulk of the content, the book is better because I had a co-author. Azat is an accomplished author and programmer, and he added many resources to this project: his knowledge of e-publishing, additional help in content, fan-base that serves as distribution channel. More importantly, a partner inspires you to do better, holds you accountable, and encourages you onward. (I have a similar experience of this kind of partnership & collaborative support in building SF Product Management Fast-Track community with co-founder Ritu Jain.)
  • Be fearless - Yes we all fear failure. Yes, we will get criticism (even from friends) about typos. Yes, there will be detractors. And we all fear being laughed at or getting 0 sales. But, honestly ... don't worry about it! You have to start somewhere. Remember that commercial: A mind is a terrible thing to waste? Come on, let your light shine. Say what's on your mind and don't be afraid of failing. It will be better than you think. You'll learn from falling, from the flak. It will help you get better and grow, and that's the point.


By the way, this is one of many firsts for me as an MBA in the tech-world in the web-age. 

If you want to read about how I'm breaking into the tech-space and share other thoughts, check out posts like How does a MBA break into high tech? My storySoon, your taxi driver may know more Ruby than you do!, and How I sold my first lemonade.

See more & follow on Quora: http://www.quora.com/David-C-Kim.

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