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Review of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur December 11, 2012

Posted by Jason in Writing.
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Though Guy Kawasaki is a tech celebrity in his own right, he freely admits that there is always something to learn.  Even so, I was surprised that his previous book, What the Plus!, was his first self-published work.  Based on his experience, especially compared to those of his past conventionally-published books, he has written with co-author Shawn Welch APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book.

APE is structured as a how-to guide and reference book, and packed with a great deal of information.  You can read the Author section any time for inspiration, and the Publisher and Entrepreneur sections for a dose of realism if you decide to really get serious about going out on your own.  If you do, you’ll have it bookmarked at your right hand as you navigate the maze of editing, distribution, and ISBNs.

If you are already an aspiring author, you will have picked up much of the Author content in other places.  It’s always nice to have everything assembled together however, and APE does a good job of keeping your head out of the clouds.  Author covers the basics, including word processing tools, background of ebooks, and a great piece on the writing process.  It’s also some of the more timeless advice, as the act of sitting down to write hasn’t changed in hundreds of years.  What author hasn’t wondered why he’s continuing to abuse himself to produce his work of art?

Similarly, the third section, Entrepreneur, focuses on marketing your new book.  Normally, a publicist handles the promotion for the author, who must then attend the book signings and conferences.  When you’re on your own, marketing is one of the hardest parts of any business, unless you are in fact a marketer.  Social media is Guy Kawasaki’s milieu, so it’s no surprise that he spends most of this section emphasizing the where, how, and why of establishing your online presence using Google+, Facebook, and several lesser-known sites.  Again, much of the material can be scavenged from countless online sources, but Guy puts it all together and adds his personal insights about what works and what doesn’t.

This being a book about self-publishing, Publisher is the thickest of the three sections and digs in where many other sources go home.  Though this will come at the cost of somewhat out-of-date material if you pick up the book in a couple of years, the concepts will be valid and there is some great guidance for anyone not already a part of the publishing community.

Guy Kawasaki

Publisher has great tips on editing, formatting, and converting your book for the various distributors like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Google.  They all have different formatting and DRM options, and you will need to consider the differences between ebooks and printed versions.  Alternatively, you can sell ebooks directly to your customers, or use author-services companies, which provide copyediting, design, and distribution assistance.  There are also print-on-demand services that allow for small volumes of books that you can use for promotions, personalized copies, or just family and friends (to show that you really are a successful author).

Shawn Welch

If you’re considering writing a book – even if you go the conventional route – APE is a valuable reference.  It provides you with good insights into the publishing world and has some important cautions for any author.  Most of all, it’s inspiring to know that you can take on a challenge like this.  Despite the term “self-publishing”, it’s not a one-person endeavor.  APE shows you how to find the help that you’ll need to get your book out into the light of day.

You can find the book (ISBN 978-0-9885231-1-1) as a $9.99 ebook at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AGFU5VS or visit the website, http://apethebook.com/

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Are you driving your meetings into a ditch? December 2, 2012

Posted by Jason in Management.
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As a consultant, I help managers and front-line supervisors to achieve their myriad, sometimes conflicting, corporate goals.  Usually, in the mining environment, this relates to daily production rates – how many trucks, how much rock, how many tons processed and sold.  Despite mining’s many inherent challenges of geology, mechanical breakdowns, and logistics, seasoned professionals have seen most of them before.  One of the largest barriers to improvement isn’t any of these, rather, it is the staff itself – sometimes an individual, but often a corporate culture that has become bogged down in habit – a habit of bad meetings.

One of the first things we do on a site is examine meeting effectiveness.  We use the 5-P model, modified to fit our particular clients’ needs.  Our model requires that each meeting have:

  1. Purpose
  2. Payoff
  3. Participants
  4. Process
  5. Preparation

In short, we want clear outcomes (for the meeting itself and the longer term strategy), the right people, a clear agenda, and enough preparation that no one is receiving important information “cold turkey”.

But there is another, sneakier way that meetings can be hijacked.  This article illustrates another “P” – one that you DON’T want to have if you want to get things done.  PLOT stands for Parkinson’s Law of Triviality.  It states that more time is spent discussing low-impact issues simply because they are more familiar and controllable.  Bigger, more important issues are given mere minutes due to complexity and a tendency to trust the ‘experts’, while low value ‘bike sheds’ consume hours.

Though intended as a spoof, indeed there is likely some behavioral science behind this (Dan Ariely, are you reading this?).  We know that people can act quite irrationally when emotionally involved with an issue.  And if there’s anything that meetings seem to be especially good at, it is the nurturing of irrationality.