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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  Though this will come at the cost of somewhat out-of-date material if you pick up the book in a couple of years, the concepts will be valid and there is some great guidance for anyone not already a part of the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.

Marketing, Really? February 3, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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A short time ago, I posted a question to LinkedIn.  I thought I was being clear, but perhaps there was some room for mis-interpretation.  Nevertheless, I’m always happy to clarify and get more specific than is sometimes possible in a one-shot question.  What I was not prepared for was the stack of marketing spam.

Coincidentally, I posted two questions at about the same time.  One has garnered zero responses in 22 hours (not too surprising) while the other has attracted five in half that time (one of which I had to report as blatant abuse of the TOS).

I hypothesize that the second one was like honey to ants.  It had all kinds of keywords that the trolls look for: social, marketing, media – and was categorized in the “internet marketing” box.  So far, no surprises.

What really got my attention was that these people who were “selling” or at least strongly suggesting that I use their services had absolutely no idea who I was, who my own market was, or why I would even be interested in them at all.  Really?  You’re selling MARKETING SERVICES!  If you can’t take five minutes to research a prospect, why in the world would I pay you money to do research for mine?

Here is some friendly advice: If you are going to the trouble of answering questions on LinkedIn, at least show some effort.  I don’t even care if it’s a one line response, but at least make it pertinent to the discussion.  Marketing spam merely highlights how poorly you are able to listen, clutters up an otherwise useful conversation, and isn’t really helping your business.  It certainly isn’t helping others to educate themselves.

Burn Before Reading January 15, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Here are the rules:

  • You can’t use numbers, statistics, or complex math.
  • You can’t use simple math.
  • You can’t use words with more than three syllables (a few four-syllable words are okay if used sparingly).
  • You can’t use visual aids, unless it’s video
  • You can use examples, but only if they are really unusual and not true of the most likely scenarios
  • Anything you say or present must relate directly to the audience and must show how you will protect them from harm and loss.

That’s it.  Pretty simple, right?

Okay then.  Now, with those rules in mind, start persuading.

It’s not about statistics, features, or esoteric benefits.  It’s about perception, short attention spans, and self-interests.  It’s about how your business will prevent your customers from feeling loss, inconvenience, fear, and desperation.

If you can’t do this, you will find your niche ever more marginalized and in some brackish backwater of the modern media.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Industry Roundtable September 2, 2009

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A few months ago, I had a great opportunity to attend the CE News Summit and Expo in Los Angeles.  One of the sessions was a roundtable of land development professionals who commiserated about the challenges discussed the opportunities in this rapidly changing industry.

You can read a transcript of a few of the Q&A exchanges here.  I look forward to more of this kind of interactive discussion among a variety of professionals as we navigate the new economy.

Optimism August 20, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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Engineers likely do not think of themselves as motivational speakers or therapists.  However, just as many of us have had to enter new roles as marketers (even outright salespeople), there are many opportunities for those with the right attitudes.  Just as a great portion of the national economy directly reflects consumer and banker confidence, so too do our local economies.  This remains true even down to individual clients and competitors.  Is it possible to capitalize on this need for optimism?

Pessimism comes as much from local layoff notices, missed profit goals, lost sales, or terminated contracts as it does from national labor reports.  We often report the bad news because it draws on sympathies and we can commiserate together, bemoaning our fate and hoping that things will improve.  Indeed, we know better than this, but our minds are anchored in the news of the day.  It makes for excessive caution, lowered tolerance for risk, and hunkering down to wait out the storm — exactly the wrong things at the wrong time.  It’s not that our brains are mis-wired, it is just that they are designed to protect us from external catastrophe.  Quite often however, the catastrophes are of our own making, and therefore are within our control.  Though it may not always feel that way.

Because the national picture, while perhaps truly grim, is generally outside the typical engineering firm’s control, we tend to ignore that we are the strongest influence our own fate.  We are obligated to anticipate and react to the reality of the situation, but it is foolish to wallow in unwarranted pessimism.  Rather than regurgitating the national news, try a different tactic.  Try sharing every scrap of good news with our clients and prospects, even if it is about a competitor.  We are all in this together and another’s success will ultimately help us all.  Share your successes with your staff to keep their spirits up.  Talk up each new project, every plan submittal, every referral.  Share project successes with other clients.  Even if they are refusing to move on their own job, hearing that things are still happening may get them going sooner rather than later.

Collect positive stories about cost savings, innovative technologies, and new methods.  These are valuable resources during the best of times, but they hold extra psychological significance now.  Not only may they apply directly to your client’s situation, they may set your firm apart as one who is able to focus on the positive in the face of despair.  When confidence returns, do you want to be remembered (if at all) as one who was simply hoping for better times?  Or will your firm stand out as one that looked for opportunities and spread an optimistic outlook?  A client will likely view such a firm as one who is ready for opportunity and will be prepared to move forward on short notice.  The pessimist firms may need extra time to retool and reset the staff after such a long hiatus.

We will remain dependent on the news, as negative as it may be.  It will do no good to disconnect completely from reality.  But when it comes to sharing information over lunch, try replacing one bad news item with two good ones.  See if it doesn’t begin to anchor your client’s thoughts on the side of recovery.  Only time will tell, but optimistic realism is certainly a better mental attitude, even if our collective confidence leaves much to be desired.

— from Insider’s View, February 2009

Who Moved My Economy? July 9, 2009

Posted by Jason in Uncategorized.
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My latest “hard copy” article in RM3 magazine here in Billings (scroll down to the last post on the page):

Who Moved My Economy?

…PDF version coming soon!

Engineering Your Marketing July 2, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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One of the most important activities we can undertake is marketing our engineering services. But, what about the other way around: Can marketing be “engineered”? Marketing is simply the application of various tools to improve a business’s exposure to its clients and the public. Similarly, engineering is the application of various physical laws to the natural and built environment.

For those not long out of school, or otherwise sheltered from business management, the two disciplines could not seem more disconnected. Many may have learned the similarities the hard way—with the marketing equivalent of watching a bridge collapse. What would it take to synthesize engineering methods with the tools of the marketing trade? (more…)

Marketing Note April 21, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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I’m always interested in creative advertising (or innovative, as the case may be). We often feel bombarded by marketing, and indeed it can rapidly reach annoying levels. That makes it all the more fun when an advertisement manages to make a connection through the noise. I saw one this morning that did just that. (more…)