Publishing Your Own Book For Free (For Real This Time)

This morning I published my book Thinking Like A Start-Up!  It is available in paperback form for $19.95 before a discount and for the Kindle for $9.95.  The book is about 214 pages and has a lot of thoughts about start-ups.  It is meant for start-ups but also corporate IT and product management professionals.   You can click this link to go buy my book on Amazon.com.  I promote you to do it.  I also promote you to write up a bang up review and give me 5 stars on Amazon.com.  Now if you are my relative or a good friend, this is a given.  If you are just by chance reading my blog because you randomly found it, then please read my book and give it whatever review you want.  I am just happy you have heard about my book.

I think it is a pretty good book.  You can beg to differ.  Does matter much to me.  Most important to me is getting a few sales and getting the book out there!

On October 21, 2014 I wrote a blog article about how to publish your own book for free.  In that article I mentioned a website called Createspace.com, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com, where you can publish your book. I have heard of a dozen of these sites out there, but if you are going to do it, Amazon.com sounds pretty good to me.   This article will show how I went ahead with publishing my book, despite a bunch of negatives.  And at this point, my Amazon.com book is now available, as of this morning, and I actually saw 5 sales in the royalty report.  I am actually making $67.25!  I am ecstatic.

When They Say Something Is Free, You Know There Is Always A Catch!

What I did notice along the way is you can pay for expertise and services.  I just decided to skip these add-ons.  Createspace.com has a service where they will make a cover for you for, for example.  They have paid services where they will edit your book, carry out design services, publicize and market your book and various other services.  I would believe these services are excellent.  But I was determined to publish my book for free!

The Negatives

I would say the biggest negative is my book is pretty plain and simple.  If you look at comparable books, they have nicer covers.  The other books have cooler graphics.  They probably have much better, nicely edited writing.  I did my own editing and proofing.  So it may be ugly in parts. But the biggest issue I ran into is I did not pay for Kindle conversion services.  So, when I looked over what happened in moving over the documents to the Kindle version is the book is pretty unreadable.  This was mainly because I did not put in the time to do the Kindle conversion properly myself.  I just took the print version in a word .doc form and jammed it into the Amazon Kindle site.   I also realized late in the process that I probably should have printed the book under my corporate name, not my name personally.  So, you will notice when you buy my book, I, Dan Gudema, is the publisher.  This may seem a little unprofessional.

You Pay For Professionalism

Another issue I ran into is I decided late in the game to add these quotes and quips to each chapter. When I showed this to my cartoonist friend, he wanted to create graphics for the book.  A week later, I called him and he confirmed that it would take him at least a month or 2 to create these graphics.  Even he said, well why don’t you just publish you book today and we will add the graphics later on. Sorry about that.  My first version of Thinking Like A Start-Up will not be that nice…. but there is always going to be a nicer edition 2 out.  Finally, another weird issue I found out about at the last minute is Createspace.com will not publish your ebook or Kindle version.  I had to go to http://Kdp.amazon.com and it almost felt I like was starting over with the process, which did not make a lot of sense to me.  I may be adding another article covering exactly step by step what to do with the Kindle version, because it was a bit rough, and what came out of it was rough.  So, if you can afford it, pay a publisher to do it right.  If you are cheap like me, then do it yourself!

What I Learned From This Experience?

Well, first off it has come to the point where anybody can create a book and do it for free.  My point in this blog article is I just feel sometimes you just have to stop talking and do something.  I needed closure.  I realize there may be a spelling issue here or there.  I also realized there may be some run-on sentences, sentence structure problems or wording issues. There are definitely some minor glitches in the book.  but you know, that’s life when you are self-publishing.  The point is, sometimes you just need to go for it, whatever it is and find out what happens.

Publishing Disintermediation

As far as the overall view here. What I am seeing is the removal of the middle man.  If we can all publish books on what we want to pontificate on, and we are able to get people to actually buy our stuff, we are seriously removing the agent and publisher from the process.  Now, in my case Amazon.com is taking a hefty fee, like 55% of the sale, but who cares, I was able to publish my book!

Dr. Frankenstein The Writer

So, I experimented and made $67.25.  Not sure if I will make a dime more.  At least I am hoping to double that, as long as family and relatives feel obligated to buy my book. I also put 100 names of family, friends and colleagues that I acknowledge in the book (to get them to buy the book)!  This is a silly practice, but maybe it will get me an additional 3 sales.  I would like my publishing experiment to be a money making venture.  However, for now that will have to wait.  I am about 75% complete with my next mini book, which is going to be the first in a series on the tools that tech start-ups to get started, get presentable to investors and generally figure things out.

 

 

The Startup Chasm

Currently I am in the middle of my own start-up, called “Take It National“. And apart from my own business, I am quite often chatting with others about their start-ups, or just having conversations with people about start-ups in general. Now that I am in the middle of my own, and not just an outsider looking in, I am experiencing some new feelings and empathy for those taking this journey, that I would have not really taken too seriously. So these are just some of my recent thoughts about start-ups and small to medium sized Internet companies, good and bad, for those who are already in the know or just want to have something to think about. (I know when you work for a large corporation, often the lament is to think you should run your own business and do your own thing. Acting on going on your own is only for the strong-hearted, seriously!) So these paragraphs below use big company life vs. small company life and some of the start-up ups and downs as discussion points.

Freedom Pays Less But You Are Happier

Well, lets start out by saying quite often freedom means no pay (at first). I am noticing that while I am, of course, feeling the stress of getting my business off the ground, I am generally less stressed than at a big corporate job. Who knows why, but I am much happier in my own business. I would often get all stressed out and unhappy about having to be at a meeting at 10:00 AM (a time most software developers abhor), to discuss very little with people you really don’t want to be in the room with. In fact the lack of getting anything done was downright pissing me off in my corporate life. It is a fact of life in corporate life. Accomplishing something everyday is a happier way to go for me. I will of course have to get back to big company life one day where we hang around the coffee room, but for now I have to get things done!

Freedom Is Not Really Freedom

Just a reminder point that freedom is not really freedom. This counter point is just the reaffirmation that we all have to report to someone and a start-up person has to face the music, every day.

Indeed…Indeed

A small tinge of self-doubt is apparently always there in being an entrepreneur who was an ex-corporate person. I was telling somebody recently that my hands start typing Indeed.com, when I start to feel the burn of not having revenue flowing in my business yet… You can liken this to the experience of giving a major speech to a very large audience. Everybody feels the nerves of a speech and everybody feels the pull of going back to a soft cushy company job. But like a speech, you have to just make sure the audience doesn’t really know you are nervous, and like in “You Got To Be Believed To Be Heard” by Bart, you just have to make sure the audience does not know you are nervous. Believability is everything. You have to convince your mind you are on the right path, and quite often you are.

People Suck

Another reality check with start-ups is people. These people, who, if they took the time to read this blog post, are the people you do work with on a regular basis. In a start-up you are constrained for time and money, and often because you don’t have the big money, you have to take what you can get in certain areas, and often these people lack the training that people have at big companies. Not that they all suck, but you have to just accept the fact that they are not going to be perfect. I am talking your partners, your employees, your customers, everybody sucks. Sorry, but get over it and just let them do what they got to do (Even though you feel like doing it yourself…)

You Thought You Knew Something But You Didn’t

I love this article that came out in the late 90s about a Stanford class of young ladies who made thousands picking stocks… Gailbraith was asked about this group and he basically said they were lucky. Those successful the first time and even sometimes both the first and second time often are unlucky the third time. Luck still has something to do with success and nobody has a perfect record in the end (I know a few, and they were extremely lucky). Have the attitude that you don’t know everything and do not get emotionally attached to your ideas! Have the attitude that you can flex to survive or pull the plug and take a parachute out. Don’t go down with the ship! If you see the hurricane ahead get out of the way. You know what happened to the WindJammer Cruise Ship that defied common knowledge and attempted to sail through a hurricane from the Yucatan to Miami years ago. The boat is gone without a trace along with the crew…

Mimicking Has Its Limits

There is this mimicking business theory I am understanding and adhering to more and more, especially after being introduced to the concept of your story by David Tyreman and World Famous “Branding Experts”. You got to be yourself. You have to develop your own brand and niche. Every time some company makes it big, either Yahoo, Google, Twitter, Meetup, Facebook, Digg, etc, you see a sea of mimicking companies. What else are thousands of programmers to do, but make a Twitter Copy… What they did not understand is copy-cats have their limitations. If you are going to be the next Twitter, just quit now! You have to be your own company and your own thing. Being the same as others is not a winning strategy, with a few minor exceptions. Those exceptions have to do with commodity markets, like 4 gas stations on a corner, where nobody can identify the brand… Other than that, your web start-up needs to be unique and have its own story, or it will fail. It may just fail as well if you are a niche and have your own story, so this can’t be guaranteed, but it is a start towards success. Be yourself.

It’s The Asset Value, Stupid!

Online start-ups need to be accessed and valued for their asset value and not revenue. This doesn’t mean I believe in advertising models… I do however believe in the following as assets:

Monthly Unique Visitors
Number of Valid Email Addresses
Number of Online Members
Software Code
Patents, Trademarks, etc.
Resources Such As People (Networks, Contacts)
Building And Physical Stuff
Revenue & Net Income (of course)

In an online start-up it may never be about revenue or net income if your membership is enormous. The valuation is all about critical mass. It is counter-intuitive to old time accounting, but this is where the value is, at least in selling your business off.

Good Luck!

New Rules For Start-ups For Regular People

For many years I have always met with entrepreneurs to go through their plans for their tech start-up. Not that I am any bit an expert. With mostly 18 years of corporate experience, this really puts me in the corporate camp. Then there are the failed start-ups and the eventually the successful ones. This means that I have learned something over the years, which I am converting to rules. Whether I follow these rules is another story. Since we all learn the hard way over and over… So below are my “Rules For Start-ups For Regular People”. This is really a list of rules for those of you working full time who want to be in a start-up. Not that this is for the corporate workers, but it is the first step for you, if you are working full time and want to begin the path towards owning your own business.

This is not a comprehensive list, nor will you have to get your pen out. These are just the rules that I have noticed.

Now, first off, I am not the start-up guy from the ground up historically, meaning, I have worked in the corporate environment, worked the day and night job, sold off a start-up and/or some software over the years, gotten an MBA as well, and still go back to start-ups for more pain (or gain). This is a work in progress, so I am going to add to this blog entry as I see fit. It is just an opinion, and I probably will borrow a few points (especially from Guy Kawasaki), so sorry about some of the plagiarism.

Rule 1
Less Can Be More, And More Can Be Less

One of my old MBA professors used to have a quiz about entrepreneurs. It was a multiple choice question. Is the Entrepreneur’s motivation best described by 1. Wanting To Be Rich, 2. Independent of Others 3. Brilliant And Be Recognized or 4. Lazy. Now take a moment to think about this question, because I have yet to have a person answer this correctly, especially if they have not been in the trenches of a start-up. This first off, is a subjective question, and I got it wrong. My old MBA professor surprised us by saying lazy. Why lazy? Because the first thing an Entrepreneur needs in his arsenal to be successful, is the desire to get others to do the things that he can’t, leveraging the world of skills around them, so they can lay back and think at a higher level or go golfing. Every Entrepreneur dreams of the day they will be on their boat or taking time off, because the trenches may be fun in the beginning, but eventually it wears away at you, especially if you don’t have the freedoms of 9-5 guys. Hence, why I spent many years in corporate America. Quite frankly its easier.

The whole concept of doing more with less is what you have to get used to as an Entrepreneur, as you have to figure out a maze of choices and decisions.

Rule 2
Value Your Time

A few years ago, I was considering start-ups as I drove to work in New Jersey. It never happened there. Why? Because back then I did not value my time. And in New Jersey, there is little time for a start-up if you want to survive financially. You need to put a price on your time, where ever you use it. You don’t need to think about it all the time, but you have to have a price per hour. Whether it is $25, $50, $100, or $500 an hour, it is worth something. So, when you take a full-time job with a 60 mile commute each way, you have to add up the hours. If it takes 3 hours to commute each day, and you are worth $150 an hour (consulting), you have just blown $450 every day of time you could be using for a start-up, walking the dog, playing with your kids, etc. Take that money back and give yourself a chance by taking a job with less pay that is closer to home. Also, I know a certain entrepreneur that goes to work 20 hours a day on his new venture, bulldozing his way towards success. Trust me, this technique may sound smart, but smart is sitting back and making sure you are putting your time towards the tasks that are at your value level, and moving all the tasks smartly to others…

Rule 3
Separate From Your Emotional Brain

This one took me a long time to communicate, but a long time to have the guts to discuss this with people. It is bottom line thinking. I am not traditionally a bottom line guy, but you have to get to it quickly in your start-up, otherwise you will find yourself on the wrong path. You have to separate your emotional involvement with the product or service. This is not easy to do. Entrepreneurs are passionate, but that does not mean the business model will work. I have seen about 50% of start-ups fail simply because they have not thought out the business model, which could mean they are in love with their idea. You know what it is like when you are in love, you just can’t get it out of your mind. The idea bugs you night and day. But trust me, a little voice of reason should be applied. Now I have failed, trust me miserably, in getting others to separate from their emotional brain and look at things objectively. For instance, you go into a business because you think, without any serious research or confirmation by others, that the business will make money. Or you go into a business helping people, and somehow you will make money. For some reason I have seen this repeating pattern over the years and could not steer these people clear of this pitfall. I will give you a clue. If you are creating a non-profit related business, it is unlikely you will find a profitable model, and therefor your chances of financial success are diminished. Financial success is still the most important end result. Trust me on that.

Rule 4
Find Ideas In Everyday Things

You think a great idea has to be sophisticated. Not really. The only time I needed to find a sophisticated concept, is when I wanted to win a business plan contest, but that was not about reality… You just need to look around and find something that solves a problem. It could be a simple product or a simple service. I am a web developer, so the web is big time for me. Online you have no limits, complete unlimited freedom to solve some small problem with a small idea and put it into action. And most of these successful start-ups solved the most mundane thing, not the most complicated. Like for instance I remember a start-up Yoga accessories website, I wondered if they were onto something, and they were. And I also visited a guy in south florida who was running an iPod accessories business out of his garage in the early days of the iPod around 2000, and he has been successful ever since. I believe his company is called ExtremeMac. Just look around and find the simple things to solve, not reinvent the world or have it so complicated the customers can’t understand what you do.

Rule 5
Discover Hidden Trends, Not Ones On The Front Page

I am always looking for a trend, and when I see a new one, that has not been discovered yet (by the masses of asses), I know that is something important. For instance, recently I have seen a possible new trend of online services that serve us in a way we have not yet been served before, way beyond personalization. I call it Super-Customization. It is the concept of applying a concierge service to anything online and going way beyond the competitors to serve a niche of customers who want to either pay more or experience things at a higher level. Now what is the problem with trends on the front page of the New York Times… The problem is that this is typically when the trend is oversold. I have seen it happen with a dozen trends from creating a search engine, Websites in a box, Online Dating Sites, Speed Dating, Ebay mania, Social Networking Sites, personalization, RSS, iPhone development and others. If you are jumping on the train speeding by with a trend already in motion, you probably will end up on the tracks with the train speeding by crushing you to death. You need to find a niche, you believe will survive or prosper and keep your head down and not get caught up in the lack of reality train.

Rule 6
Use Technology Effectively

A lot of people jump into an online venture and find out after spending a lot of time, money and energy that they are not using technology the way it should be used. The opportunities to use the internet for video phone (Skype), for project management, for sophisticated email services and a host of other technologies are what will make or break your business these days. Effective use of Search Engine Optimization and having a website that gets found is a good example. This is a bit tricky, because if you are a novice, it is possible that you will flounder here. Find a local expert who can give you assistance in this area.

Rule 7
Family And Friends Does Not Mean Family And Friends

I picked this one up recently from Jack Karabees. Basically don’t expect your family and friends to be your investors. When they say family and friends they are not talking literally. These family and friends should be more of acquaintances, or you will find yourself in hot water with your mother, brother, friend.

Rule 8
More Education Is Always More Important

On Yahoo business a few years ago a woman wrote an article about why you don’t need an MBA. On the most part, she was right. I have one and it is no panacea for the business world, especially when starting up a business. But I found her article completely misguided. You don’t need an MBA, but trust me on this, every start-up person would love to have one. More education is always more important. I wish I had a PHD. The more info in your brain, the more you have to draw from in starting a business. Now there is a down side, in that the typically over educated person may apply things to business that are not practical. This comes from their institutional experience, not from the degree. You can always use more education and do not toss this aside lightly. More education is always better. Don’t toss it aside unless you are in the middle of a start-up. Got time off between start-ups. Go back and get a degree… Even after finishing my MBA, I went on to get a certificate from the CED, the Center for Entrepreneurial Development about tech start-ups. It was worth it!

Rule 9
Learn Timeless Things, Not Trendy Stuff

This is a bit of a non-sequiter, but this is important to understand as you grow as an entrepreneur. There are certain things in life that are useful over and over again, and then there are things that are gone in a blink of eye. As we learn things, try to find the things that are consistently the same over time or over time periods. For instance, Excel has been the same for 20 years for me, as has Linux. If I had learned Lotus and early Windows versions only, or just DOS, I would have lost my knowledge. Learning a P&L, Cashflow and Balance Sheet is timeless… Learn the things that you can use again and again and discard things that are just for the moment… Sometimes we have to learn technology that is fleeting, but find the consistent stuff and you will succeed more often.

Rule 10
Know When To Get Out

I would have never believed the story of the Genie and 3 Wishes would be a general truth, like a Twilight Zone Episode, where the guy wishes for something and gets what they deserve in the end. And once again this is something I have seen and will continue to see over and over. You just have to go through this one time in your life to learn this lesson, hopefully. I have seen it a dozen times over the years. A person builds up a modest business and has an opportunity to exit, relatively early, but does not take it, because they believe they can and will do better. It is a gamble like everything in life. A good example is of a this, is a small ISP I was writing business plans for in 1999. The owner came to me and told me a man showed up with an open offer to buy the company. An open offer means that they wanted you to put a price on a contract and sign it… Crazy now that I think about it. But things were crazy in 1999 with the Internet. This was a million dollar a year revenue business, an ISP, and the owner felt it was too early to exit. I wish I knew then what I know now. The trust about life, is things will and do change, like, the economy, our health, 911, wars, volcanoes, meteors, presidents, who knows. Life just throws a curve ball at us when we least expect it. So, when we got a chance to sell my first start-up in 2004 for a little less, we took the money and were happy for it. Every time I hear an entrepreneur tell me that they are going to hold out, I cringe. If you are successful enough to get an offer, 90% of the time, the first offer is the best…