Fast, Flat and Free Author, Gihan Perera, Interviewed – Part II
Australian entrepreneur and consultant, Gihan Perera is the author of the invaluable book, Fast, Flat and Free, which he self-published. In the second part of our interview we talk about
Dr Liz: Gihan, yours is one of those rare self-published books that’s virtually indistinguishable from a commercially published book; the layout is superb, it has a great cover — very professionally done. I believe that other than hiring a cover artist you did everything on your own computer. What advice do you have for fellow authors in that regard?
GP: Thank you – I really appreciate you saying so. Yes, I did all the layout myself, using nothing more sophisticated than Microsoft Word. I’m not a designer at all, so when I started I did so fully prepared to hand it over to a professional if it was too difficult. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it relatively easy. It was simply a matter of flicking through other books until I found a layout I liked, and then using that as the starting point for my book.
The one piece of advice I would give to other non-designers like myself is to make it as simple as possible. The professionals know how to do fancy things and make them look good, we amateurs don’t. That’s why my book is (broadly) just text and pictures. Simple fonts, lots of white space, no fancy tables, no multiple columns, no text flowing around images, and so on. Even the cover just has text and one image on a plain white background.
Dr Liz: One piece of advice I give my clients is to begin by completing the following sentence: “The question I answer in this book is…..” Did you have a focus like that yourself…and what’s your opinion on that advice?
GP: Yes, I did, and I do like that advice. I used slightly different wording: “The problem I solve in this book is …” (but it comes to the same thing). I thought about the biggest problem people have about my topic — which with Internet marketing was “There’s too much to do, and I don’t know where to start”, and used that as the focus for the book. It helped me to stay on track, and avoided too many tangents and deviations.
Of course, this not only helps in the writing, but also gives you a short “sound bite” when promoting the book later.
Dr. Liz: Many consultants are realizing that it’s one thing to write a book, quite another to successfully market and sell it. Can you tell us a little about how you have marketed your book: what distribution channels you’ve used; how you promote it to current and prospective clients; how well it is selling and what indirect revenues (if any) have come from writing it?
GP: I never intended for this book to be a runaway bestseller (which is just as well, because it isn’t!), nor even for it to necessarily pay for itself through direct sales (although it has). As I said earlier, this was the flagship book for my consulting business, so it was primarily a positioning tool. In fact, I gave away the first 100 copies to my existing clients, as a thank-you gift (and, of course, an opportunity to strengthen my relationship).
I do get enough sales to cover my costs, and that’s good enough for me. So, to be honest, I haven’t done a lot to promote the book beyond my own networks. Of course, it’s available in Amazon.com, the iTunes Store and other online stores, but I know that alone isn’t enough to bring in many sales without a focussed marketing campaign.
However, it has definitely opened up opportunities for me – such as media interviews, speaking engagements and leads from people who have seen it on a client’s bookshelf. Some clients who book me for speaking engagements also buy copies of the book in bulk to give to their people, and that allows me to make more money from those engagements.
Dr. Liz: Is there anything I’ve not asked you here about your experience that you think would be important for my readership to know — mostly consultants like yourself who want to establish “thought leadership” in their space from writing a book?
GP: I think of “thought leadership” as a combination of expertise and authority – in other words, you get good (expertise) and then get known (authority). So yes, a book can help your thought leadership because it helps you get known, but that’s only half of the formula. If you don’t have expertise yet – and I mean real, true, tested-in-the-trenches expertise – then don’t write a book.
Writing a book takes commitment – not just commitment to writing, but a commitment to your ideas. Putting them in writing means they can be read, digested, analysed, twisted and thrown back in your face. As I said earlier, this book comes from 15 years of experience and expertise, so I feel confident I can stand behind all the ideas in it. I know there’s real substance behind every word, so I’m happy for you to challenge or question anything in it. Even if you don’t agree with me, I know we can have a meaningful conversation about it.
Ultimately, I want my book to spark conversations – between you and me, between you and a friend, or between you and your professional colleagues. If it can do that, it has achieved its purpose.
Dr. Liz: Excellent advice, Gihan…thank so you much.
Be part of the conversation! Buy your own copy of Gihan’s book — believe me, there is a wealth of information here for any sized business, it’s one of the most marked-up and thumb-eared on my bookshelves — here.