Peter Armstrong talking at TOC 2013 (#toccon) about Lean Publishing



Thanks okay so my name's Peter Armstrong I'm a bit okay my name is Peter Armstrong I'm the co-founder of lean pub and the author of the author of a few books the most recently in publishing and it's in progress and so I'm here to tape today to talk about lean publishing now it's an attempt to solve a few problems which is shared by authors and by publishers is this louder no no okay of both fiction and nonfiction so first problem how do we make the best book and will anybody care about the book how will people find out when will it be done as anyone in this room ever wondered that question will it be released while it's still relevant and how should we price the book pricing is hard pricing is really hard how do we produce ebooks that look good on all eBook readers and how do we do all of this while still producing a great-looking print book should we even make a print book that question that wasn't even a question ten years ago you couldn't answer that you can ask that question like I'm a I'm a publisher I'm making books making prayer books now this I'd actually an open question and do we really need to use word really so this talk today is three parts definition of lean publishing its origins and the third part is practice so I'm gonna go into the definition first so lean publishing is the act of publishing and in progress book using lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback pivot until you have the right book and build traction once you do now that's a mouthful really big mouthful so let's break it down lean publishing is the act of publishing an in-progress book why would you want to do that that sounds it's stupid I think one comment of Twitter was like this is a dumbest idea I've ever seen so your question why would you want to do this the realization I had about this after the experiences of my three books it is that a book is a start up I said it in 2010 and it's worth repeating the book is a startup it's a risky highly creative endeavor undertaken by a small team with low probability of success if that description describes either books are startups completely perfectly I don't have to substitute anything now there's four parallels though I want to go into first one is risk so with the startup you have market risk in that when you're building a product is the market and large enough to justify spending all the money on salaries building the thing and with a book it's are there enough people in the world who could possibly care about this book to buy it and can they actually get at it somehow no that part obviously is resolved by the internet and ebooks but there's market risk second risk is technical risk what that means is are you good enough like with a startup start some startups are harder than others so if I'm gonna be like let's make a cancer drug well there's a market for that obviously no market risk at all but there's technical risk which is like can you actually do this for a book the technical risk is can you actually write a book which is interesting and well-written that's not easy either next of this founder risk so with startups founder risk is basically you have a few people working together lot long hours in close quarters and people are people and therefore there are problems with authors if you have a book with multiple authors the same thing you know co-author two authors are gonna have issues like different opinions about write the book and since you know writing is so like you know personal you know that's that's that and lost at risk now the second parallel is it's creative taking by small teams so for a book typically the best number of people to write the book is one and for a start-up typically the best number of people is two or three and the reason for the difference I think is that startups there's just so much you have to do not it's not all just the creative stuff it's also like you know admin and other boring horrible things and so startup seeing me more people than a book a book is best done as a sort of solitary thing by one person one author you know the third pillar parallels stealth stealth was actually cool once for for startups you'd be like we're a startup I was actually in Silicon Valley when stuff that stuff was still cool and it's like we're startup we're in stealth mode we got money from Sequoia or someone we're gonna go hide and build something and we're gonna launch it and it's going to be awesome and then you hope it's awesome and not just crickets right for a book stealth is like I'm gonna go sit at my ivory tower like the I retire and ocean has become a cliche in reference to intellectuals not in the reference to startups you don't think of startups in ivory towers but the function is the same so that's stealth and the fourth thing is funding so startups have been funded by venture capitalists and you know Ross angels and then venture capitalists and authors have been for a some period in history been funded by publishers now neither of these people investors are publishers like lighting their money on fire and so what they want to do is make sure that they can have a large enough market because they are well aware of these risks as well now for some books that that's a great thing like some books could go from impractical to all of a sudden larger market on pert meal and the publisher does a really good job other books fundamentally in the book is in each book and it shouldn't try to be anything different and so the funding source affects the thing that's being produced like there's lots of companies that are perfectly good companies that venture capitals won't invest in because there's too small like the market is not big enough to justify and that's correct so the consequence of these four parallels is it's very easy to create something no one wants and that's kind of sad when you think about it if you spend a bunch of time writing a book that no one wants that's sad if you spend a bunch of time and money making a startup and nobody cares about the startups probably that's bad too but that's inevitable alright this fact of life can't change it the best people in the world smart well thinking about this this is that's the way it is well in the startup community now hands up who's heard of Steve Blank okay so in the start community basically this guy did six startups one of them was like ended up being worth of worth over a billion dollars some words just total failures and he thought you know what at the end of his career he sat back you know I thought hmmm what are we done with my life how did it go what should I have done differently and you realized what kind of people guys doing is wrong instead of just going away and stuff oh no we're gonna where we know what it is like you're in the world talking to people then you have the idea then you go away and then you work work work work and you get CEO Scott's ready and market guys ready and you're all ready to launch the thing and then you get out and you're like here we are done right but you spent that time just locked away not talking to the actual people are gonna buy the thing and then that's kind of silly and so his idea is customer development get out of the building talk to your potential customers he wrote a book about that an awesome self-published book but actually it's a terrible book it's horribly written but it's amazing you like the content inside it is amazing the production is garbage but I love this book it's it's one of the most important books of what written about startups ever this guy Derek Reese who's heard of Eric Ries okay better so Eric Ries said hey mr. Steve Blank I'd like some money and he's like okay take my class and that's how we have the Lean Startup which is basically Steve blanks ideas applied through web startups and Eric Ries had his own background which applied to it as well at this heat has on had his own set of failures and his idea it was the Lean Startup and Lean Startup is basically Toyota Production system and the ideas of shipping something early and off that you know early and often continuous deployment making changes that's the Lean Startup and basically applying the customer relevant ideas of Steve Blank to agile software practices now he wrote a couple books as well I'll talk about those later and then so I'm gonna go back to the definition now the next part of the definition is using lightweight tools so why is that important well put this way if you have a process which takes a couple weeks or a month to release to go from beginning to end to produce a book and involves manual labor you can't iterate quickly on the thing if every time you want to iterate you need to do a manual process print things out have them typeset somewhere print those out look at them eventually ship etc that's a manual process and that adds friction and anytime you have a lot of friction you can't iterate quickly enough and so some of the smartest publishers have realized this O'Reilly for example build their own workflow earlier based you know based on docbook and XML and then they thought you know what we need to go faster and so they built something called real-time publishing which is basically like authors can writing something called ASCII doc or docx book and then you know produce almost the the tool chain is essentially automated from there so that authors can iterate quicker and lean pub we have artists it's called lean publishing and I'll talk about that later too and ours is fully automated basically you know you sit you write in markdown and click a button and get PDF epub movie just one click so that's the idea of lightweight tools now the next idea is many iterations so what does that mean so everybody here Oh many people here hopefully have heard of Linda's Torvalds he wrote this thing called Linux and so the idea of iterating and having many iterations comes from open source software so this guy eric raymond wrote in a riley book and also actually he wrote it on the web first a thing called the cathedral and the bazaar talking about why does open source work and the idea is if you release the product really really early and release it really really often what you build can be a lot larger than you thought you could have done using that process because you'll pull lots of people in we're talented and get your get important feedback from these early adopters and so what i've in terms of publishing the you know the parallel is to publish early publish often and listen to your readers and they talked a lot about that litter now to get rid your feedback that's the next aspect of the definition where that means is everyone knows feedbacks important development editors are sort of super readers in that they have a ton of skill and they can guide an author from doing silly self-indulgent things to something that's actually marketable and good and in that way then I like some fun codes and things and in that way they function as a proxy for readers now yeah how else does a good job of doing that readers readers are also a good proxy for readers and this is true for technical books obviously like computer programming books it's true for business books and it's true for serial fiction as well I'm gonna talk a lot about that now next part is pivot until you have the right book so Eric Ries again so if you've ever heard the word pivot in the last couple years you can blame him for that there was a great I think New Yorker cartoon or something where the woman is saying I'm not breaking up with you I'm just pivoting to another person or something so the important thing about pivoting is the idea that you're working on something and it's not quite right it's not totally wrong but it's not quite right it's not like I'm working on my programming book and then I'm like you know what this needs to be a romance novel you know it's not it's not that it's not a restart it's making adjustments during your channel and what you're trying to get to is product market fit and that is one of Marc Andreessen contributions to the world is the idea of product market fit and he has a fantastic quote so I'm actually going to break all the rules and read you a big quote you can always feel when product market fit isn't happening the customers aren't quite getting value out of the product word of mouth isn't spreading usage isn't growing that fast the press reviews are kind of blah you can always feel product market that when it's happening the customers are buying the products as fast as you can make it lots of startups fail before product market fit ever happens my contention is in that they fail because they never get to product market fit when you get right down to it you could ignore every ball most everything else now think about that for books the obvious this is the main benefit of publishing in progress any added revenue you get from publishing and progress that's a bonus that's not why you're doing it and the last part of the definition is to build traction so building traction you know you can do things like Twitter and Facebook and blogs and also what you guys do for a living so hands up if you're a publisher okay so you guys know how to market finished books dad doesn't change this is just trying to set you up to do that you know basically like get you some more buzz and groundswell of you know reader interest before your process starts so that you're not starting from like a standing stop you're starting from be driving like if you're in a bicycle race or you know on auto race so the whole definition lean publishing is the act of publishing an in-progress book using lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback pivot until you have the right book and build traction once you do so now for the origins of lean publishing is it like yeah I invented all this haha look at me no lean publishing goes way back way back to the 1800s to serial fiction which was first popularized in Victorian England now if I'm standing up here at a conference in 2013 and I'm gonna talk about Victorian England I'm sure it'd be like oh my god this is gonna be so boring get out now the idea though is that was popularized in Victorian England by Charles Dickens a publishing revolutionary now Dickens when he was 21 wrote something called sketches by Bose which was a monthly serial and published it from 1833 to 1836 now after that he did something really interesting there is a thing called the pecker papers and this is so important this is the beginning of serial fiction in the world in terms of people done things before but this is the first real beginning of serial fiction so it started when he was 24 it has a very interesting start it was actually not Dickens idea there was an illustrator robert seymour he had a diverse theory of sketchbook about some cockney hunters and fishermen going around having adventures and he was gonna draw some funny pictures because people would like to buy magazines with funny pictures in them so he proposed the idea this publisher and they're like yeah that sounds good you're pretty popular we like people like your drawings we need someone to fill in some text around them no you're right sure I'll do it but I don't much know much about hunting and fishing how will I write my own stuff and we change the drawings you like to get since my villas right let's call this thing the posthumous papers of The Pickwick Club containing a faithful record of the perambulations perils travels adventures and sporting transactions the corresponding memos and chapter one reads exactly like that not happy if someone gets it ready age okay so one day Robert Seymour and Charles Dickens had a drunken argument about this next night Robert Seymour made an illustration for Chapter two of The Pickwick Papers titled the dying clown so is it chapter two I was doing badly but Dickens persisted and by chapter ten he'd invented a character Sam Weller and he was a funny guy he was like this sidekick like the Don Quixote style sidekick England loved him pick the papers became a publishing phenomenon first monthly installment 400 copies no one here's gonna be excited by that right last monthly installment forty thousand copies and this is back when that you know there are fewer people and so the percentage is better okay Dickens published all his novels in serial except for the Christmas book for example Oliver Twist now we always I mean me personally you'd read about people and you always see pictures of them when you're reading about them and you see them pictures of them when they're old and famous you don't realize he was 25 it's like wow okay you're another one those people he does things near 26 um so monthly serial Bentley's miscellany and then it published over the course of what a year and a half Nicholas Nickleby monthly serial Old Curiosity Shop monthly serial and a few others you might have heard of tells you city's great expectations so this established serial fiction as the way fiction should be published in the eighteen hundreds for all fiction books were what you did after you had a successful serial the serial is how you built your traction finished book was just okay we have this thing we know it's gonna make money make the book and go market and especially people like Dickens who were smart about this when they published in serial they got reader feedback Dickens changed his characters and his plots based on reactions from people this isn't like I'm staying in ivory tower and I have the perfect artistic vision and will come out into the world flawless it's like people are saying you usually kill this person and he did I'm serious use cliffhangers it's in serial you want people to read the next one this is soap operas and dramas like madman written on in print people were reading the equivalent of Mad Men this sick people did for fun people in New York would stand out passing ship from England his little nail dead weight frankly I swear I can't do it my wife would kill me if she's okay Dickens did this write serial fiction he published it so you look at someone who writes as many things as Dickens and you're like well you must have stopped there written all the time no these people are actually quite energetic and so he was the editor and half owner of something called household world household words which is a weekly serial conducted my Charl chickens for nine years and then he had thought well this is the Charles Dickens production I just owned everything so all the year round he found it owned and edited the whole thing of that for the rest of his life basically oshi Beyond and in that it had a couple of things you've heard of Tale of Two Cities actually the book that came after it in all the around was actually more important it was called the woman in white who's heard of that okay cool and that brings me to them talk about next Wilkie Collins so we'll call ins is a very interesting character he wrote the first what's called a sensation novel who's heard of sensation fiction okay you all read sensation fiction you just don't know it what he what people do when they buy books in airports they read books that are written for enjoyment that would end for thrills and sensations and that's what sensation fiction is it's the IDF hey when I read a book I should feel a pulse and that was sort of like well kind of condemned there no it's just sensations is just a bunch of plot twists so Wilkie Collins wrote the first one of these called the woman in white and he wrote the first detective novel mom so if anyone reads like you know the Zed is for zebra or whatever that all comes back to Wilkie Collins writing this both of those by the way published in all of year round he also did a couple of fun things predicted the idea of mutually assured destruction in 1870 and his close spread and vikins and I'm bringing this up not to character assassinated him but actually it's actually interesting how much bacon either is in all these novels so he had two lives two partners two names etc it's complicated and the woman it's really complicated as a winter white led to the sensation all of us of the 1860s and the star author of these was Mary Elizabeth bradden now who's heard of her okay so a hundred and fifty years from now after all dead someone will hopefully be standing up at a conference and be like who's heard of e-l James people be like one of course one person be like yeah her great this is the equivalent she wrote a book it's really amazing we read it lady oddly secret her fourth novel most popular sensation novel in Victorian England weekly serial and she credited Wilkie Collins to her style saying he's my literary father now the interesting thing well lady oddly sleepier first of all as awesome manipulation bigamy murder arson insanity right this is everything's 1860s was oriented morals you know no eighteen Victorian England it's all prim and proper on the outside and it's really like like there's things like I've do my research there's stuff like the murderesses of Victorian England basically women they're all unhappy because the society is impressive and so they're killing people and it's yeah and then reading stuff like this to get their Fanta their frustration out it's a society anyway so lady all these secret was published very early and very often here's how it came about so she's living with a publisher named John Maxwell hey John not you your namesake he had five kids and he had a wife and in the file on you know an insane asylum back in the Victorian period and he was gonna watch any magazine called Robin Goodfellow just before launch the lead serial now didn't show up author couldn't get done has anyone here had an author miss a deadline ever yeah I can read the lead serial okay but even if you were strong enough to fill the position there is no time direct quote from an interview in my 1890s so imagine saying that to your partner how could you give me until tomorrow morning and what time tomorrow morning if the first installment were on my breakfast table tomorrow morning it would be in time good luck have fun it's launched to make it sooner that and then magazine died now that could have killed the highly secret but people the first two chapters got people hooked it's actually you read them it's interesting one is like you know the woman's and is like in the garden and all that kind of boring description beginning but then there's an interesting a little bit right at the end then the next time the guy is on a boat I wonder what's so people were interested hurts you to keep writing so she started up again luckily mr. Maxwell had a number of magazines people did a lot more things I mean I don't think they did them as big but they did a lot more things so she resumed serialization novel was completed and described it as basically hand to mouth like this is a weekly serial alright so in many people utilize people not hitting deadlines well these deadlines are monthly things or like a year thing it's not like get it to me or by Thursday over and over and over but if you have weekly deadlines you can actually hit them in agile software we have Sprint's which are typically two weeks right I wouldn't want to have a thing called two years to have a two-year Sprint's or one-year Sprint's you wouldn't ship anything or also you'd do the wrong thing right people realize this back then with cereals so lady all these secret was a massive success and MS Brad was very prolific eighty novels actually more than eighty novels while she wrote two or three novels in the 1860s per year which were commercial successes and published in serial oh yeah she but while she was doing that she had six kids in that decade it's like and she also founded magazine edited another but this was just England in Dickens and some other people this was everywhere Russia Brothers Karamazov fantastic book published in serial Russian messenger we're in peace by dashing Leo Tolstoy hopes his cereal again Russian messenger well okay I'm kind of lying it's actually part of it was published in the Russian messenger as the year 1805 because war and peace is big Anna Karenina Russian messenger Uncle Tom's Cabin so this was a serial in the national era in the US and an abolitionist newspaper and she was after serializing it she was approached by publisher to publish a book for him getting business at her she was approached by publisher to publish it in book form three hundred thousand copies were sold in the first year millions were sold and pirated in a few years best-selling novel the 1800s second best-selling thing in the u.s. next to the Bible you know it's hard competition in the eighteen hundreds prominent abolitionist event so now those were the historical origins of lean publishing basically everyone in the 1800's publishing things in cereal all over the place now recent origins so fan fiction now fan fiction that's amazing it's amazing how wrong you can get fan fiction I've got it wrong over and over and over it when I was preparing this until about like a week before the talk when you think what fan fiction in serial fiction so most fan fiction is serial fiction and there's a lot of fan fiction written so it's easy to forget the fact that most fan fiction is serial fiction you think for this fan fiction like fan fiction this is not about fan fiction who cares it's about serial fiction serial fiction is almost published in the lean publishing way most serial fiction is fan fiction remember lean publishing active publishing an in-progress book cereal using lightweight tools well things like fanfiction.net or lightweight many iterations again fan fiction you do this reader feedback people are giving feedback all over the place pivot until you have the right both bill traction and we can go into that right now with fifty shades of gray and actually have something you probably haven't heard it instead what 50 G is great even though everyone can see everything FC Shades of Grey already I've actually I think that's something new to say about it so I'll say the old things first we've started on fan fiction yet as Twilight fan fiction a master of the universe by the best pen pen name of all time snow Queens ice dragon yes okay so why pretend you're extraordinarily clairvoyant @tsmart why would you do that and it's the correct thing to do why would you do it demand go where the market do where the market is so there are over two this is not views or page reason these are works there's over 200,000 Twilight fan fiction things they have subgenres they have ridiculous the numbers of subgenres whereas we you know where they're human we're like Bella does this and we're edward does that and it's incredible and then harry potter that's yeah there's even triple that for harry potter and then he goes down from there so that's what demand looks like these are things people have written and it's really good for getting reader feedback and community run your book but then she had to move on to her own website because she had terms of service issues around the content so she did this is a archive basically she wiped the whole thing off the internet and off the internet archive but a few people took some screenshots back in the day so this is what the website looked like you can recognize the edward and bella this is like abundantly clear what's been trite its Twilight fan fiction master of the universe then she rewrote it as 50 shades of grey by EL James published it with the rightest coffee shop my little snide footnote is about the fact that there was this one website called dear author which submitted the manuscript and the Fifty Shades manuscript to a thing called turn it in which does plagiarism detection and it was like eating 9% of the same or something bad you know I I didn't look into the research I just looked at their conclusions so what I'm saying she rewrote at least 11 percent of it into Fifty Shades of Grey but that doesn't even matter who cares more success followed yada yada yada number one number two number three and number four positions at Amazon because you can sell three things and then bundle them because bundles are awesome another point the point is this is what you get from serial fiction is advanced buzz alright real advance was because she had real grass roots things she had the same stuff that you get when you bought when you look at things I'm walk pad or the ThinkCentre on fanfiction.net people had formed a community around this book they made like worthy like YouTube videos of like where they took like Twilight footage and putting music and put like you know text coming in and like you know and it's it's if you google for it it's incredibly awesome this is what you get from serial fiction you get real connections with your readers right regardless of what you think of the content you get real connections with your readers so we clear the top three best-selling books published last year were published first as serial fiction this isn't like in the future people will write serial fiction it's last year top three books that were published period were first published a serial fiction and my contention is that had they not first been published a serial fiction they would not have been the top three books that were sold last year al James is the new Mary Elizabeth bradden Erica Leonard Neil Jim best-selling first published in serial wrote very quickly you know and because of that critics hate them hate hate hate hate hate them okay so that's one interesting origin next we have something a lot more sedate beta books rough cuts in early access what's that that's computer book publisher is making technical making books about computer programming have realized they need to put things out really really really early why they're forced to if they didn't do this they would be dead and the reason for that is something called the technology adoption lifecycle who's seen this curve before okay so this thing basically is like you have an iPhone or whatever random new thing is introduced into the world and a few people Wow awesome I'm lining up and then some of these products and then some of the products fizzle because they're not iPhones and other ones get across the chasm to the early adopters and then you're the early majority late majority and laggards and so that's how this is however technology happens right if you're going to write a book about technology let's say I'm gonna write a book about some random technology it's gonna take time to write the book by the time my book is in a store I have missed the most important customers it doesn't matter that most of them are still accessible the people who are thought leaders and shape what other people are going to buy are the people who are innovators and early adopters and by the time your book is in a store they don't care because they already know and so that's why for print books the smartest technically and a couple others have been like saying we just up and start selling our books before they're done and so they introduced rough cuts early access and beta books to do that now if you're gonna castel completed e-books again let's say you're just doing completed ebooks the same thing even if oh you don't have to print the thing and put it on a truck but you still have to finish the book in that takes time now if you're gonna sell in progress the e-book so you can basically publish really really really early now the one interesting thing about this is how early you first publish is getting earlier and early and earlier I mean my I remember I'm having a discussion my argument was it should be like when you done chapter two not like we had done chapter 10 because you need early early early to get to get to the right people regardless of whether or not like like and the right people who you're gonna get to with computer programming books they build their time in a lot per hour right so if you can save them any time at all if you can give them any value whatsoever it's worth the twenty bucks or even if you save them one hour it's like the greatest deal of all time right because these people are innovators in technology you save them an hour right so that's why you need to go really early now ebooks of course cover the entire market because then once you make an e-book it exists forever and you could start right at the beginning and then you know the next thing about that curve is it looks identical to what the curve looks like for blogs now that talked about blogs right now briefly so we're talking going from a blog to a book so here's the interesting thing what's a blog it's just serial nonfiction we're back the serials again but it's gonna set extremely low monetization now if the blog leads to a book though that's not low monetization that's deferred monetization example two very fine-looking gentleman Jason freed David Hannah Mary Hansen so this guy dhhs when you're when you're famous enough that you actually have a whole group of people call you by an acronym you have both a long name and you're really famous so David hi Mary Hansen that's DHH she's got your made Ruby on Rails and the other guy who was his boss they have a come pick up 37signals and their basic thing is they are opinionated and they have a group of people who think they're awesome and another good people who hate them but the people who think they're awesome read their blog and then use their products like Basecamp and high-rise and buy their stuff and one of the nice ideas 37signals had was well the here's their blog signal versus noise and they said hey you know what let's make a book so the it was called getting real this is a screenshot from the coffee I bought you can see the little watermark at the bottom prepared exclusively this book was pretty exclusively by for Peter Armstrong so this was back in lady when people watermark PDFs though we don't do it anymore well lots of people don't do that anymore they made a $19 PDF sold over 20,000 copies they made even make it pop or mobi like what ebooks every is like in you were there and they'll be like iPads and Kindles and they just did they were like here's our words we are awesome this thing cost $19 buy it it's a PDF and people are like okay and I was one of them and it was a good buy right I got I got at least one idea out of it and so they made almost half a million dollars and over 20,000 I don't know how much more over 20,000 that's all I could find it's free now the interesting and you should read it and one of their ideas they have is sell your waste products they have their really good kind of catchy things and sell your waste products the idea is look you're writing these stuff you're you're ready you're making software what happens when you make software well you start having India's about how to make software what happens to but with those ideas well you could write them down and then you can blog them oh we blog some ideas we have and we're smart software people let's sell that so they did that and they're like hey we made a lot of money and then you know you know it's great about making a best-selling book on you out of your blog what's better than doing that do it again so they made another best-selling book about of they're exactly the print version of getting real it's also a good book sold over 300 copies and if you did that twice the better thing to do do it a third time and so they're gonna do another book the called remote I think it's coming out this year and chances are anyone who actually follows them already knows everything in it but chances are it's gonna be really good by I'm really worth reading because these people really smart yeah so back to Eric Ries one last time prayer so he also has a blog startup lessons learned now startup lessons learned comm is where he he did this in a really lean way he started his blog anonymously and started writing about startups because he wanted to find out is the content good enough to go viral without relying on my reputation and at one point he wrote a post low my five subscribers what do you think of this basically who are you give me a survey and then he did that again when he had like twenty thousand or whatever he did it again we had a couple hundred thousand kind of I think the last one was probably just the sort of self-indulgent thing but you you have to give it to them right but like understanding who are your customers what do they want to hear from you and you think oh god that's so crass no Eric sent awesome guy and his blog is extremely well worth reading and everybody here should read him and then he made actually the first lean pub book this was our first product and we were really early and really bad when this came out and we had to do some hand-holding and work for it and all that but um this was the first lean pub book where it was basically you know what the neat thing about this book was unlike all the books now or since she all the books now this is just a barf of his blog his blog post by month and that was how it was marketed and people still bought it because his blog is so worth reading that if you can get it buy it by month mystic nine device yay now this is not our business but and it's not a good business I don't think but it's an interesting if you're extraordinarily popular and successful you can still get somebody on the side the better thing to do is to do it thirty-seven singles do which is take a blog and just do a bit of give it a bit of love yourself do some curation think about this and make an actual thing and you have indicate to your fans this is something I care about not just like yeah I delegated this to some brand of unemployed English major to do the work for me I actually put some thought into this work and I'm producing a new thing and it's important and if you ever want to learn about how to market things read 37signals and look at what they do okay so Eric Ries did this blog and book and then he did me inner book afterward his heard of this book right okay so you so so this is so you've almost all heard of it and probably a lot of you have read it this is a near Times bestseller based on his previous ideas which he gotten all kinds of feedback from from his readers and his early adopters and had conferences like we actually were at the first star blessings in the conference handing out his book because we printed it for him I flew on Lulu uh-huh so okay so one other idea in terms of origins flexible rails I'm gonna be really brief about this this was me I wrote a book I learned things along the way about publishing really early publishing often getting a community the highlight of it for me was I had a google group where I had about a thousand readers around the world like asking questions both of my me and of other people and other people answered and this went from like nothing I was just no nobody living at some random place in Vancouver Island writing this book about combining two technologies one of which nobody cares about anymore and I actually got a community as like the ultimate in each thing right and actually got a community around the world of people who really cared about this and this book ended up launching rightly my consulting company and then we ended up hitting and you know rebooting completely angeline pub it also when I got done made a print book out of it because that's what you should do when you finish a book and that the the fact that I did this in progress stuff helped the print book launch really well so that's the second part origins now the third part which is gonna be extraordinarily brief is been publishing practice so firstly the sort of obvious duh is it's especially relevant to computer programming books or any technical book or nonfiction in general second serial fictions back this is more of a prediction this is like I'm going to claim that the sort of way we produce fiction is a sort of artifact of the last the technology that's being used over the last hundred and fifty years of making things and that if not inevitable to do fiction the way we currently do it if you think what's fiction is storytelling people have been telling stories since we were banging rocks together sitting around a campfire right not going off somewhere coming up with the greatest story of all time and then telling it all at once like it's it's extinct about the way TV works people whole bunches of writers work on pilots then they make a pilot script some of these pilots get filmed right so you have a whole bunch of stuff with the first iteration some of these get filmed to pilot some of those pilots are successful they get a first season some of those seasons are good they get subsequent that's exactly the same model as like venture as you know as the way startups are done it's the exact same thing is the writing if you look at some of the best writing that's done now like for television for shows like Mad Men etc there's you know Matthew Weiner didn't go off and write seven years worth of Mad Men in advance like people get things grow and evolve and the notion of you can go sit in the room and come up with a complete perfect thing without any feedback from the world at all is even more I'm not saying sure if the Bri right word is arrogant but it's I don't even think you can I couldn't do it next to sports metaphor so imagine if professional sports teams if there was no pretend really like we decided you know what university is for reading books and studying instead of like football and basketball and imagine if we banned all minor league sports after grade 12 no more mildly sports it's not good people are gonna hurt their necks liability issues whatever we abandoned but we kept the major leagues as he is and because of collective bargaining agreements you couldn't change anything what you'd have is you'd have pro teams having to hire people out of high school but if now if they did that with the exception of a few people like Wayne Rooney or Braun you'd you but those people you'd be okay everybody knew most people though you don't know right you need some system of like minor leaves you need a system where there's a whole bunch of people making things or doing stuff and then naturally the good stuff filters out and then people put work into that and it gets better and better and better right and so that's just the way the world works that's the way everything has worked right next an idea software is eating in the world Marc Andreessen again so this this idea is that basically all companies are turning into software companies because the most valuable competitive advantage unique differentiator cetera the company has is its IP and the AI and IP is intellectual and everybody is becoming a software company and especially as more things become digital things software is eating in the world now if you're a publisher and author do you have to build all this yourself so you can and if you're really large you probably will what we're doing is providing this like lean pub is providing this to authors as a service and also to publishers so what we've launched you know early early stages of is trying to be like a software as a service offering well we already are a software as a service for all authors to be able to make their books one-click PDF epub mobi but we've launched this for publishers to really use as well so they can go to lean pub sign up create a publisher account and start publishing your ebooks and then with one other click get InDesign and put that into the traditional workflow that you guys use to make print books so that so our goal is basically to let authors write books in the most lean fast way possible so they can iterate and then you can just have them click a different button and get the InDesign stuff when they're done so you can do your work you know the way you want to instead of being forced reused someone else doesn't change to your workflow so thanks that's me thank you you

8 thoughts on “Peter Armstrong talking at TOC 2013 (#toccon) about Lean Publishing

  1. Loved this, thanks Peter. It's a great concept for businesses too, as you say. Looking forward to what you share next. 

  2. And the next step is collaborative creation of freely licensed material, hopefully based upon open platforms and free software tools, maybe combined with crowdfunding in order to purchase special services offered by a free market of service providers.

  3. There was some unfortunate loud gulping of water and clearing of my throat, but hopefully the talk and the ideas are interesting!

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