01/14/2013 07:35 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2013

Guy Kawasaki Goes APE Over Self-Publishing -- Part 5

Welcome to Part Five of my interview with Guy Kawasaki who has written 12 books, 10 of which were traditionally published. His newest book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur -- How to Publish a Book, which helps people understand how and why to self-publish. Guy shares his thoughts on publishing and why he decided to forgo the traditional model and go indie. In this interview Guy talks about his views on what he feels are the biggest mistakes authors make when it comes to marketing their books.

Penny - What do you think is the biggest mistake authors make in marketing? Aside from the fact that they do not buy your book first; that is sort of a given. Right?

GUY - The biggest mistake is they assume that good literature sells automatically. The second mistake is they think that the time to start marketing and getting ready to market is when the book is done. That is very wrong.

To use another analogy, not that I have ever done this, but think of publishing a book like giving birth to a baby. It is a beautiful experience, but it is going to be painful. There is no equivalent of an epidural, and anyone who tries to sell you one is a crook or a bozo.

Pregnancy is also a good metaphor for book marketing. It takes nine months to make a baby, and nine months to make a book. How many women who are pregnant start nesting the day after delivery? The day after they give birth, how many go to Target to buy a crib, diapers, baby clothes, bottles, and breast pumps? Do they do that after they give birth? No! First-time mothers start shopping the day they know they're pregnant. This is a very similar to book marketing. You need to prepare, because once your baby comes out, it is time for the next phase. You cannot start preparing for the next phase after delivery.

Penny - Yes, that is really good... You know, I will tell you that you are absolutely spot on. I get calls all the time from authors saying that their book came out a month ago and they want to market it now. The next thing is patience. Don't you think? Authors need to be patient, and I mean it doesn't happen instantaneously.

GUY - I would love if today I could tell you we sold a hundred thousand copies of APE in the first five days. That would be a lie. I don't know if there are a hundred thousand people who would be interested in artisanal publishing in this world right now. So it is just like everything else, it takes a while. Social media can accelerate that, digital marketing can accelerate that, but some people are still going to take a month to read the book.

Penny - Yes, it does take time. I mean you are doing great, you are on Amazon. You have 141 reviews.

GUY - Yes, and look at the score there.

Penny - You are No. 1 in authorship.

GUY - Let's also be honest about the number one ranking. Some people say that their book is an Amazon bestseller when they achieve something like this. I think that is sort of a lie. To me "Amazon bestseller" means you were in the top twenty-five of all books on Amazon or Kindle, not a tiny niche. What I am most proud of is that it shipped on December 10 and within five days we had 141 reviews and 131 of them are five stars. That is not a trivial thing!

GUY - You are the marketing expert; let me tell you how I did it. This is one of those kinds of things where I am going to tell you how I did it and you are going to tell your readers. You are going to give them a real great insight into how to do something, but not that many people are going to do it. I am not worried about this.

So this is what I did: I crowd-sourced feedback on my book starting from the outline. After I worked on the outline for about two months, I put it on Google Docs and I invited 4 million of my closest friends to look at it. Literally 4 million. I am not certain all 4 million went but I said, "Here is my outline, tell me what you think."

I got the feedback, and I incorporated it. Then I wrote for another four months. Then I solicited help from my closest 4 million friends again by saying, "Anybody who would like to read and edit my book, sign up here"; 250 people say yes. I sent the full Word manuscript to 250 total strangers who could be in Croatia, Kazakhstan, Taiwan; I don't know where they are. They got the full Word document, already traditional publishers are getting an aneurysm thinking the author sent out the whole manuscript to 250 total strangers?!

So then of the 250, 60 sent it back with hundreds of corrections. I made all of those corrections, and I refined some more. Then after it was copyedited I went up to my closest four million friends again and said, "If you would like to now review the book, click on this link." That link took them to an online forum. There they had to put in their name, address and two crucial things: a link to their blog and the name of the blog. If you really don't have a blog and no intention of reviewing it, when you come to those two required fields in the database, what do you do?

To tell you the further truth, I never looked at the information in those two fields. I put those two fields there just to eliminate people. I didn't decide that their blog was a good enough blog for a review. I didn't care if people wrote about beauty products for left-handed people. If they wanted to review my book, God bless them, review my book.

So now fast-forward to the book has been sent to Kindle, and it is going to be published on Sunday night at midnight. On Sunday night at 7 p.m. I sent a message to 60 beta testers who turned in all of the copy-edits saying something to effect that "APE is going live in four hours, and it would really be a great thing if I had a lot of good reviews right away." Then I sent an email to the other thousand people who requested the ability to review it, which I granted every one of them. I sent every one of them a link to the PDF, and I said I know it is kind of quick, but if you have and you would like to post a review on Amazon the book goes live tonight at midnight. I woke up in the morning, and there were 45 five-star reviews!

Some people in the book industry are freaking out and saying, "Guy, this is total bullshit. You created accounts or you paid people to review your book." That is my book marketing secret for you and your readers. The basis of that secret is you have to trust people with my outline, manuscript, and then final PDF. I am sure that I lost some sales, but now I can point people to the Amazon website with 131 five-star reviews.

Penny - Yes, that is a really smart idea. Fantastic, because right out of the gate you have all these reviews.

Penny - I think you hit on another reason why, as they say, publishing is broken. I don't know if it is because they are not willing to take risks or that the system does not allow it. You talked about that you were trying to get eBooks and that you went through nine kinds of contortions to try and make this happen. The system does not move that quickly and can't because it is not flexible.

GUY - Yes, it is easy for me to say because I don't have to worry about this other stuff as a traditional publisher, but some of it they are bringing upon themselves.

Penny - Yes, I absolutely agree with you. I think that the book is tremendous and I appreciate so much the time that you have spent on the phone.

GUY - I enjoy talking to people in the business. For a novice author who is totally confused I can easily understand how that person will pick up APE and truly find value, be happy and relieved. However, from someone in the business such as yourself, that is really satisfying because for all I know you could be thinking to yourself "Guy, you are so full of shit. I have had more people market books than you, and I am telling you that you are full of shit. Your stuff just doesn't work." That is a real risk.

Penny - Well it totally works and I will tell you that your timing is amazing because it is the perfect time for authors to look at other options. ... I will tell you something. I talked to an author about a month ago and she writes romance novels and she writes a book a month. They are short. Horrible covers, she knows they are horrible covers and I told her so too. She is selling 12,000 copies of her book each month. She does no marketing. 12,000 copies of this book per month. She is making 70% of $3 per book.

GUY - That is $25,000 per month!

Penny - So, you know what, I could do that...

GUY - $25,000 a month is serious money.

Penny - Right? It is an enormous market and the timing of this book is exceptional, and there is a lack of credibility coming from the New York publishing, the red carpet treatment and just saying you know what, I am just going to come out on my own.

- But there is a slight danger; people might say, "Guy Kawasaki can do it because he has 4 million followers," but one-third of the book is dedicated to helping people develop a significant following that you can use as a marketing platform. You do not have to be Guy Kawasaki to get value out of this book. If that were true, then I would sell only a handful of these books. I want this to empower people; I want it to be Chicago Manual Style meets How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Penny - Well, it is packed full of information and I thank you again.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur - How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, is currently available as an ebook ($9.99) and will be released in paperback ($24.99) January 7, 2013. Visit for more information.