01/10/2013 07:21 pm ET Updated Mar 12, 2013

Guy Kawasaki Goes APE Over Self-Publishing - Part 4

Welcome to Part Four 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 it means to be self-published.

Penny - What do you make of Penguin buying Author Services? To some extent I understand the thought process behind the Author House purchase: there is a lot of money in self-publishing. When I have spoken with the execs from the publishing houses, they say that on average the author buys 100 copies of their own book. Then they may spend $3,000-4,000 on marketing services.

GUY - I want to puke! There are two possible rationales. First, they have Amazon Encore envy. Amazon Encore acquires the self-published titles and throws Amazon's marketing might behind them. Great idea. I love it. Score one for Jeff Bezos. So the concept may be, "Let's buy Author Services, so we can cherry pick the books that are succeeding too." The problem is that I don't see why you had to buy Author Services to cherry-pick winners.
Second, maybe, as you mention, it's just the money. The desire to write and publish a book is so strong and so pervasive that according to reports, Author Services did $120 million in sales. These authors may buy 100 copies of their book, but they'll spending thousands of dollars to get there.

Penny - Here is the thing, Guy, here is what you are doing and this is something that I preach endlessly, sometimes to the point where I am a bit obnoxious: You have got to educate yourself. Buy marketing if you want to buy it but stand back and educate yourself. Publishing is a business.

GUY - You have got to invest in yourself, just like with anything else.

Penny - You have to invest in yourself, but first you have got to do your homework. I am amazed at the number of people who launch into publishing and say, "Ok, I am just going to publish this book and blah, blah." They do no research, they do nothing.

GUY - To use the artisanal metaphor some more, that is like saying "I want to start a brewery, how hard can it be? I like to drink beer; I am going to start a brewery." One might want to do more research than that.

Penny - Make some at home first to make sure. You have the website -- Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. Is this just for business books, business people, fiction/nonfiction, or can anybody read it?

GUY - It is for anybody who wants to publish. I hope the next Fifty Shades of Grey author says that she read Guy's book, and it empowered her to be an artisanal publisher.

Penny - Do you want to be a publisher? Do you think you will ever go back to traditional; will you ever go back to New York?

GUY - Let me be very honest. If Penguin or Simon & Schuster or Putnam or whatever called up and said, "Guy, we want you to write another book. Here is a million dollar advance." I would say, "Come on down." I'll fight the battles I have to fight to preserve my content, get a cover that I like, and do the guerrilla marketing that's necessary. Let me be honest: You cannot buy Guy Kawasaki, but you can rent him.

All kidding aside, there is a lesson there. Plan A: find a NY publisher, sell it your book, and get a six-figure advance. Life is good. Plan A is not going to happen for most people.
Plan B: write your book in Word, upload it to Kindle, and sell a bunch. Plan B is available to anyone. I don't know how well your book will sell, but you can do this.

I suggest a Plan C -- which is, you do Plan B and knock on wood that you really are right and, God willing, your book is successful. Amazon Encore, Simon & Schuster, Putnam, Penguin, or McGraw-Hill calls and they say, "Your little cockamamie, lousy, amateur book is number one on the Kindle list. We want to acquire it. We will design a good cover. We will clean it up, and we also want to buy your next three books: Fifty Shades of Pink, Fifty Shades of Blue, Fifty Shades of Purple. We are going to make you the Sue Grafton of sadomasochistic sex."

I say, "Hallelujah!" Going back to artisanal publishing: you create this great brewery and everybody loves your beer. One day Anheuser-Busch calls you up and says that it wants to buy your brewery for $50 million bucks. You can stand by your art and say "No! I don't want to do that" or let's be honest here...

Penny - Absolutely, if they offer you money, then take it. Maybe they can even take you places that you could not otherwise get to on your own. What do you find the most confusing about artisanal or independent publishing?

GUY - By far the most confusing issue is formatting... EPUB, PDF, what do I do? How do I get there? Somebody tells you that you can "save as" in Word and then do this and you're done. But all the fonts changed. However, once you figure this out, it is simple. Just read our book, and we will tell you to use InDesign and you will be fine. If you cannot use InDesign yourself, pay somebody $500 to format your book. It is so worth it.

The most challenging is the marketing of your book -- the E part of APE. Most authors are totally unprepared for the fact that... even if you are published by Putnam, which is the best case, you are largely responsible for the marketing of your book. You just have to come to grips with that. In 25 years I have never met an author who was happy with his publisher's marketing.

So that is what they have to come to grips with. You are master of your own fate, for better or for worse. So you might as well make 70 percent.

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.