Are You An Author, Publisher And Entrepreneur? You Should Be. Interview With Guy Kawasaki

I’m excited to share with you today an interview with Guy Kawasaki, who is a NY Times bestselling author and entrepreneur, and who I have followed online for a number of years.

guy kawasakiHis most recent book is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How To Publish A Book.

You might think that there are already way too many books on this topic, but APE has a slightly different angle around ‘artisanal’ publishing and entrepreneurship, which I like a lot. It’s also significant that an author of Guy’s authority in the business book market is advocating self-publishing.

APE includes some good chapters on avoiding the self-published look and guerilla marketing, as well as building an enchanting personal brand. Here’s the interview with Guy along with some of my comments at the end.

You have had great success in the traditional publishing world with 10 books, including the NY Times bestseller ‘Enchantment’. Why did you decide to self-publish?

APE: Author publisher entrepreneur how to publish a bookI decided to self-publish because I wanted total control over the marketing and selling of my books—particularly in the ebook format. Traditional publishers cannot handle sales directly to customers, sponsorships, and site licenses. These kinds of deals that are not publisher to reseller to customer give traditional publishers aneurisms.

Have you stepped away from traditional publishing for good?

I haven’t stepped away from traditional publishing. All it would take is a huge advance—huge enough so that I don’t care about the marketing and selling of my books. You can’t buy me, but you can rent me.

Would you combine traditional with indie in a hybrid model which many authors are now favoring but NY publishing is resistant to?

what the plusIf a traditional publisher wanted to buy the printed rights and leave me with the ebook rights, I would do it. I actually have such a deal with McGraw-Hill for a book called What the Plus!

I love the term “artisanal” publishing. Can you explain what you mean by it?

My concept is that writers can control their craft from end to end. That is, they can control the content, cover, interior design, sales, and marketing just like an artisanal brewer, baker, or winemaker does.

How does this reframe the “stigma” of self-publishing?

It means that “self-publishing” or “vanity-publishing” does not translate to “My book wasn’t good enough for a traditional publisher, so I had to publish it myself.” One would never attach a stigma to an artisanal brewer, baker, or winemaker, so why should one attach a stigma to an artisanal publisher?

guy kawasaki quote

Many indie authors, myself included, use an ebook only model because financially, it is less of an outlay for a quality product. Print can be expensive to produce something that doesn’t look self-published.

But you present some compelling arguments that digital isn’t everything, so should we all be doing print?

This depends on the genre. The genre where ebooks are kicking butt is adult fiction. If I had an adult non-fiction book, I would publish it in printed and electronic format. If I had a photography book, I would publish it only in printed format. In ten years, I would print only a photography book.

Many authors/writers resist the term “entrepreneur.” Why do you think authors need to claim that term in order to be successful in this crowded market?

“Entrepreneur” sure beats “impoverished.” The reality is that artisanal publishing means there are more books than ever to choose from. Thus, it’s even harder to garner attention and therefore sales. Entrepreneurship—making a hobby into a business—is necessary to succeed. Returning once more to the artisanal brewer, baker, and winemaker, who would not consider what they do entrepreneurial?

barry eisler quote

Why is an author brand important?

An author brand is the foundation of entrepreneurship. It means that the author stands for something and owns, or at least represents, a genre. Gillian Flynn’s brand is crime novels. JK Rowling—no explanation needed. John Grisham is legal thriller. Anne Lamott owns the writer’s writer and messy faith brands.

Where do people start in order to build one?

We are in the best time ever to build a brand because of the ubiquity of social media. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all fast, free, and ubiquitous. I don’t mean only for non-fiction, technical authors to build a brand—any author can use social media to build a brand.

The goal is to build a following because you share valuable posts that are simpatico with your brand.

My recommendation is to start building a brand the same day you start writing a book. In a perfect world, you’d write two-three hours a day and work on your brand an hour a day. It takes at least a year to build a brand using social media.

guy kawasaki quoteIncidentally, even if you are published by a traditional publisher that purports to have a marketing platform, I would still beg you to create your own brand.

There is no downside to creating your own brand so that you are not dependent upon your publisher because someday your publisher might not be there for you.

The ebook and publishing revolution has been US-centric for a few years now, but with Kobo moving aggressively into global markets that Amazon doesn’t dominate yet, what do you see as the future of ebooks in the wider global market?

The future of ebooks is bright around the globe. It would shock me if it’s not the dominant way to read books in the next ten years everywhere in the world. Some very smart people at Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung are doing their best to make this true. It’s hard to imagine that they won’t succeed.

How did you manage to get 145 reviews on Amazon in six days of which 135 are five stars?

I am tempted to tell you that you have to read APE to find out but that would be chicken. Essentially, I crowdsourced editing, and I offered a review copy of the near-final manuscript to four million social-media followers. This enabled me to have 1,100 people who read APE before it went live on Amazon.

Approximately four hours before Amazon turned it on, I sent an email to 1,100 people to ask them to post a review for me. I woke up in the morning, and there were forty-four five-star reviews. What does it take to make this happen?

First and foremost, it takes a book that people like. I could have asked 1,100 people to post a review and woke up to forty-four one-star reviews too. But beyond this, you need to trust people. I’m sure passed around my manuscript and so I might have lost some sales, but the alternative, fostered by not trusting people, would be a lack of reviews.

By the way, no traditional publisher would let its author do something like this.

Like I said, I want to control the sales and marketing of my books. That’s what artisanal publishers do.

APE: Author publisher entrepreneur how to publish a bookYou can find APE on here or check out the website at

Some of my own thoughts on the book

When Seth Godin left traditional publishing I thought the balance was tipping, but now I really think self-publishing has hit the mainstream. When authors of Guy’s stature do it their own way, that is something worth paying attention to. It means the consciousness has shifted amongst the thought leaders, and that can only be a good thing.

  • APE is a good primer for the new self-publisher. It does contain a lot of the basic information you need, from writing and editing, through publishing in print and ebook formats to marketing ideas. If you want a book that contains an end-to-end process, it’s definitely worth the buy.
  • Guy advocates using MS Word for writing, but I absolutely recommend you use Scrivener. It will help you write the book but also outputs the formats you need to self-publish directly to Amazon, Kobo etc. It’s been a life-changer for me and means you don’t have to rely on anyone else for your formatting.
  • The book is US centric, so when you read it, remember that non-US citizens cannot publish direct on Nook PubIt, or use ACX (Audible’s audiobook marketplace) at the moment. Hopefully that will change!

What do you think about artisanal publishing? I love the term and what it implies, but please do let me know your thoughts in the comments. Or please do leave any questions for Guy as well. [Now go APE!]

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  1. says

    Very cool you got Guy brada to do an interview! I think he lives right here in the SF Bay Area as well.

    I decided to self publish my book on how to profitably quit your job by negotiating a severance package b/c of all the things Guy said as well. I wanted to go at my pace and edit at will. I already have a platform, so I figured why not. It’s been fun!

    Don’t plan to get rich off a book, but it has certainly provided some good authority and extra income!



    • says

      Absolutely! Authority is a great reason to write a book, although, despite the marvels of self-publishing, I still there is greater perceived authority through a traditional book deal, and greater income through a self-published book.

  2. Steven Ramirez says

    Joanna, this is a great interview—thanks. I’m actually reading ‘APE’ now and, although it appears to focus more on non-fiction, I feel it’s an excellent one-stop-shopping resource for all authors.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned Scrivener. Currently I am using Word but am not a fan of feeding my file to Smashwords’ Meatgrinder. To me, that’s like creating a one-size-fits-all suit that doesn’t really look good on anyone. As I prepare to publish my new novel, I will definitely check out Scrivener. Cheers—and Happy New Year.

    • says

      Scrivener is fantastic Steven! It will change your publishing life :) Guy is a non-fiction author so the book is definitely focused on that, but I think most of it applies to both types of books.

  3. says

    Great insights! I started my own personal branding and social media efforts just a few months after starting my first novel. It’s slow-going but I’m confident that all these experts couldn’t be completely wrong, and that I’ll at least be in a better position with some small but specific following than I would be without it.

    • says

      I wouldn’t be without my platform now Elliott – it means I can at least start the sales rolling, get early reviews and other things to prime the algorithm pump. Yes, it takes time, but it definitely pays off!

  4. says

    Great interview. Lots of useful information. A couple people (Bella Andre & Hugh Howey) have gotten print only contracts. The publishing world is changing for the better with authors having more control if they want it.

    • says

      Bella & Hugh are definitely the authors to aspire to :) They are both prolific writers and hard workers, so they deserve the success they have created. We’ll get there if we persist!

  5. says

    Great interview, Joanna, I really enjoyed reading it. I especially love the explanation of ‘artisanal publishing.’ I’m currently writing a book and when I tell people that I plan to self-publish, sometimes I do encounter somewhat of a stigma surrounding the idea of self-publishing, so it was nice to read Gary’s explanation. :)

  6. says

    Joanna, congratulations on a bit of a coup in getting Mr. Kawasaki for an interview (even tho’ he’s obviously motivated to reach out to potential paying readers any way he can). Very good stuff. I wish to God I’d thought of the term “artisanal publishing”. It’s not like I don’t have a vocabulary! 😉 I mean, I have been blogging and commenting on others’ blogs and various online forums about how self-publishing is largely losing its “vanity” stigma.

    I like Mr. Kawasaki and his ability to crystallize a vision of what has barely arrived and where it will head in it’s maturity. I had a friendly sort of argument with him online–on Twitter, I think–a coupla years back over his crowdsourcing the doer for Enchantment. He did offer a reasonable fee to the “winner” of the contest, but I argued how it was another nail in the coffin for all the artists who didn’t win the content, and for the ability of freelancers generally to earn a living from their work.

    Likewise I would argue against your point, or perhaps just the wording of your point, that Scrivener turns making an ebook into a DIY formatting project. Even a proper ebook can use design, at least if it is to look like something more than a bejillion other cheaply-produced DIY projects. I guess that’s why I mourn Mr. Kawasaki’s calling the end to some kinds of print books. Admittedly, there’s my old vested interest, what with being a book designer/page composition artist, kicking in again.

    • says

      Hi Stephen, Thanks for your thoughts.
      I agree that some books need specific “design”, especially if they have tables and complicated inner text. But plain text novels really don’t need anything more than Scrivener can provide. It works amazingly well and outputs .mobi and .epub as well as other formats. It saves self-publishers money and also means they have control of the file so can change it at any time e.g. add more links to the back for new books, which is critical for the income funnel.
      I don’t think the need for book designers will go away, I think it will grow with the expansion in self-publishing – but NOT for plain text novels or any kind of plain text book.

  7. says

    Olá Joanna, tudo bem?

    Amo as suas entrevistas. Cada dia aprendo algo diferente. Sinto alguns embaraços para ler, mas existe automaticamente uma tradução pelo Google.
    A publicação por demanda, e-book veio realmente revolucionar o mundo dos escritores.Aqui no Brasil já temos várias editoras fazendo este trabalho.
    Estou mais esperta com seus conselhos. Uso todo canais das mídias. Só posso dizer para você: obrigada! Deus cuide bastante de você.


    • says

      Here’s the translation of the comment above:
      Hello Joanna, okay?

      I love his interviews. Every day I learn something different. I feel some embarrassment to read, but there is an automatic translation by Google.
      The demand publishing, e-book really came to revolutionize the world of escritores.Aqui in Brazil already have several publishers doing this work.
      I’m smarter with their advice. Use all channels of media. I can only say to you: thank you! God take care of you enough.


  8. says

    I’m so glad you did this interview Joanna. Guy’s video has been up all over the placed for ‘APE’ and I absolutely love it’s simplicity and very real message.

    The part I liked best was when he said about pre-releasing the book for reviews, “By the way, no traditional publisher would let its author do something like this.” The comparison was good to note for those of us who don’t know all the ins and outs of traditional publishing. It made me aware of where the control is when self-publishing and how important it can be to the success of your book.

  9. ed says

    Greetings Joanna,

    Outside of APE and The Complete Guide to SELF Publishing are there any other books you recommend on learning the ins and outs of Self publishing? Poynter’s book have been great but getting a little dated now…

  10. says

    I was at a Christmas function last night, being a bit of an attention magnet – my first E-book had just been self-published on Amazon’s KDPS program. Here’s a few observations from talking with folks.

    The acceptance of E-books as a ‘here-to-stay’ product was universal. Many in the group were already on digital devices. Others just received an E-reader/tablet as a Xmas present and were looking for good, new content. Not one asked me who my publisher was – they asked where to get it and most reactions were “Cool! You’re on Amazon?” No mention of ‘not being good enough’ to picked-up by the big six (five) legacies at all. Amazon is obviously a trusted brand and the perception was more that Amazon was the top-dog publisher, not me as a little “artisanal authorpreneur”. So don’t ever think that self-publishing is considered bush-league; just focus on turning out a quality product and let it speak.

    I picked a bunch of brains about the future of print vs. digital. Most welcomed the change to digital reading – price point, ease of packing around a library, immediacy of product delivery, and greater selection. Only two lamented about still liking the feel and smell of paper, but sighed and said “That’s progress”.

    Branding was also mentioned. I’m fortunate to come from a professional background which lends credibility to my genre writing and I’m working it as the base of my platform. I feel that branding is absolutely vital to an author’s career, but you don’t have to be some world-renown expert. Focus on a consistency to your message and giving something valuable to the reader. Look at the success of ‘Fifty Shades’. I doubt E.L. James was writing her memoirs :)

  11. says

    Awesome interview. As a book reviewer, I always find myself in discussions with people in publishing. The infamous question arises… Should I self publish or traditionally publish? This interview really sheds a lot of light. The book sounds interesting too. Thanks and Happy New Year.

  12. says

    That’s a very interesting interview with useful information. APE looks appealing to me, but the thing is that I don’t live in the US and I’ve found that it’s too bad that there are some advantages that I won’t be able have. I’m not yet a published writer, but I dream of becoming one and I’m already working on a draft.
    It’s true that the entrepreneurship has to start at the very beginning, the moment that one wants to become a published author. Social media helps a lot. I think I’m going to take the self-publishing path although I don’t think I’ll totally ignore the traditional way.
    Thanks for sharing your advice!

  13. says

    I absolutely LOVE the term artisanal publishing!

    My book is about artisanal chocolate makers, so it’s a perfect fit for me.

    I will definitely be adapting this term in all future referencing of my project. Thanks for the post.

  14. says

    So then, Doreen, are you producing a big coffee table book on these chocolate makers, loaded with terrific, four-color photos of them, their products, and the chocolate-making process? Sounds like it’d be a wonderful book … and as a seasonal gift,too–first at Christmas, then maybe Valentine’s Day, and prob’ly again at Easter. I’d love to do book design and layout on one like this.

    • says

      Hello Stephen and thanks for your interest. The book will be beautiful and full colour, but not a big coffee table book as I want people to take it with them when they travel to visit the chocolate makers. If you’re interested, please visit to get a sense of what I’m doing in the book. (It will actually be a series of books.) Cheers!

  15. says

    If ever there was an illustration that makes the power of words explicit, ‘artisanal’ does it. Its a single boost to the writing profession, taking the apologetic and turning it into art and craft.

    I presume there is no patent on its use?
    This is a really encouraging post. Now I am driven to think of others.


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