APE-ing Your Book with Guy Kawasaki [Audio]

by | Jan 16, 2013

Today I’ve got a real treat for you.

Guy Kawasaki, legendary Apple evangelist, best-selling author, serial entrepreneur and social media mega-star has just published his 12th book—and the second he’s self-published. It’s all about how to use the tools we have available to write, publish, and market our own books.

Kawasaki joins a long line of authors who got into self-publishing for one reason or another, only to find out just how complex and frustrating it can be to create a seemingly simple and pedestrian object, and then written his own book to help other authors trying to do the same thing.

I guess this lineage goes back at least to Dan Poynter and the birth of The Self-Publishing Manual, but there have been many to travel this same road since then.

“People with their own platforms can write and create high quality books, self-publishing them and succeed.”—Guy Kawasaki

Here’s the good news: Kawasaki’s book is certainly the best self-publishing book to come out in years. In fact, there is no other book I know of that captures the moment we are in so well, and communicates so much actionable, practical information that any author can use.

I include all of you who have already published your own books, too.

More on that in a moment.

APE, the Book

self-publishingThe title of Kawasaki’s book tells us quite a bit about his approach: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book.

(Astute readers will remember the article that appeared here called From Writer to Author to Publisher to Marketer that outlines a similar evolution.)

This is the reality of self-publishing today. Success will often depend on you taking on each of these roles and finding a way to succeed in each.

Kawasaki calls this “artisanal publishing” and it forms part of our conversation in the audio interview that accompanies today’s post.

Following the title, the book is divided into three sections, each of which deals with one of these roles.

The author explains his method for creating the book, including a unique way of involving his “5,000,000” followers in the process. (I liked this so much I’m thinking of trying it with my next book!)

“Guy Kawasaki has 5,000,000 followers, I understand that not many people have 5,000,000 followers. But I wasn’t born with 5,000,000 followers, it took me 30 years, so it can be done. It’s because you’re helpful, you’re a curator, you add value, you’re not a pain in the ass.”—Guy Kawasaki

The Author and Entrepreneur sections of the book are the strongest, but authors who are mainly interested in publishing ebooks are very well taken care of in the Publisher section. Resources, explanations of how to go about converting and uploading your files, and lots of best practices are covered.

self-publishingGuy Kawasaki really knows how to create compelling content, and the book is rich with tricks, tips, hints on what to do or not to do, and a lot of technical information contributed by coauthor Shawn Welch. He’s constantly upbeat, and uses stories quite well to make a point.

One of the reasons I recommend this book, even to experienced self-publishers, is for the outstanding primer on social media engagement that makes up most of the Entrepreneur section. It’s by far the best and most concise exposition on this subject I’ve ever read.

Disagreements and Omissions

The weakest part of APE is the Publisher section, and part of the reason for that is the almost complete lack of information on publishing print books. The authors deal with print on demand, but have nothing to say about offset books.

There is also no discussion of the crucial role of metadata, and little on keyword research. There’s nothing regarding print book distribution outside the print on demand mechanism, and a very weak section on discounting, another critical area for self-publishers to understand.

I also found it odd, because the authors are social media denizens, that there was little mention of the many blogs that cover the self-publishing world, and where thousands of indie authors go for information, advice, encouragement and training and I hope they will correct that omission in future editions.

In fact, Guy told me during the interview he plans to continue to edit and add to the book, updating it as new information comes in. In the interview you’ll hear us talk about a new section on developmental editing, also.


I highly recommend you get a copy of this book. And although it’s available in paperback, you need to get the Kindle version. The PDF I reviewed is full of very useful and up to date links. In fact, there are so many great links in this book, it’s easily worth the purchase price just to get them.

But APE is a great addition to the literature on self-publishing, and is destined to become the new “bible” of indie publishing for a new generation. The book is intimately connected to online culture, not only because it has such wisdom to impart on social media marketing, brand development, and interactive relationships, but because the book itself arose from the same soil.

And Guy is pretty funny, too. How can you go wrong?

I also recommend you visit the book’s website here: APE the book. You can check out the completely charming book trailer, and see the results of adeptly marketing your book to a following of 5 million people. Make sure you scroll all the way down the page.

Here’s the audio of my interview with Guy. It runs 32:36. I look forward to your comments.

I am an Amazon affiliate, and links to that site use my affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Will

    Some people above have compared what they make from Amazon to their own website. You can’t really compare this since Amazon is doing all the marketing and delivery, reviews, support, etc for you. They recommend your book if it’s similar to other books.

    Doing it on your own website involves all sorts of issues, either paying a 3rd party like e-junkie or doing it yourself on wordpress. I get emails from people who didn’t get the delivery email, payment issues, refunds, etc. Also no one knows about your site compared to Amazon and there is a trust factor with Amazon and credit card payments. Having said that you can do both. Charge less on your site since you make more of the profit and see what does better.

    I’m using Google Docs with sharing for comments (with link not public) and encouraging people to sign up with their email to be able to get ‘early access’.

  2. Brad Ward

    Nice Review! Sad that Guy doesn’t list a book printers. I see both digital and print as helping each other. Does anyone know of a good book printer or printers?

    • Ernie Zelinski


      What are you looking for? Digital or offset?

      For offset go to John Kremer’s list on his BookMarket.com website at:


      He also has a list of Print on Demand printers at:


      For the printing of my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”, I use Marquis Printing in Quebec. This is for print runs of 10,000 copies or more which I then send to my U.S. distributor (NBN).

      For shorter print runs, Friesens is Altona, Manitoba is highly recommended.

      Ernie J. Zelinski
      International Best-Selling Author
      “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
      Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
      (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
      and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
      (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  3. Ernie Zelinski


    I agree with you that APE is a great book.

    Like you, I received a complimentary PDF copy from Guy Kawasaki, which he offered to readers of Dan Poynter’s newsletter.

    There are some great topics, such as the on “The Myth of the Dominance of Ebooks”, in which Guy and his co-author dispel the often-said statement that “Print is dead.” Guy states:

    “As long as people are flying from airports and shopping in Costco, books printed on paper will sell.”

    I can attest to this since my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” had its best year ever in 2012 with 18,600 copies of the print edition sold (the book was first published in 2004.)

    But like you, I did not find “APE” perfect. Here is one case where Guy may be off the mark.

    In the book, Guy says:

    “Ebook royalties from traditional publishers are all over the map. A safe assumption is that they are 50 percent of the suggested retail price, so you’d get 50 percent of $12.50 for the ebook version of a $25 hardcover book, or $6.25.”

    This, in my humble opinion, is far from the case for the amount that authors get as royalties for their ebooks from traditional publishers. Indeed, the Authors Guild of America made a big deal about how their members were only getting 30 percent royalties on ebooks — and that was net of what the publisher was taking in. In other words, on an ebook priced at $12,50, the publisher would take in 70 percent from Amazon, or $8.75. Thus, the author would get 30 percent of $8.75 or $2.63. Actually, not quite, since there is an Amazon delivery charge. The author would get around $2.50 (far from the $6.25 that Guy and his co-author assume).

    In fact, Random House, which purchased Ten Speed Press, sent me an Agreement offering even less than that for ebook rights for my “The Joy of Not Working” and “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success”. This is what the clause in Random House’s Agreement stated:

    “We will pay royalties on all ebook sales of your books in accordance
    with the following provision: ‘On all copies of the Work sold as an “Electronic Book” as defined herein: 25% of the amount received.’

    So, in my case, Random House would end up paying me a royalty of around $1.63 per copy for the ebook rights for “The Joy of Not Working” (priced at $9.97) whereas I can earn around $6.50 per copy publishing it myself.

    Another shortcoming of the PDF version of APE: It does not have a back cover. I think that a PDF version of a print edition looks much better with the PDF of the back cover. In fact, I even placed the image of the back cover from the print edition of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free on the Kindle edition, which I just self-published this week. (I know practically no one else does that but I do things differently and that is one of the reasons I am more successful than 99 percent of authors.)

    Having mentioned a couple shortcomings of APE, it is still a great book for anyone who wants to learn even one important thing about self-publishing. The way I look at it, any book is worth $9.95 or even $29.95,
    if I get just one idea or a bit of information about self-publishing that I hadn’t known before.

    Once I finish “APE”, I will be giving it a 5-star review on Amazon.

    On last thing: One of the most important things that Guy Kawasaki said in an interview a few years ago about the Internet was something like, “It’s not content that is king. ‘Snackable content’ is king!”

    This is something that writers should remember when writing their ebooks as well. When I reformatted “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” for the Kindle, I broke a lot of the paragraphs into two or more paragraphs. This will make the Kindle edition of my retirement book a lot more “snackable” than the Kindle editions of practically all other retirement books.

    Thanks for the great tip, Guy, about “snackable content”!

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)



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