Interview with Guy Kawasaki: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

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guy kawasakiGuy Kawasaki is an author, speaker and tech evangelist. His latest book, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book (APE), co-written by Shawn Welch, is a detailed guide to self-publishing.

Below is an exclusive interview I conducted with him via email:

Question: How do you like to be introduced since you’re a man with many hats?

Kawasaki: My self-identity is a father and husband. As a father and husband, one of my roles is a provider. My speaking, writing, advising, and investing are all means to an end–that of adequately providing for my family.

Question:  Your bad experience with trying to order 500 eBooks from your publisher prompted you to write this book. Tell me why that was such a big deal. Don’t publishers screw up all the time?

Kawasaki:  More accurately, the 500 eBook order prompted me to write What the Plus!, as self-publishing that book showed me how hard the process was, and this made me decide to write APE. The 500 eBook order was a big deal because I couldn’t comprehend why it was so hard to fill. An order like that is something to cherish, not throw to the wind.

Question:  Do you think everyone has a good story to tell? Won’t there be a lot of junk, poorly written, self-published books if everyone writes one?

Kawasaki:  Not everyone has a good story to tell. Not every musician has a good song. Not every artisanal baker, brewer and winemaker makes good stuff. Not every Indie film producer makes good movies. All these paths produce lots of crap. But at least the barriers to entry are lower so that more people can publish books, write songs, bake, brew and make movies.

The world is a richer place when the barriers are lower because no one knows (including editors) who will produce the next great piece of literature. No matter how much crap comes out because of self-publishing, that’s still better than six companies in New York deciding what people should be able to read. The democratization of information is an irresistible force.

Question:  What are the biggest disadvantages of self-publishing?

Kawasaki:  The biggest disadvantages are the lack of an advance, responsibility for all aspects of publishing including writing, editing, designing, and marketing, and the feeling of loneliness when you’re doing most of this by yourself. However, self-publishing still beats total rejection by traditional publishers and never getting your book out.

The advantages of self-publishing are that you can control the entire process. You can get your book to market much faster and you make more money per copy.

Question:  Don’t some people need hand holding?

Kawasaki:  People don’t need hand holding as much as information, because they’ve never gone through the process before. We wrote APE to help all these people. Think of APE as “what to expect when you’re publishing.”

Question:  Will you ever work with a traditional publishing house again?

Kawasaki:  Sure, all it would take is a huge advance.  So huge that I don’t care if the procedures of a traditional publisher puts a 500 copy eBook order in jeopardy. There are only two kinds of authors – those who want a big advance, and those who are lying.

Question:  What’s your beef with ghostwriters? I know a very successful one who works with thought leaders who can’t write but need books.

Kawasaki:  Call me idealistic, but a book should be a piece of your soul. It should represent your blood, sweat, and tears. It’s very hard to dictate a piece of your soul. It’s like a person saying to a ghost musician, “I’ll hum a tune. You make it into a song and write the words.”

Question:  How much money should you set aside for editing, design and the back end production? Do you have a ballpark estimate?

Kawasaki:  Our guideline is that it takes about $4,000 to content edit, copy edit, design a cover, and lay out the book. Really great marketing costs another $20,000. This makes the total cost approximately $25,000, worst case. There are ways to cut this to $2,000 by paying for professional copy editing and cover designing only. But $25,000 would pay for doing everything in a first class way.

Fortunately, this amount of money, $2,000 to $25,000, is fundable using websites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter. The probability of raising $25,000 using Indiegogo or Kickstarter is much higher than the probability of a novice author finding a traditional publisher.

Question:  What’s next for you? Another book?

Kawasaki:  I’ll be marketing APE for quite a while doing webinars and speeches about the topic of artisanal publishing. This is another advantage of artisanal publishing – a traditional publisher, best case, markets your book for two months and then moves on. An artisanal publisher can market his or her book forever.

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Jane Applegate Jane Applegate is an author, speaker and founder of The Applegate Group Inc., a multimedia production and marketing communications company linking big and small companies. She's also the Executive Producer of The AppleGate Network.