Best Book On Self Publishing: APE – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

KAWASAKI-WELCH-APE-HOW-TO-PUBLISH-A-BOOKI was pleased when I heard that Guy Kawasaki was working (with Shawn Welch) on a book about self-publishing. He’d written many popular business books and had a straightforward and no nonsense approach to most topics he covered, and I expected he’d an interesting perspective on self-publishing. I was right.

This is the single book I’d recommend to anyone considering self-publishing, for the first time or any time. It’s far better than any single book on the topic I’ve seen.

The title is a reference to how self-publishing comprises three distinct roles. Many self published books fail because the author only takes responsibility for one or two. Kawasaki comprehensively explains all of the dimensions, the common mistakes, and frames each role around tasks and tools that he himself has used or reviewed. He also includes actual numbers from his experiments with different marketing approaches and other efforts. It’s a truly honest guide to a topic where there’s too much snake oil and bogus theories.

The balance of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepeneur, is pragmatic and focused on the confusing decisions that are hard to find good advice on, like pricing, which services to use, how to hire needed experts, and this  is balanced by the perspective of a very successful published author. Many books on self-publishing are written by people who had little success in the traditional publishing world and can’t offer a comparison, or shed light on how to approximate the advantages of traditional publishing when working alone. Kawasakai can, and did, in this book.

Like Kawasaki, I’ve successfully done both traditional and self publishing, but even I learned quite a few things from APE.

Much of the book is comprised of handy lists that support a particular decision point. Sometimes theses lists are mini-reviews of tools, other times they’re shorthand notes for rules of thumb for different ways to make decisions. Depending on where you are in the process some of these lists won’t be useful now, or ever, and you might even make a quick read of the book, easily digesting the sections relevant to your particular situation. But the comprehensive nature of the book makes it something you know you’ll want to keep around as a reference for future projects.

Get APE from Amazon or check out the book’s website.

[Disclosure: Kawasaki has endorsed several of of my books]

12 Responses to “Best Book On Self Publishing: APE – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur”

  1. Eric Lawrence

    I read this a while ago after self-publishing a book through Amazon– I was eager to see this book from an author I’ve liked over the years. Sadly, I was pretty disappointed… this book wouldn’t have helped me very much, as it covered very little of the hard lessons that I learned (especially around the mechanics of getting a book formatted properly for print).

    Kawasaki’s answer for many things (editing, formatting, etc) is to hire someone else to do the work, with a break-even point somewhere in the $4k royalty range. That places the advice in this book outside of the realm of most would-be self-published authors.

    I’d rather read a book on this topic by Berkun.

    1. Scott

      Interesting Eric. I think this makes two book reviews in a row where I’ve disappointed you.

      I’ve probably read a half dozen different books on self publishing and I found APE to be the smartest and most useful. Of course I already self-published a book, and had to do my best to imagine how useful the text would have been if I was just getting started, and how useful it’d be for people in the wide range of self-publishing situations.

    2. Phil Simon

      $4k is light for a professionally done book. Perhaps that’s more than many first-timers can afford. True self-publishing means that you take on all three roles yourself. Guy’s hardly the first to point out that most people shouldn’t try to do it all. He interviewed my friend Kristen for the book and she’s been a very useful sounding board.

    3. Too bad

      Given the way he behaves in person, I’m not at all surprised that Kawasaki’s advice is to hire someone else to do the real work. Fits him like a glove.

      1. Scott

        I’ve never met him, but it seems with books how authors on person is largely irrelevant, as you don’t pay for what they’re like, you pay for what they write.

        I made many of the same choices Kawasaki did and I think most authors, even if they can’t afford to do it, should understand how competitive even the self-published book market is. There are books that focus on much tighter budgets, but my recollection is they weren’t as comprehensive and useful as APE.

        My situation of course is not the same a first time author. Perhaps I should have prefaced that in the review.

  2. Lisa

    Scott, I was about to write in with a question for you on self-publishing, then headed over to Amazon as soon as I got the alert on this. Since I’m in the process of self-publishing (the book is written, now it’s time to figure out the mechanics of it all) I’m sure this will be a huge help. I’ve got the glass of vino and Kindle; all ready to start reading!

  3. Kerry

    I recommend Dean Wesley Smith’s guide on How to Be a Publisher, he is more fiction oriented but it goes through how to do this when you don’t have the cash to throw around like Kawasaki – Smith updates his book every year as well and you can see the chapters in advance on his blog, see

  4. Stacie Vander Pol

    I can’t say I’m really impressed with the recommendations of the book. This subject has been covered for years, and it doesn’t feel like anything new. Of course, with his name, he’ll be able to sell a lot of books. In my career as a self-published writer, I’ve had the best success with CreateSpace and Lightning Source, depending on what I was publishing. For a new author, I really recommend CreateSpace. It’s free, and Amazon seems to give promotion to those books (perhaps because they own it).

    I wrote a book several years ago (which is now outdated) that examined all the self-publishing companies at the time. CreateSpace was by far the most appealing, and today I see that it’s now the most popular, and for good reason.

    $4000 isn’t realistic for 98% of folks and is probably not the best investment in the first place. You can find plenty of cover design options online that are affordable, and the most effective marketing tactics are free, or nearly so. If you’re willing to put in the work — and it’s a ton of work — you can be successful without spending thousands of dollars.

    1. Scott

      Thanks Stacy. What book would you recommend instead?

      Criticisms of APE aside, the goal is to offer readers here a good book. Of the half dozen or so I’ve read, this was the best I’ve found and I’d recommend it. If you don’t like APE, what book did you like?

      Nothing new isn’t important to most readers: as long as they get their questions answered well, who cares if others have said it before.

      In terms of budget: there’s nothing in any book that mandates you follow everything it says. For any decision on a self-published project the reader can decide on their own what to do themselves, convince a friend to do, or hire. Every time I speak to a self-published author I hear a different set of tradeoffs for how much to spend, how much to do themselves, and how much they were able to find a friend or barter for. All in, I don’t see APE as being useful only for people with bigger budgets. There’s useful advice in each section for the tradeoffs and goals, regardless of how the roles are fulfilled.

  5. John Stepper

    Thanks, Scott, for this helpful post. I recently read APE before seeing your recommendation and I thought it was excellent. As I’m in the middle of self-publishing now, I found it extremely useful in describing various trade-offs and options.

    Despite some of the negative comments here, it seemed like writing APE was a generous thing to do, truly trying to help people. I can’t imagine such a book makes much money.

    You asked for other recommendations so here are three:
    – “Your first 1000 copies” by Tim Grahl. A “step-by-step guide to marketing your book”.

  6. DM Daye

    I found the book helpful in helping me launch with my own book, however there are some good sites out there offering great advice for free see some of the articles on for example. I also agree Stacie’s comment about the cost of your cover, I had mine designed and only paid £200 for the whole printed, ebook and promotional materials too, you don’t have to spend a fortune.

    Thanks, D


Leave a Reply

* Required