What Do APEs and Four-Hour Chefs Have in Common?

For those who think that the alternative routes of publishing a book are only for poor schmucks who can’t get a traditional publisher or for egomaniacs who want a “vanity” book, Guy Kawasaki and Tim Ferriss are legitimizing unconventional strategies and opening up a whole new world for everyone, like it or not.

After writing 10 successful and traditionally published books, former Apple chief evangelist speaker and blogger Kawasaki leapt into the self-publishing world with a 99-cent ebook singing the praises of Google’s foray into social media, Google +.

“In 2011 the publisher of one of my books, Enchantment, could not fill an order for 500 ebook copies of the book. Because of this experience, I self-published my next book, What the Plus!, and learned first-hand that self-publishing is a complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process,” Kawasaki says in the Amazon description of his second self-published book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.

APE reads like a conversation with Guy himself and although it’s dauntingly detailed, it is a book that everyone from bloggers to famous authors should have on their tablets.

Aside from providing a step-by-step diagram for self-publishing, APE also pushes forward a new paradigm, called artisanal publishing, and thus completely reframes self-publishing from a “vanity” to a craft.

“If I could hire my editor and publicist from [traditional publishing house] Penguin I would,” Kawasaki told me, but otherwise he is happy to be able to control the entire process of his book.

And he’s not alone: self-publishing is an art form that is growing rapidly, as much as 287 percent since 2006.

Kawasaki is not the only big name jumping from the proverbial traditional publishing barge. Tim Ferriss, the nutritional supplement business man turned million-plus copies sold author, recently published his latest book, The 4-Hour Chef solely through Amazon.com’s own imprint.

According to Ferriss (though some believe that this is just an attempt to garner “free publicity”), due to their opposition to Amazon, book retailers are refusing to sell The 4-Hour Chef in their stores, a move that that appears like more of a shot in the foot (or at the author) than as a stand against Amazon.

In a recent live interview in San Francisco, Ferriss admitted that he has taken some hits by going with Amazon over a traditional publisher, but he believes so much in innovation that he is willing to accept the blows, to take the leap with a new way of publishing. No other publisher, Ferriss said, could have excerpted parts of one book into another as Amazon did for his 4-Hour series.

Both Kawasaki and Ferriss are shaking up the Goliath of the publishing world for very different reasons and with very different approaches. Who will win is undetermined, but according to political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft, “When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win… even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”

But Kawasaki is not taking his taking his role as an iconoclast lightly, and warned me that the power afforded by the artisan approach to publishing is to be taken seriously: “Greater control creates greater responsibility.”

This column first appeared on the Huffington Post