Seth Godin, if you haven’t heard of him, is considered to be one of the “marketing gurus” (air quotes alert!) of our time. He’s written about a dozen books such as All Marketers are Liars and Tribes. As he describes it, he makes his living deconstructing companies and industries to see what works, what doesn’t, and identify what’s changing. And a lot of people listen to what he says.
So it is no small thing when Godin tells the world, as he did in August, that he is going to start self-publishing.
Here’s a link to his blog post – I won’t rehash that. But I will outline a luncheon speech he gave specifically to book publishers.
Essentially, he said that traditionally publishers were responsible for a number of things including curation, manufacturing, distribution, financial backing/taking the risk. Except for being curators, those things are dead – or at least dying, as ebooks and print-on-demand and authors selling directly to Amazon.com are taking over.
So why should writers partner with these publishers when they still give up such a big percentage of sales and get fewer things in return?
Godin believes that he can now sell directly to his blog readers – over 400,000 reportedly – instead of going the circuitous route of a publisher. In fact, publishers tend to get in the way of the connection between writer and fans, he says. So, he’s dumping them altogether.
It’s important to note that Godin doesn’t say that the publishers’ fates are sealed. In fact, he said that there are some great opportunities here for publishers, if they avoid the mistakes of the record (aka the music “publishing”) industry.
They can be thought leaders, guiding or at least be a part of the way that the markets are changing, rather than stand on the sidelines and ponder wistfully on the good ol’ days (or worse, sue their fans as the music industry did).
BTW, I personally feel that publishers still have strong connections to traditional marketing avenues that won’t dry up overnight. Many awards, etc. also rely publishers to submit works, though this could change in the future I suppose.
Anyway, Godin says that publishers can start to find their readers and then find writers for them, which is the opposite of what they are doing now. His example is to contact celiac foundations and market to them, giving them what their members want like recipe books, etc. written specifically for them.
Now this is obviously the realm of non-fiction books. So how can novelists do the same? Or, for that matter, those of us who do not have 400,000+ blog subscribers?
I’m still working on that one (feel free to make your own comments below). One way, I would think, would be for like-minded writers to band together and cross-promote their books on each other’s websites. That way if, say F. Scott Fitzgerald has a new book coming out, Ernest Hemingway could announce it on his blog, and vice versa, because readers of one also tend to be readers of the other.
As an extension of this, writers could form publishing “co-ops” – you know, like those little non-profit stores that pop up in smaller communities and in the farming industry. Rex Pickett looks like he might be going in that direction – his own self-publishing imprint Loose Gravel Press is now advertising that it is accepting manuscripts (and they warn of a 10-14 day turnaround time for submissions — wow, most publishers you’re talking months before you get a reply, if at all…).
Back to Godin – he had another famous idea in which you get 10 people to truly love what you’re doing (or writing…) and they’ll get 10 others each to read you. That would then snowball into a pretty sizable readership. Why not extend that idea to writers banding together? Suddenly you’re getting the equivalent of 20 readers instead of 10, or 30, or 40. It’s building on Godin’s Tribes idea, except now your joining several like-minded tribes together to form one bigger one.
In other news, the writing wasn’t so hot today. I had some great ideas, but got bogged down. Ugh. Oh well, those days are bound to come.
The weather, however, was hot. Fog in the morning, rain in the afternoon. And it’s December 30. What’s going on? (Not complaining mind you — compared to our usual -35, I’ll take it any day…)
Novel Writing Totals
Hours Today: 1
Words Today: 864
Hours Total: 76.5
Words Total: 104,053