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Blog > Understanding Publishing – Posted on February 25, 2015

5 Digital Publishing Questions for Seth Godin

Today we interview Seth Godin, American author, entrepreneur, marketer and public speaker. The amazing thing about Seth is that he uses all these skills for his publishing efforts. And some of his ideas for (digital) publishing are so great that we were bound to interview him. Let’s talk about the connection economy.

Hi Seth! I was listening to your Ted Talk “This is broken” from 2006. What’s really broken in the publishing industry today? Discoverability? DRMs? Royalty-share model? Big 5 publishers?

The problem is buried in plain sight, but once you see it, it becomes obvious: the entire model of book publishing (advances, returns, publicity, curation, DRM, all of it) is based on the idea that the customer is the bookstore.

The bookstore with limited shelf space, the one that demands returns, the one that needs long lead times.

Simple proof: every big publisher spends 20 times as much money and manpower on bookstores than they do dealing with readers.

When bookstores go away, then what? Hint: Amazon is not the new customer.

Apart from Reedsy, what other innovations in the publishing space do you find interesting?

I think the only innovation that’s worth paying attention to is the redefinition of what it even means to be a book publisher. What’s a book? What’s publishing? Who is the customer? What’s the new asset?

In a connection economy, do publishers sell or profit from or enable connection? If we don’t, we’re done.

You said that “Publishing is the act of taking a financial risk to curate some content and bring it to a group of people who didn’t know it existed”. How do you think self-published content should be curated?

Readers of my book and my blog trust me to curate what I recommend. I’m not sure readers trust Amazon to curate the Kindle, or even Knopf to curate the books they see–because they’re just so much junk and so much noise, they don’t even know the labels, so there is no trust.

Trust, of course, is the essence of the connection economy, and it’s way more powerful and far-reaching than brand or shelf space.

So, I think the successful self-published author builds connection and thus trust by consistently delivering just a little more than what’s expected.

What do you read? Where do you find inspiration?

I read tons and tons of books about ‘business’ in quotes, but find less and less to like over the years. I read a lot of cultural history–from Guns, Germs and Steel to the brand new ‘Debt’. I love hard science fiction and read it often. I read a lot of Pema Chodron and Susan Piver and Steve Pinker and Dan Dennett and others that think about thinking. I try to find funny books, Sedaris, etc, but they’re so rare…

No literary fiction for me. Not smart enough.

You’re employing a new marketing strategy for your book, Your Turn. You send additional copies of the book to everyone who orders even a single copy because you want people to share it; can you speak about the marketing theory and your intentions behind this rather cutting-edge approach? And speaking of cutting-edge marketing, can you give some advice to newcomers to the indie marketplace who might be lacking in creativity when it comes to selling their books?

Your Turn has been a great success, both creatively and commercially… we’re closing in on 60,000 copies sold direct, in paper only. That’s pretty amazing for a self-published one-man show in 140 days or so.

People want to share books, but you need to make it easy!

As for advice, I am ready for your question: my best advice can be found here and here. Remember:

“Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.”

And regarding Kickstarter: “Kickstarter campaigns fail when the tribe of people who believe in the idea is too small”.


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