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Strangers and Friends – Two Kinds of Publishing

25 July 2011

Seth Godin looks at two ways of selling books. Check back here at about 2:00 PM today, Chicago time, and you’ll learn Seth is very good at selling books.


The bookstore and the publisher keep more than 85% of what a reader pays for a book.

And that money is well-earned. Why? Because book publishing is the act of taking a financial risk to bring an idea to an unknown reader.

The key word is unknown. Before the book is purchased, neither the bookstore nor the publisher knows the identity of the reader.

This is fundamentally different than a magazine or a newspaper (they have subscribers).

. . . .

Authors, then, have a choice. They can give up more and more freedom and cash to publishers in exchange for the publishers taking the risk of finding, alerting and selling to strangers, or they can start to organize a tribe, to build permission, to engage with readers before the book exists and to sell those friends on their work.

Selling to friends (people who know you, trust you, are aware of what you can offer) is orders of magnitude more efficient than seeking out strangers. Sure, it’s time consuming and frightening to earn those friendships, but they are the transformative element of the new publishing.

Once you have a base of friends, then, publishing is reduced to a much simpler set of tasks–the hard work of editing, designing, printing and fulfilling. Hard, but not financially difficult.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project

Self-Publishing, Seth Godin