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Seth Godin’s Latest Book Release Plan

18 June 2012

From internet and tech marketing guru Seth Godin:

My new book launches today–but you won’t be able to read it until January.

Let me explain:

Books take a long time to invent, produce, ship and go on sale. Almost all of that work happens on faith, and it’s then followed by a frenzy of promotion and anxiety, as the publisher and author try to find out if there’s actually desire for the book. Activating the tribe at the end of the process is nerve-wracking and inefficient. For the reader, it’s annoying to hear about a book 32 times from a panicked author who has her back against the wall, and then in every media outlet you turn to.

. . . .

The problem with traditional publishing is that you do all the work and take all the risk before you find out if the audience is ready and willing to buy the book. And you have only a few days to go from “it’s new” to “it’s over.”

I think there’s a new way to think about this, a hybrid of old and new, one that activates true fans and makes it easy to spread the idea through the tribe and beyond.

It starts with a Kickstarter* page. A lot of the details of what I’m describing are on that page, so feel free to check it out when we’re done here.

. . . .

My idea: Kickstart + bookstore + ebooks.

The publisher (my key to the bookstore) is only willing to go ahead with the rest of the plan if my Kickstarter works. No Kickstarter, no distribution, the stakes are high.

. . . .

If the Kickstarter works, then all the funders will get to read the book before anyone else, plus there are bonuses and previews and special editions. A few weeks after the early funders (that would be you) get to read it, the book will be available to book buyers for purchase the traditional way (wherever fine books are sold in the US, including digital readers). Of course, the Kickstarter funders get a better price, get it first and get unique bonuses, plus the pleasure of being in early–and knowing that they made it happen.

. . . .

By using Kickstarter early in the process, we eliminate book publisher/bookseller skepticism and create the excitement they need to actually stock and promote the book. Those books you see stacked up by the front window at the bookstore? That’s not an accident. That’s a promotion planned months in advance, based almost entirely on how optimistic the publisher is about a book’s prospects.

So that’s the idea–a way that any author with a following can divide the publishing process into three pieces–get the true fans on board early, give them something to talk about just before the book is in stores, and then use online and offline bookstores to do what they do best and distribute far and wide. It moves the power in the process to where it belongs–to motivated readers and their authors.


Link to the rest at Seth’s Blog and here’s a link to the Kickstarter page with lots of additional information and some interesting bonuses tied to various pledge levels.

One of the interesting points for PG is that much of the reason for Seth’s latest project seems to be to get a physical book into bookstores, not just sell it online.

Another interesting thing is that Seth hasn’t announced who the publisher will be. Regular visitors to The Passive Voice will recall prior posts about The Domino Project, Seth’s new publishing model “powered by Amazon.”

Here’s an explanation of The Domino Project from the project’s FAQ:

To launch the Domino Project, a bestselling author is walking away from traditional book publishing and using the tools of new media to bring his (and his colleagues’) ideas to the world in a new way. Amazon is working with me to create The Domino Project, a new kind of book publishing venture, one that will redefine both what it means to be a publisher and what we think of as a book.

Last November, The Domino Project ended after publishing its twelfth book.

One of Seth’s perennial messages is that you should never stop innovating the way you do business and market.

During a period of disruptive change, nothing is locked in stone. And publishing, both indie and traditional, is definitely going through a period of disruptive change.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Seth Godin

14 Comments to “Seth Godin’s Latest Book Release Plan”

  1. This is essentially what I’m currently doing with my novel “To Breathe Free” on Kickstarter. I’m doing it on a much smaller scale but it’s really a great way to turn readers into advocates for your work.


  2. This is interesting. I appreciate the creativity, but I’m not sure ……

    I think this works well if the author has a fan base. Basically, it shows that their fans will buy the new book and support it. But I don’t know if it shows how the book will do in terms of content.

    Since books tend to sell by word of mouth because people like the book itself, I’m not sure a Kickstarter campaign will reflect that, although it could be great marketing.

    What might be even better is to pair a Kickstarter campaign with an e-book release. For established authors, I could see this as a really effective marketing punch. For newbies, it could still get the word out to some folks……

    • It certainly helps to have a bit of a platform before you launch a Kickstarter. Seth Godin actually mentions that here: http://www.thedominoproject.com/2012/06/kickstarter-strangers-and-friends.html


      • Remember when Kickstarter was used by artists to create projects that might not have gotten off the ground (or, at least, were seriously delayed) due to their financial circumstances? Musicians were collecting money to rent a recording studio for their first CD, or an actress having her one woman show accepted to fringe festivals, but couldn’t afford plane tickets to get her there. Now it’s used by an international bestselling author (translated into 33 languages) so people can place pre-orders on his next book that he’s already found a publisher for. Except in this case, it’s not a pre-order, it’s an “an experiment in publishing.” (For $22 you can get a hard copy delivered to your door! Woah! Don’t upset the paradigm too much, you experimental rebel! For $4 to $21, you won’t even receive an ebook, but a digital preview, which is a link to an online book that will only be up for four days. Hmmm, paying money for a book that expires that I can’t read on my ereader. Pretty tempting, but ole Warren’s gonna pass on that.)

        His average donation is over 70 bucks per person. This isn’t about releasing his next book, but people buying the packages he’s putting together. So far, he’s up over 100k (of his $40k goal), and if he sells every package, I estimate that it would be over 400k. Good work if you can get it.

      • “The best way for an author to use the internet is to slowly build a following. Difficult, time-consuming and effective.” – that is what he says on that blog post you link to… I think he is right and the best way to do that is have a blog you regularly update that has an email list on it that people subscribe to so you can follow up with them. FAcebook, twitter not as good as your own platform.

        • That’s a very good point. You can often engage with people on a deeper level with your own site. But I must say, from my experiences, that Facebook allows you to engage with people quite well too, much better than Twitter.


  3. What interests me here is not the specifics of this (using Kickstarter, or even raising money, or the nature of his publishing deal) but rather the general principle of getting readers involved early.

    Sure established authors can use this kind of thing to raise funds. Kickstarter, or authors for a long time have been raising money by publishing a rough draft as they write it — a chapter at a time — for donations.

    But I’m intrigued by the idea of getting the audience involved earlier, just to entertain them. That is, not for money. Some of us follow the blogs of writers who blog about the process and the story. I’ve become intrigued in books which I’ve first read in critique groups.

    Right now, I’m doing a serial on my blog for the summer, just for fun. It’s the “prose storyboard” for an expanded book version I hope to publish this fall. I’m curious as to whether serializing it first will get readers more interested and involved or not.

    Also, someone here (I think) was doing a serial which was actually interactive with the readers — that is, she is interacting with the readers and letting them affect the story.

    I do know traditional writers who are also engaging in feedback loops with readers — actively letting them influence the direction a series takes.

    Those last two, of course, are people who already have an audience… which brings me to one more thought:

    Whenever somebody says “that’s fine for so-and-so. They already HAVE an audience!” I have to say, “well, yeah. So?”

    It’s like someone saying about a grocery store: “Well it’s fine for them to have a sale on celery, they already have a vegetable department!”

    Audience is something we build. Slowly. Over time. And yea, there are some things we can’t do until you’ve actually built that body of work and slow audience.

  4. A few months ago when I first heard about Kickstarter (actually it was here on Passive Voice) I applied to Kickstarter for the new novel I’m writing, “The Pregnant Pope” and got approved to raise money for publishing it. I even made the video, and was ready to go. But something bothered me in spite of the fact that Kickstarter seemed to be an easy way to advertise for my book. And, if complete strangers will give me money for my future book. But what if no one comes to the party, no donors?
    I searched other writers seeking the same outcome, successfully, and I found out that there were very few donors, although some donated large amounts and the writer met the minimum amount sought. Kickstarter also asked me for all my friends and acquaintances’s e-mail addresses, like Facebook does. So is Kickstarter a method through which you get sponsored by your friends and acquaintances, or by patrons of the arts?
    It may not matter, as long as the name of “The Pregnant Pope” is blasted all over the Internet. Maybe I should release the video after all. If I only remember where I filed that video.

    • They don’t need to be spammy for writers like Godin. And frankly, IMHO, that’s the way it should work. It’s not free money or a short cut. It’s just a better enabling tool for people who are actually really ready to launch, and know what they’re doing.

      There are a lot of people who like to donate to Kickstarter projects – not in huge amounts, but because it’s a cool hobby. But they don’t have a budget to give to everybody, nor do they want to. They mostly go after projects with seriously cool collectable premiums (like autographed limited editions of authors they like) or seriously cool inventions or toys seeking development.

      The one thing Kickstarter is definitely NOT is free or easy money.

  5. Kickstarter: crowdsourcing patronage.

  6. This model bothers me. I am not a fan of giving publishers an excuse not to invest in their authors and make the authors find a way to fund themselves.

    I’m agreeable to helping authors fund things underneath their own rights (ie: their publisher has rights for the paperback, while they keep the rights to the hardcover and are Kickstarter-funding their hardcover expenses), but not going to fund something that seems to be part of the publisher’s responsibility.

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