Seth Godin

Most of all, money is a story

27 February 2014

From Seth Godin’s Blog:

Money’s pretty new. Before that, we traded. My corn for your milk. The trade enriches both of us, and it’s simple.

Money, of course, makes a whole bunch of other transactions possible. Maybe I don’t need your milk, but I can take your money and use it to buy something I do need, from someone else. Very efficient, but also very abstract.

. . . .

Most of the time, when we’re buying non-commodity items, we’re asking ourselves questions like:

  • How much pain am I in right now?
  • Do I deserve this?
  • What will happen to the price in an hour or a week? If it changes, will I feel smart or dumb?
  • What will my neighbors think?
  • Does it feel fair?
  • and, What sort of risks (positive and negative) are involved? (This is why eBay auctions don’t work for the masses).

Pricing based on cost, then, makes no sense whatsoever. Cost isn’t abstract, but value is.

Link to the rest at Seth Godin’s Blog

Indies talk a lot about ebook pricing. Big Publishing complains that Amazon and indie authors have devalued books. PG agrees with Seth that, at bottom, value is abstract.

The Mirror and the Periscope

14 February 2013

From Seth Godin:

A long time ago, real estate developers figured out that one way to save a lot of money was to put a mirror in the lobby next to the elevator banks. People would happily look at themselves in the mirror while patiently waiting for the elevator… meaning that the developers could get by with one fewer (expensive) elevator.

If we want to, we can turn social media (and our day) into a giant mirror. “I wonder what they think of me?”

. . . .

On the other hand, social networks now give us a better opportunity than ever to find out how other people are doing. “I wonder if Trish is happy?” “I hope that those protesters have enough blankets.” “Are our children learning?”

Link to the rest at Seth’s Blog

Does Kickstarter work as a platform for books?

1 January 2013

From Seth Godin:

THE THEORY: The hardest part of book publishing is getting the first 10,000 copies of a book read. After that, the book either resonates or it doesn’t. It’s talked about, handed from person to person, used as an example in a book group–or it’s not. Sure, you can add more hype, but at that point, you’re pushing water uphill. I’ve always focused on how my books do their second month on sale, not the first month. The first month is a testament to the author’s ability to self promote, which is far less interesting.

THE TACTIC: Kickstarter seems custom made to solve the 10,000 copy problem. The author with a tribe can reach out to her readers, activate them and make an offer: if enough of you agree to buy this book today, I’ll write it and send it to you just before a publisher puts it on sale…

. . . .

IN PRACTICE: The Kickstarter platform is a bit of a nightmare for the independent author. I’m not sure I could find the intestinal fortitude to use it again. There are significant structural flaws in the way information is collected and used that virtually guarantee that 5% of the readers who use it will end up disappointed or need a lot of handholding. What should be consistent and coordinated ends up failing at both. And the cost of fulfillment and international shipping is high enough that it’s likely no money will be made (which is fine if the other elements fall into place).

The good news is that the enthusiasm and support that early adopters bring to the table is extraordinary. This is an untapped human need, and people (some people, anyway) really enjoy the role of patron and early supporter.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project

Six audiences

15 September 2012

This blog post from Seth Godin has implications for the business of being an indie author:

You get what you focus on. Focus on nothing, and you won’t get much.

. . . .

You can choose to focus your best work on attracting new customers. This evangelical growth model is going to change your pricing and your product development efforts too.

. . . .

Contrast this with the organization that puts a priority on delighting existing customers.

. . . .

Every organization chooses its own audience, and that choice is based on the architecture of the industry, the mindset of the boss and the history of how you got here. But don’t doubt that it changes everything you do.

Link to the rest at Seth Godin

Analogies, metaphors and your problem

8 August 2012
Comments Off on Analogies, metaphors and your problem

From Seth Godin:

Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here.

Your problem, whatever it might be, probably has a solution somewhere in the world.

. . . .

“Oh, that’s a fine example of how a company in the hockey stick industry grew, but we make lacrosse sticks. Do you have any case studies of how a lacrosse stick company has succeeded?”

If you’re waiting for a proven case study, directly on point, you’re going to wait too long.

Link to the rest at Seth Godin

And then what happens?

13 July 2012

Excerpts from two different posts from Seth Godin:

What happens when we reach the halfway point, when most of the great books have already been published?  Just as most of the great TV shows have probably already been made, and most of the great classical music recordings have already been recorded. Golden ages don’t last forever, and it’s entirely possible that we’ve reached that moment in the printed book world.

When that happens, the backlist becomes far more important than it already is. Instead of always being focused on ‘what’s new’, we may end up thinking about, ‘what haven’t I read yet?’

. . . .

Yesterday’s post about the halfway mark got a few responses from people who thought I was selling books short. “There has not ever been, nor will there ever be, a “halfway point” for cultural achievements,” one wrote.

Let me try again, with more detail.

We can probably all agree that more than half of the culturally important cookbooks printed on paper have already been printed. From the Joy of Cooking to Julia Child to The Thrill of the Grill, there are some essential cookbooks that have laid a foundation for most that followed. Now that the original cookbook market has been decimated by TV, by free recipes online and by the growth of the ios app, it’s hard for me to imagine the pile of cookbook titles that millions read and trust to dramatically increase in size.

Or, if you grew up with science fiction, we ought to be able to agree that Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Atwood, Lem, Zelazny, LeGuin, Doctorow and (early) Stephenson are quite a touchstone, and if we look at the future of all books on paper, it’s hard to imagine a new generation of science fiction books being as widely embraced as they were twenty or forty years ago.

I’m not arguing that Scalzi and Doctorow and others won’t write great books going forward. I’m pointing out that most of those books are going to be read on ereaders, and thanks to the shifting economics, few of them will reach as widespread an audience.

. . . .

Forty years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a typical bestseller to stay on the bestseller list for months or even years. Now, the typical book lasts for two weeks. More titles, more churn means less cultural achievement.

Consider what blogs did to the magazine article. Not long ago, a Time cover story was read by everyone you knew. Today, that attention has been replaced by 500 different blogs, and no one reads all of them.

. . . .

I’m bullish on ideas, on innovation and on individuals who have something to say, saying it. But it’s clear to me and to many in the industry that we’re well past the halfway mark (given that we started 400 years ago) in terms of creating the essential library of touchstone cultural achievements that every single smart person has either read or is aware of.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project here and here

Seth’s point is similar to those political commentators who observe that thirty years ago, the mass audience in America got its political news from three major television networks and/or a handful of major newspapers and magazines. Today, there are cable news shows and a zillion websites and blogs providing political information and the old media has lost substantial viewership/readership. In the American presidential race, new web videos and daily Twitter wars between the two campaigns make news.

PG disagrees that mass cultural phenomena – items that every single smart person has read or is aware of – have gone away or will go away. Is there any smart person who isn’t aware of Fifty Shades of Grey or Lady Gaga in the same way that he/she would have been aware of The Bourne Identity or Michael Jackson thirty years ago?

The fact that there are now a zillion sources of information doesn’t mean that memes don’t spread through that network just as effectively as they spread through the much smaller and simpler networks in days past.

For one thing, today’s network is much more agile than the older networks. Think about how much faster information can spread through Twitter than it did via the traditional broadcast networks of the past. You can get all latest news through  tweets on your smartphone instead of waiting until 6:00 PM when you sit down in front of a television.

The kinds of cultural monuments of former times that Seth speaks of all had to make their way through gatekeepers. It’s PG’s opinion that gatekeepers prevented some works – books, music, video – to which the mass market would respond and which had the potential to become cultural landmarks from ever reaching the mass market. For every great book that wasn’t accepted until the 25th submission, there may well be another great book whose author who gave up after the 24th rejection.

For books at least, authors in most parts of the world can effectively publish to the mass market without pleasing a gatekeeper. For PG, that’s the optimal structure for discovering future cultural landmarks.

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.

Seven marketing sins

13 June 2012

From marketing guru and bestselling author Seth Godin:

Impatient… great marketing takes time. Doing it wrong (and rushed) ten times costs much more and takes longer than doing it slowly, but right, over the same period of time.

Selfish… we have a choice, and if we sense that this is all about you, not us, our choice will be to go somewhere else.

. . . .

Jealous… is someone doing better than you? Of course they are. There’s always someone doing better than you. But if you let your jealousy change your products or your attitude or your story, we’re going to leave.

. . . .

Humility, empathy, generosity, patience and kindness, combined with the arrogance of the brilliant inventor, are a potent alternative.

Link to the rest at Seth’s Blog

If you can get past the annoying MSNBC interviewer, Seth has some good things to say in the following interview:

The real threat to (big time) book publishing

12 May 2012

From Seth Godin:

The people who run the big publishing houses feel threatened by Amazon and by ebooks and by pricing and by the death of chain bookstores, not to mention the Justice Department.

All of these are contributors to the future, but they cloud the core issue.

The narrative of their fear is that book publishing will be just like it is now, but with lower prices and just one or two stores.

. . . .

In the book case, the disruptive innovation isn’t a huge retailer or even lower prices, the disruptive innovation is the long tail of boundless inventory. Scarcity of selection combined with scarcity due to the marginal cost of each unit have disappeared.

Every single day, hundreds of millions of people read something that the big book publishers and the big magazine publishers didn’t publish. This is astonishing–just 30 years ago, if you read something that wasn’t a newspaper, it was probably published by someone like Time Inc or Simon & Schuster. It was a scarce object, one that you paid for and probably went to a special place to get.

. . . .

Today, of course, that special place is your laptop or your tablet. And you’re reading blogs (like this one) or tweets or updates or rants or pdfs or ebooks that were never vetted or curated or approved or processed by one of these legacy intermediaries.

The big guys turn up their noses at this content. They don’t give a Pulitzer for independent bloggers. The Times bestseller list tries hard not to count self-published ebooks. The discussions at industry cocktail parties have almost nothing to do with what masses of people (rebar!) are reading all day.

And now the market is moving up a notch, from blogs to ebooks. Suddenly, self-published ebooks are taking more and more time off the table, more and more money from the pockets of readers. And none of that is vetted or curated or approved or processed by one of these legacy intermediaries.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project

Piracy? You wish.

27 April 2012

From Seth Godin:

Publishers are spending a lot of time debating DRM on ebooks. Many of the powers that be are worried about piracy, they say, and they are resolute in making sure that there are locks on the books they publish.

. . . .

For me, though, the interesting notion is of book piracy itself.

How many more people would prefer a hard drive full of 10,000 songs to one with 10,000 books on it? We’re hungry for one and sort of unaware altogether of the possibility of the other. What would you even do with 10,000 books?

Software is pirated because in just a few minutes, the user saves a hundred or a thousand dollars, and feels okay about it because software seems unreasonably expensive to some.

. . . .

Books are free at the library but there’s no line out the door. Books are free to read in comfortable couches at Barnes & Noble but there aren’t teeming crowds sitting around reading all day.

Books take a long time to read, require a significant commitment, and they’re relatively cheap. And most people don’t read for fun. Most of the inputs necessary for a vibrant piracy community are missing.

As Tim O’Reilly famously said, books don’t have a piracy problem. They have an obscurity problem.

. . . .

[I]n the long tail world, overcoming obscurity is the single biggest hurdle. If only piracy was a problem…

Link to the rest at The Domino Project

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