Publishing Lessons From Seth Godin

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Publishing Lessons From Seth Godin by Tim Sanders

January 16, 2013

Author, entrepreneur and ruckus rowser Seth Godin made a special appearance via Skype at this week's Author Pow Wow.  He answered questions for 45 minutes, dishing great advice for authors and publishers.  Here are some of the highlights:

1.  If The Milk Is Free, Why Would They Buy the Cow? - He pointed out that a very small percentage of his blog readers bought his book(s).  Why?  They get enough of his perspective and advice from his daily postings.  He pointed out that [business/advice] authors need to create "an uncomfortable moment that can only be solved by buying the book."  This flies in the face of recent thinking that you leak/spread big chunks of your book to generate interest.  The way to do this (better) is to talk a great deal about the problem, the way the book will approach it and what will happen if you ignore its content. (See his clarification below in comments.  If you'd rather sell books than serve people with ideas, this is relevant)

2. The Showroom Effect Is Real - When your physical book is on tables or shelves at a real store, people will experience it much like a car in a showroom.  It will lead to more sales through sampling, holding and absorbing the book's packaging (which includes blurbs).  He believes that only gift specialty book shops will provide this in the future, which means that the future of the book in his view is limited.  He thinks blogs will replace them in this genre.

3. Business Books That Sell One-At-A-Time Will Fail - This is a remarkable observation on his part.  The most successful books in this genre, he points out, sell 5 or 10 or 100 at a time.  The takeaway is to make sure your book has a message that readers want to share, and likely have already believed in.  Another way to write a book that's bought by the carton is to tackle conventional wisdom (like Dan Pink did with Drive or like Seth Godin did with Permission Marketing).  If you write a book that leads to a personal experience, your sales will dry up the minute you take your foot off the markeitng gas.

4. Advertising Only Works If the Mention of the Author's Name Triggers Sampling of the Book - He doesn't think that awareness of a title, blurbs or clever copy of the book's promise have any ROI.  If the author is famous, that's a different story, he points out.  At that point, the ads serve to alert to built in customer base that their new "fix" is ready.

5. You Need To Start Your Marketing Long Before the Release Date - He believes that one year out is the minimum window for an author to buid a tribe around his/her book.  They should begin to talk about it and spread ideas (see point #1) as it's being shopped, written and edited.  Here's a video clip I shot on this subject when I ran into him at the TED Conference in 2010:

6.  For Fiction Authors, Give Your Manuscript Away To See If It Is Spreadable - This is a little different than his advice early, but interesting nonetheless.  He counsels fiction writiers to send their Word document manuscript to 50 friends.  If her friends don't spread it to 25 of their friends, which then is spread from there, your book probably doesn't work.  If a story doesn't sail on its own, he says, you probably need to write a new book.

When asked to give his final advice, he quotes two of his mainstay mantras from his recent books:  Go out and create a ruckus.  We need you.

For more Seth, visit his fantastic blog.

Tim Sanders

About Tim Sanders

Tim is a bestselling author and former Yahoo! executive with a mission to disrupt the traditional publishing and self-publishing industries and share knowledge with authors looking to publish and market high-quality books.

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