Seth Godin turns his back on traditional book publishing—but will that work for anyone? Actually, it just might.
August 21, 2010 | 8:34 pm
Galleycat has a tidbit from a forthcoming Mediabistro feature on marketing guru Seth Godin: Godin has pledged never again to publish books via traditional publishers. Godin said, in part:
I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread
Godin is no stranger to direct-to-consumer e-publishing. In 2001, he released his book Unleashing the Ideavirus simultaneously with its print publication as a free PDF and Peanut Reader (eReader) e-book. Apt, since the book was all about the idea of harnessing the power of Internet memes in marketing. (It’s still available as a PDF, but alas, the book vanished from my shelf after Peanut Press stopped distributing it for Godin. Even Godin said he didn’t know what had happened to it when I emailed him. I wish I’d thought to archive a copy of it.)
More recently, Godin has said that what the e-book biz really needs is a $49 “paperback” Kindle. He may be right—and sooner or later, the prices will fall to that level regardless. Certainly, a $49 Kindle would provide a way for a lot more people to read the e-books Godin is going to publish in the future.
Gamblers and Cobblers
It’s worth noting that Seth Godin will probably do all right with his self-e-publishing because he’s already built his reputation the old-fashioned way. (Just as Stephen King was able to milk over four hundred grand out of a “failure” that he never finished, due to being Stephen King.) Newer authors, or authors without as much of a reputation, will have a lot tougher time of it.
On the other hand, a number of self-publishing authors, such as Henry Melton, are making, if not a fortune, at least something close to a living wage out of their work. Mike Masnick over at Techdirt wrote a piece on this recently—using musicians as the example rather than authors, but the example applies equally in both areas.
[Laure Parsons at QuestionCopyright] calls the old model — the one we described as the lottery ticket — as the "gambler model," where you’re basically rolling the dice on whether or not your career will be a success or will plummet. And notes that the "cobbler model" [in which artists “cobble together successful careers”] may not be as sexy, but you have a higher likelihood of success. The risk is lower, and the payoff is likely lower, but you can actually build a predictable career around it — and for many content creators, that’s certainly good enough.
As Masnick then points out, there is room for both gamblers and cobblers in the current state of things—which is better than the old system, in which everyone had to be a gambler because there simply weren’t support mechanisms in place for people who wanted to go it alone.
So best of luck to Godin, who may have already proven that you don’t need a traditional publisher to spread an “ideavirus”.