This is a transcript of a Q&A session with Seth Godin. Seth is probably the only business author/blogger that I read every day without fail. Enjoy.
Hi everybody, this is Michael Port. Welcome to our Q & A with Seth. I’m going to give you a brief introduction on Seth. Of course most of you know him but, for the few of you that don’t know what he’s up to these days, I’m going to just give you a little introduction.
So, Seth has written 13 books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. Everyone has been a best seller. He writes about the Post Industrial Revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.
American Way magazine calls him “America’s Greatest Marketer” and his blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. His latest book, which I love, is called PokeThe Box and it’s a call to action about the initiative you’re taking in your job or in your life. And Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through the Domino Project which we will talk about today.
And, as an entrepreneur, he has founded dozens of companies, most of which have failed. Yoyodyne, his first internet company, was funded by Flatiron and Softbank and acquired by Yahoo! in 1999.
It pioneered the use of ethical direct mail online, something Seth calls permission marketing. And he was the VP of Direct Marketing at Yahoo! for one year.
But for me personally, he is a shining beacon in a sea of charlatans and false idols. Welcome Seth.
Wow. You should follow me around and you could do that introduction every day.
I do pretty much. You just don’t know I’m there.
So, what I’ve done (I received over 300 questions) is I’ve chosen questions that represent a number of different questions. So I’ll tell you who asked the question and where they are from and, hopefully the questions ask will cover the broad range of questions that came in.
So, the first question Seth is from Marjorie in Sacramento. She said we’ve all heard the traditional book publishing industry is dying if it isn’t already dead; but, most writers are not publishers and don’t want to be.
What will the new publishing model look like? Will every writer be forced to become her own publisher? So, for those of us interested in becoming a publisher for the new age, where should we look for ideas and inspiration in addition to your work, of course, she says?
Well, I want to start by pointing out the tyranny of being picked. That once you buy into this model that says you need to be picked to succeed; picked by Oprah or picked by Random House or picked by someone to get into Harvard. The good news is that if you do get picked, it looks like clear sailing. The bad news is that almost no one gets picked and I think we change our work to get picked, I think we change our lives to get picked, and it’s probably a lousy deal.
We are giving up something which is the magic of being J.D. Salinger and living in your little cabin in New Hampshire and someone else doing all that stuff you don’t want to do. But, we are trading it for the incredible open road and freedom of picking yourself, and I believe the future, as we are seeing in the music industry already, is in people who believe enough in their work to pick themselves.
So I know you don’t want to be a publisher but I want to beg you to reconsider. And, if you care enough about your work, you will care enough to give it away. You will care enough to help it spread and then you will care enough to figure out how to make a living doing that.
Now I do believe that market niche is developing for a new kind of publisher, someone who will take someone and help their work spread. I’m trying to do that with the Domino Project but, I don’t believe that we are doing anything magical and I believe that in many cases people are better off picking themselves.
So, let me ask you a follow up question which will cover a number of different questions. What is the general process that you suggest people go through if they want to ship this new model of publishing?
Well, the old model of publishing is built around scarcity and risk. That’s what traditional book publishers are; they are venture capitalists for ideas. They put up cash. They cause the thing to be created.
They take a risk printing a whole bunch that can be returned and if it works they get to keep most of the money. It’s not about being able to print. Anyone can print. It’s about being able to take that kind of risk.
The new model, the model for example the Kindle is, you don’t have to print anything. You don’t have to take any risk whatsoever that is financial. You just have to take intellectual risk. So what is scarce? What is scarce is permission; the privilege to talk to people who want to hear from you.
If you have a thousand people who are lining up to but your next book, you can make a little bit of a living if you can write enough books. If you have a hundred thousand people like Amanda Hocking does, you can make millions of dollars in one year writing on the Kindle.
So her asset is people who want to know where her next book is and who are willing to pay for it when it’s ready.