Why Printers and Publishers Should be Keeping a Close Eye on Seth Godin’s Latest Book Project
Who is Seth Godin?
Seth Godin is an author, entrepreneur and marketer – he’s written over a dozen books, many on marketing in the digital age (“Tribes”, “Purple Cow” and “All Marketers are Liars” are among the best known). If you have been working online for any length of time, you’ll have come across Seth’s blog, watched one of his talks or read one or more of his books.
Seth Godin has been blogging for over a decade and if you want to know about creating a digital presence, you could do a lot worse than study his personal online footprint.
Whether or not you buy into Seth’s marketing philosophies, having over a dozen books published and building a substantial personal brand means that he’s done a pretty good job of marketing himself at least. But these aren’t the only reasons printers and publishers should take note of Seth Godin’s latest book project.
Seth Godin has a background in publishing – one of his early ventures was as a book packager – so he knows the business from the perspective of publisher and printer as well as a writer.
He is also a digital native and savvy marketer. He’s been around the block and has experimented with different ways of getting his work out to his audience. As well as the traditional publishing route, Seth has self-published, used Kickstarter to fund a book project, produced ebooks and partnered with Amazon in the Domino Project which aimed to publish content in all formats – ebook, audio, paperback, hardback and collectible.
So you can see that Seth both understands the business of writing and publishing and has been pushing the boundaries of traditional publishing models and exploring new ways of getting his work out in this digital age.
Seth Godin’s New Book Project
So let’s have a quick look at Seth Godin’s latest book project – “What to do when it’s your turn“.
Rather than take the traditional route of getting a publisher to print your book then distribute and market it, Seth is doing the marketing up front to pre-sell the initial print run. He then goes to the printer and orders the print run to fulfill the orders he has already taken the cash for.
Here is a summary of the new model that Seth is calling Horizontal Publishing
1) You do all the marketing up front to pre-sell the entire first print run.
2) You know exactly how many copies to print – there won’t be any remaindered copies on the discount table damaging your brand.
3) You set a price for the product based on the perceived value of the content, not the perceived value of the format. How do you arrive at a price point? Split testing!
4) Before the first copy is printed, you already have the cash in the bank to pay the printer (more good news for printers!).
5) Your fans become distributors. The value to them is either the kudos of gifting or the more prosaic value proposition of profiting from selling an in demand and scarce title.
Why Printers and Publishers Should be Taking Note
Forgetting for a moment the content of Seth’s latest opus, here are three lessons printers and publishers can learn from the process.
The first thing – and one of the most important – is that this is a real book. Seth has pretty big online audience and could easily sell an ebook to hundreds of thousands of loyal fans, make a bundle and not have the hassle of printing and distributing a physical product.
Bear this in mind when people talk about all content going digital – it’s not. One reason is simply this – writers want to be read.
If you own a kindle, you probably have hundreds or even thousands of titles on a device the size of a paperback. How many have you actually read? How many are you in the middle of reading right now – five, six titles? How many ebooks have you abandoned after a few pages to move on to something more interesting? If you were to read a book a week for the rest of your life, would you have time to get through your unread Kindle collection?
Many of us have tablets and kindles with more content on them than could be consumed in several lifetimes and hard drives packed with pdfs that we know we’ll never get round to reading.
A physical book is still a special product – one that has to be sought out and purchased. Print is a format that can engage all our senses and be enjoyed in any number of locations. Print gives an importance to words that you just don’t get with a blog post or an ebook. The fact that a digital native like Seth Godin is publishing in print should give printers confidence for the future. Note that there is no plan to even offer a Kindle edition of this latest title – even though this would be relatively straightforward. The book is designed to be in print and in colour.
The second lesson is about digital print technology. Modern digital presses with lower setup costs allow for shorter print runs that just wouldn’t have been viable a few years ago. Modern print technology also means colour is more accessible. Godin describes his latest work as being more like a high quality magazine than a traditional book. Expect more of this because new print technology means we can. If you haven’t been investing in new print technology, you’d better get moving – if it’s not already too late.
The third lesson from this project is about marketing. Seth is using his online presence to pre-sell the initial print run to his existing audience (Seth would call this his ‘tribe’). Have a look at the landing page for the new book project. This is a marketing lesson in itself, but for now simply note how the book is priced and the multiple copy options.
With traditional book publishing, there is a price drive to the bottom as retailers – both online and off – desperately try to shift stock as fast as they can. Apart from the occasional unexpected hot seller, a new book barely gets a couple of weeks on the shelf before it appears with a ‘half-price’ sticker in bookshop windows and a ‘Save 50%’ by the Amazon listing.
Seth is charging $29.50 plus shipping for a single copy – and that is a special offer price to those invited to the launch. You are also encouraged to purchase multiple copies – 3, 8 and 99 – with the unit cost coming down to $14 plus shipping.
Not only is Seth getting a higher price than would you would expect for a print volume, he’s expecting you to buy multiple copies and give them away or sell them on. A portion of Seth’s ‘tribe’ will become distributors for free!
If this works – and at the time of writing Seth Godin is claiming 28,000 orders – there is no doubt that other writers and marketers will be looking to follow suit.
Good News for Printers – Food for Thought for Publishers
If you are a printer or marketer, there is a lot of good news in this model. If you are a traditional publisher, agent or anyone else involved in the chain between writer and consumer, best get your thinking cap on now!
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the progress of this project – and so should you.
What Do You Think?
If you are a printer or a publisher – let us know what you think of the ‘Horizontal Publishing’ model. Is this the future of publishing or just a marketing gimmick from another online guru?
You can find a number of Seth Godin’s books available on Amazon
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