Saturday, May 19, 2012

Seth Godin's advice on selling books

On May 16, I attended Seth Godin's Pick Yourself event in  Manhattan. Before I left home, I promised several writer friends that I would get Seth Godin's advice on how we could promote and sell our books. Here is a paraphrased and condensed version of his reply, as taken from my notes. (No recording or video permitted for the event.)

"People don't buy books from strangers." He repeated, "People do not buy books from strangers."

Seth had four suggestions.
  •  First, accept that this is going to take at least six months or a year. If you need to see results in two weeks, or even in two months it isn't going to happen.
  • Second, use the "First, ten" method:  "Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you... Those ten people need what you have to sell, or want it. And if they love it, you win. If they love it, they'll each find you ten more people (or a hundred or a thousand or, perhaps, just three). Repeat. If they don't love it, you need a new product. Start over."
  • Third, make a video. If you can make a 5 minute video with a high emotional impact, make one and post it on YouTube. Hope it goes viral.
  •  Fourth, look for existing platforms with high viewership (Huffpost for example) and write articles for them. Approach them with a well written pitch and chances are they will accept your article.
Questions people asked:
  • What if I don't have time to do this?
    "You find time. Maybe all you can do is spend Sundays doing this. That is what you do."
  • I don't know how to promote books, or market myself. How do I learn?
    "The only way to learn anything is by doing it. Set aside a time, and do it. Keep trying different things until you find out what works for you."
  • What if blogging doesn't work for me? 
    "Different things work for different people. Blogs are not right for everyone. Giving talks to groups is not right for everyone. Keep trying different things until you find out what works for you."
  • What if I fail?
    "I can't guarantee this will work for you. No one can give you that guarantee. (This is important) What people are really asking me is 'can you promise me this will work?'  The answer is no. I can't. Failure is hard, it is scary and it is OK. Failure is part of the process. Failure means you are learning. We have to change our whole view of failure."
  • I just want to write, I don't want to build a platform.
    "If you want people to see your work, you have to build a platform. In the Internet age, obscurity is the enemy."
  • You often advise giving things away, like free eBooks. How can I make a living if I give my books away for free?
    "I've never heard anyone say "Too many people are reading my free books and I'm broke!" Never!  If a million people are reading your free ebook, a few of them are going to find you indispensable. You will not have a problem earning money."
Godin's parting words:
"Keep working Cut costs.
"Be as generous as you can.
"Everything will be OK."


kkcoolj said...

Tony, nice post capturing a bunch of stuff Seth spoke about regarding publishing. I almost forgot he addressed some of it that day!

One assumption about the free ebook thing is that I believe most would-be authors believe Seth's advice is to give *everything* you write away, completely free. And the other is that you are only going to publish one thing, period.

The free, "first, ten" strategy as you captured it, isn't about putting all your eggs in one basket and just hoping money comes in. I believe it is about having a publishing *stream* (whether that is blog posts, videos, speaking engagements, multiple books of different lengths & formats) where you give away rock solid content that your core audience wants and needs. Being able to give them radically valuable content free so that they actually share it since it is so foundational and impactful.

That's the strategy to build an audience, a following....a tribe. And that is at which point where you can start to think about how to monetize your content with the audience in a mutually satisfying relationship. (that gets at the "it takes more than 2 weeks" notion too).

Does that make sense?


Tony said...

It makes excellent sense. I'm on the road right now, want to think more and comment more later... A couple quick thoughts...

I spend a lot of time talking to writers about this, and I think you really "get" it. The tribe, the stream of 'content', the rock-solid value. Valuable concepts...

More later when I get home...