“Pizza for Everybody!”
First, I want to thank everyone who helped make last Wednesday’s launch of Do The Work such an overwhelming success.
I sent pizza to the gang at Seth Godin’s Domino Project (thanks, Pizza Grill in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY)—but I also want to give a shout-out to everyone who downloaded the free Kindle version, ordered the hardback or audio, tweeted, Facebooked, blogged, retweeted or just told a friend and passed DTW along. Thanks, you guys! You helped make this thing a hit without any traditional media, advertising, testimonials, blurbs, reviews, the whole shooting match.
Next week in this space I’ll talk with Seth one-on-one about how this new model of publishing came into being (hint: Seth invented it). But today I want to offer my own hazy understanding of how the Domino/Amazon alliance works—and what it or something like it means, or may mean, to artists and entrepreneurs like you and me.
Is Domino/Amazon the shape of things to come? Will mainstream publishing be revolutionized by this new paradigm? First, let’s consider exactly what the Domino/Amazon alliance is—and what qualities make it unique:
1) There’s no traditional publisher. Amazon/Domino commissions, edits, designs and prints the books themselves. There’s no sales force, no sell-in to bookstores (you can’t buy these books in bookstores) and none of the traditional distribution apparatus.
2) The process is fast. A project goes from the writer’s desk to on-sale in three or four months—and that interval will get shorter and shorter in the future.
3) There’s no traditional advertising. Amazon has something that old-school publishers do not: it knows who buys its books. Simon & Schuster doesn’t know that. Stephen King doesn’t know it. I don’t know it. But Amazon does.
Amazon has a database of the names and e-mail addresses of every one of its customers who has bought not only books by the actual author it wishes to promote, but all other similar books by similar authors.
And Amazon has permission from most of these customers to alert them when a new book they might like comes down the pike. That is HUGE. That’s a game-changer.
4) Domino books are short. Poke the Box is 84 pages; Do The Work is 98. (And they’re not big pages.)
Domino books are written in an ADD-friendly style. They’re punchy, concentrated. You can read ’em in the subway on an iPhone.
5) Domino books are free (at least sometimes). The e-version of Do The Work has been downloaded more than 30,000 times–all free.
Traditional publishing lives by the scarcity model; it reasons that every book or audio it gives away is a book or audio that it can’t sell and thus won’t make money on. Domino is looking down the opposite end of the telescope. It believes that every book that gets “out there,” even as a giveway, is a seed that will spread an idea and prompt a sale.
6) Domino books can be (though they aren’t always) sponsored. GE sponsored the e-version of Do The Work. That’s why it’s free. Of course we as artists can give away our stuff all by ourselves if we choose to. We don’t need permission or sponsorship.
7) Domino book are manifestoes. Moby Dick would not be a Domino book, nor would The Best and The Brightest or The South Beach Diet. The mini-book format seems to be congenial to a limited slice of the literary bandwidth, i.e. works that are motivational or “inspirational,” practical, exhortatory, kick-in-the-butt kind of stuff.
I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but these seven points comprise for me at least a fuzzy outline of this phenomenon.
What’s the future? Will the Domino model (or something like it) work for fiction? History? Biography? Serious non-fiction? Will it work for cookbooks, diet books, self-help books? Will readers buy romance titles, mysteries, thrillers in this model?
Can we as individual artists and entrepreneurs borrow elements of the Domino/Amazon formula? Can we find out who our customers and clients are? Can we get their permission to contact them when we have something new to share?
Can we give our stuff away? Will we be like rock bands, who offer their fans free downloads of new songs so that those fans will spread the word and then buy our other songs?
Can we take control of our own production process? Can we emancipate ourselves from the gatekeeper model of distribution? Can we alter our mind-set from “Pick me please!” to “I Can Do It Myself?”
I can tell you one thing from my own emotional experience this past week: it’s as much fun to give stuff away as it is to sell it. Of course selling a few ain’t bad either. I hope this new publishing model works. Because “Do The Work” also has to “Pay The Rent.”
Next week we’ll sit down with Seth Godin and see what he has to say about all this. Thanks again, you guys, for making this week a lot of fun!