July 24, 2005

seth on publishing books


Seth Godin gives advice to people wanting to publish non-fiction books:

4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread.

Obvious, sure, but real problems. Real problems because the cost of a book introduces friction to your idea. It makes the idea spread much much more slowly than an online meme because in order for it to spread, someone has to buy it. Add to that the growing (and sad) fact that people hate to read. Too often, people have told me, with pride, that they read three chapters of my book. Just three.

A successful book agent I know tells me that at leat half the people he meets who are writing their first book, are doing so not because they have anything particularly interesting to say, but because the idea of "the writer's life" appeals to them.

Tweed jackets, smoking a pipe, sitting out in the gazebo and getting sloshed on Mint Julips, pensively typing away at an old black Remington. Bantering wittily at all the right parties. Or whatever.

Anybody who wants to write books for the money deserves to suffer. And happily, many of them do.

Posted by hugh macleod at July 24, 2005 12:09 PM | TrackBack

People don't hate to read. They are simply short on time. I only skim most stuff I see on the web. If something looks *really* interesting, I bookmark the book, sometimes I buy it. But then I read the whole book, usually. If a book only makes me read part of it, I don't buy it in the first place, maybe get it a the local library.

I think lots of people out there prefer dead trees to reading stuff on their laptop or office screen.

Posted by: Ulrich Hobelmann at July 24, 2005 1:58 PM

I agree with Ulrich, although, there are "readers" and then there are "READERS". The lower case readers fall short of time and skim 'til they find the best 3 chapters. The upper case readers reserve time in their day to immerse themselves in reading.

Mr. Godin makes a good point though. His books are great examples for his point: he writes books that sell to a relatively small target. He writes about marketing in a way that resonates with his target.

Posted by: Bruce DeBoer at July 24, 2005 4:49 PM


At least in the US, people hate to read. True stats:

1. Average tv viewing, per adult, per day, more than 4 hours.

2. Number of books for pleasure purchased, per adult, per year: 1.

It's not about time. It's about skill and smarts and gratification (instant).

Posted by: seth godin at July 24, 2005 6:16 PM

Seth is on target here.

I recently set up a small independent publishing company - mostly because I have long wanted to and mostly because I had finally found a book I was passionate about and thought had a reasonable chance of not losing me too much money (note the realistic goal here).

The book is Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the Freshest Recipes and Writing From Food Blogs Around the World.

it is a GREAT book - the food and writing in it from the 24 contributors kicks food magazine ass. It was a lot of fun to put together and I will lose several thousands of my own dollars doing it. (Actually I have already lost several thousands - if sales really kick into gear then I will lose fewer of those thousands). To get an idea what food blogs are all about check out mine www.tomatilla.com and then (they are mostly better than mine) click on the links to other blogs on the right - especially food porn watch - it's an aggregator of sorts.

Anyway - I am proud of the book, glad I did it, would love to do a follow up (I have close to 200 food blogs to potentially contribute this time around) and am unlikely to actually do the follow up since I can't afford it. I would if I broke even - I don't care about making money but reality forces me to care about losing money...

Posted by: owen at July 29, 2005 10:28 PM