Showing posts with label seth godin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seth godin. Show all posts

Friday, August 1

Seth Godin: You must fail to succeed

Lately I’ve been thinking about failure and the fear of failure, so naturally I turned to Seth Godin and read--or reread--some of what he had to say on the subject.

1. Seek out projects you can afford to fail at.

“If you under-reach a little, nail it, succeed, declare victory and repeat, you’re probably better off.”[1]

We don’t have to go for broke, it doesn’t have be all or nothing. Start small and work up.

2. Be brave.

“[...] I’m talking about the guts to take responsibility for your art. [...] the guts to open the door yourself.”[1]

No risk, no reward. Creating art is scary because it makes us vulnerable. 

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” 

In order to connect with others, in order to reach our readers’ emotions, we have to fuel our writing with our own deep losses, our own tragedies, our own vulnerabilities. That’s scary.

3. Take the 10,000 hour rule to heart.

“The 10,000 hour rule is legit. If you spend enough time working through really difficult challenges, you’re just going to get better at it.”[1]

The more you publish, the more often you publish, the better you’re going to get at it--provided you learn from your mistakes.

4. Don’t make it personal.

“If you let the lizard brain run amok, if you turn problems into referenda about you, about your goodness as a human being, it’s not going to end well. A key to discernment is to figure out the truth of what you’re looking at and act on it, not let it act on you.”

Yes, sometimes reviews can review the author and not just the author’s work, but writers need to find a way to separate themselves from what they’ve written and not take criticisms about the work as criticisms about themselves as writers or as people. Something which can be difficult to do if you took rule number three to heart and bled all over the page.

5. Failure is the key to success.


“The single best way to overrule your fears is to call their bluff by making the fear come true.

“Do something you know will fail.

“And then fail again.

“Once you fail at what the lizard brain is so petrified of, it will lose its power over you.”[1]

Obviously Seth Godin is talking about non-fatal failures. And he’s not talking about intentionally failing at work or failing as a husband (or wife) or failing as a parent or failing as a human being. He’s talking about taking risks, perhaps relatively small risks. 

If a person wants to climb Mount Everest they don’t start by climbing Mount Everest, they start by climbing a steep hill. They start by taking lessons. They start by trying, and probably failing, to achieve smaller goals. 

I cannot guarantee that as long as you keep trying that, eventually, you will succeed.

I can guarantee that if you let a fear of failure keep you from trying that you will never succeed.

*  *  *

I’ve been working on a longer article about the fear of failure, but I wanted to share Seth Godin’s words with you. I believe what Seth Godin says: once we lose our fear of failure it will lose its power over us. Or, as Frank Herbert put it: fear is the mind-killer.

That quotation is one of my favorites:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Fail. Fail again. Kill the fear. It’s the only way to truly succeed.


1. Seth Godin – Full Stop Failure over at Turnaround Magazine.
Photo credit: "streetmusic" by *Light Painting* under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, March 26

Embrace Rejection: Write More, Write Better, Share Often

Embrace Rejection: Write More, Write Better, Share Often
Since I wrote about Johanna Penn's article on her fear of being judged because of what she writes (she is moving into writing horror) I've been deeply affected by the sentiments she expressed.

I guess, then, it should come as no surprise that Joe Bunting's post over at The Write Practice--Why You Should Be Excited About Failure And Rejection--struck a cord with me. Joe advises us: Don't try to be unrejectable.

Embrace Rejection

Joe Bunting writes:
We are all scared. However, what separates successful writers from wannabe writers is what they do in the midst of their fear. They lean in. They don’t run. They don’t fight. They do the right thing, the thing they said they were going to do in the first place.

Seth Godin says, “Write more, write better, share often. It’s entirely possible you’re not good. But the key word that’s missing is, ‘yet.’”

Your job isn’t to be unrejectable. Your job is to share your story.
Thanks Joe, I needed that reminder. I highly recommend reading Joe's article, it's short but packed with writerly goodness.

Other articles you might like:

- 8 Ways To Channel The Power Of Your Unconscious Into Your Writing
- Different Kinds Of Story Openings: Shock And Seduction
- The New Yorker Rejects Its Own Story: What Slush Pile Rejections Really Mean

Photo credit: "154/365 They're Coming To Get You." by martinak15 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, January 24

How To Succeed As A Writer: The Value Of Failure

How To Succeed As A Writer: The Value Of Failure

We've all failed. Seth Godin believes that failing is good but that failing big is even better. Why? Because unless you're failing you're not really trying. (NexGen Interviews - Seth Godin)

But how does this philosophy apply to writers? That's something I've been thinking about lately. This morning I came across How to Become a Writing Rockstar: A Simple Guide. In it Henri Junttila asks: What is the goal of writing?

When we know what the goal is, perhaps he can understand how failure can help us. So, here's what Henri thinks the goal of writing is: To write authentically, to write honestly. "When you stay true to your quirky self, you are already a rockstar."

That echoes something Seth Godin said:
We should blow up the expectations of writing and say something worth saying and say it in a way that’s personal. It turns out that the internet, for the first time in the history of mankind, says to everyone, ‘Here’s a microphone. If you want to talk, talk. If you want to write, write. If you want to make a difference, make a difference.’ How horrible it would be to refuse to take your turn at the mic. (Why We Are All Artists: Seth Godin in Conversation – Part 1)
You might say, "Oh, but what if people don't like me! What if I release my work on Amazon and I get a bunch of 1 star reviews?"

1. Failure Shows You How To Get Better

Here's why failure is so important: it shows you how to get better. Seth writes:
Bob Dylan was booed off the stage in 1967 when he went electric. He was booed off the stage in 1974 when he went Gospel. He’s been booed off the stage since then and yet he still fills theaters. The Monkeys, on the other hand, have never been booed off the stage and they’re just an oldies act. Being booed off the stage is a key part of being an artist. (Part 1)
So, congratulations! Sure, you failed, but you tried something. And, as a result, you learned something.

2. Failure Is Safer Than Not Failing

What you did is actually a very safe thing. Seth writes:
I want to use the words uncomfortable zone [rather than "danger zone"] because it is, in fact, a very safe place to be because it’s not fatal. No one ever died writing a blog post. What we’re saying here is that for a while anyway, the safest thing you can do is to be as uncomfortable as you can stand to be. (How to become a Successful Writer: Seth Godin in Conversation – Part 2)
Your writing career is not over because you wrote and published a story that people hated (and I'm pretty sure not everyone hated it). Remember: YOU didn't fail, your story did. 

The key: Don't take failure personally.

Seth Godin puts it this way:
Most people who are getting started in writing do not have the confidence of a best-selling author. They are not comfortable sharing their work far and wide. They’re not comfortable saying, ‘I don’t have a publisher. I’m going to publish myself. Here, I wrote this.’ They would rather have the safety that comes from saying, ‘Well, I didn’t decide this was good. Penguin decided this was good.’ ‘I didn’t decide this was worth reading. Simon and Schuster decided it was worth reading.’

My argument is that all the things that feel uncomfortable are actually the safest things you can do. To every novelist who is complaining or bitter about all the publishers who won’t publish them, I say: Take your novel, make it into a PDF. It’s free. E-mail it to fifty of your friends.

If your novel strikes a chord, they will e-mail it to their friends and the next thing you know, a million people will read your novel for free. If a million people read your novel for free, you’ll have no trouble whatsoever selling your next one.

On the other hand, if the fifty people you sent it to don’t share it with anyone, then you haven’t written a good enough novel, and you should start over. But either of those paths is better than sitting at home complaining about the fact that you can’t get published. (Part 1)
We’ve just eliminated scarcity. There used to be scarcity of shelf space, scarcity of publishers, and scarcity of paper. All that’s gone. There’s unlimited shelf space, unlimited digital paper, and an unlimited number of publishers. You can’t continue to blame scarcity for the fact that your writing isn’t in the world.

You have to accept that putting your writing out there is no longer difficult. What’s difficult is getting someone who encounters your writing to share it with someone else. That changes the kind of writing you should be doing. You shouldn’t ever again be writing to please an editor. (Part 2)
Seth admits to failing:
I don’t consider it a good day unless I fail. I’ve written thousands and thousands of blog posts. Most of them aren’t that great. I’ve written books that didn’t sell as well as the publisher wanted. I’ve launched internet projects that have fallen on their face. I’ve had negotiations where I completely misunderstood what the other person was looking for, or they misunderstood me, and we walked away from each other.

The Key To Success As A Writer

Don't write to please everyone. If you do that you'll please no one.
If you’ve accepted that the rules of the game are that you are not willing to write unless everyone likes what you write, then you’ve just announced that you’re an amateur, not a professional, and that you’re probably doomed. Whereas the professional writer says, ‘It is almost certain that most of what I write will not resonate with most people who read it, but over time, I will gain an audience who trusts me to, at the very least, be interesting.’ (Part 2)
The power of the internet, for writers, is that we can find a small group of people who are interested in the same things we are, the the things we write about. Seth writes:
I was in Iceland last week ... and one out of every six hundred people in the whole country came to see me speak. This would be the equivalent of fifty thousand people seeing me in the United States, which has never, ever happened.

Iceland teaches an important lesson. It’s such a tiny place, yet it’s possible to have a café that succeeds. The café succeeds not because everyone in Iceland goes there, but because enough people go. Whether you live in New Zealand, Malaysia or the United States, the internet connects you to four billion people.

All you need to make a living is for four thousand to adore you. And you need forty thousand to be a hit. That’s forty thousand out of four billion! Those are really good odds! (Part 2)

The Bottom Line

If failure is okay (but mistakes are not), then is there anything you shouldn't do? Seth Godin says there is one thing you should never be: boring. He writes:
Whether you’re a writer or the maker of widgets, you won’t be able to keep going if you’re boring. (Part 2)

Seth Godin's Advice To New Writers

Seth Godin was asked to give advice to new writers. What should a new writer do? His reply:
There are three steps: write, ship, share. When you write and ship and share and you see whether or not it resonates, you will get better at what you do.

The more you write and ship and share, the more people will come to depend on what you’re doing and the easier it’s going to be to spread your ideas. At some point, people will come to you and say, ‘I’m not getting enough of what you’re doing. Here’s some money’, or ‘I’m not getting enough of what you’re doing. Please come speak to my group’, or ‘I’m not getting enough of what you’re doing. Please coach me so I can do it too.’ But none of that happens until you write and ship and share. (Part 2)
My Question: Are you convinced? Do you think failure is necessary for success?

Other articles you might be interested in:

- The Magic Of Stephen King: A Sympathetic Character Is Dealt A Crushing Blow They Eventually Overcome
- Ray Bradbury On How To Keep And Feed A Muse
- Fleshing Out Your Protagonist: Creating An Awesome Character

Photo credit: "Stupid garbage compactor ..." by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, November 21

Using Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales: Part 2

Using Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales: Part 2

A few days ago I talked about the strategy of making books permanently free to increase sales. (See: Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales)

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the idea is that if you, for instance, make the first book of a series free that its value as a marketing devise will far outweigh your lost revenue.

I wasn't sure how that post would be received since there has been some resistance within the indie community to the idea of giving away ones work and was pleasantly surprised by the wonderfully helpful comments the article received.

In this post I want to look, first, at a variation on the idea of using permanently free electronic books to increase sales of your other work: make the ebook version of a book free and use it as advertising for the paper version. Then we'll look at another indie author--Robert J. Crane--who uses the technique of perma-free to sell books AND he has been so kind as to share his sales figures.

(By the way, if you have tried perma-free to increase sales of your work please contact me, I'd like to hear about your experience.)

1) Make The Ebook Version Free, Charge For The Paper Copy

Example: Seth Godin

The first time I heard of this strategy I thought I had to have misheard. But, no, offering the ebook version of his paper books has worked out well for author and entrepreneur Seth Godin.

In 2001 Seth wrote Unleashing The Ideavirus. I'll let him tell you about it:
Seven years ago, I wrote a book called Unleashing the Ideavirus. It's about how ideas spread. In the book, I go on and on about how free ideas spread faster than expensive ones. That's why radio is so important in making music sell.

Anyway, I brought it to my publisher and said, "I'd like you to publish this, but I want to give it away on the net." They passed. They used to think I was crazy, but now they were sure of it. So I decided to just give it away. The first few days, the book was downloaded 3,000 times ... The next day, the number went up. And then up. Soon it was 100,000 and then a million. ... I didn't ask anything in return. ... Here it is. Share it.

A Google search finds more than 200,000 matches for the word 'ideavirus', which I made up. Some will ask, "how much money did you make?" And I think a better question is, "how much did it cost you?" How much did it cost you to write the most popular ebook ever and to reach those millions of people and to do a promotion that drove an expensive hardcover to #5 on Amazon and #4 in Japan and led to translation deals in dozens of countries and plenty of speaking gigs?

It cost nothing. (You should write an ebook)
Unleashing the Ideavirus is still selling strong. Over on Amazon, the paperback version is at #34,038 (excellent!) while the Kindle version is sitting at around rank #152k.

Let's think about that for a moment. The ELECTRONIC copy of Unleashing the Ideavirus, the format Seth is giving away for free (the link is right here), is downloaded more often than The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (#223,261), published in 2003, two years later.

It's true that Seth's book is $7.86 while League is $11.87. That probably has an effect on sales, but my point is that offering the book for free doesn't seem to have hurt sales of even the electronic version!)

That's just one example. Here is a listing of 15 books Seth Godin has made permanently free.

Here is Seth Godin's blog post advocating writing an ebook with the intention of making it permanently free: You should write an ebook.

Example: David Gaughran

David Gaughran released Let's Get Digital, in July of 2011. What caused a lot of commentary at the time was that, like Seth Godin, he gave away a PDF copy of his book on his website (it's still available here: Let's Get Digital). David did one thing differently from Seth, he put up a donation button for anyone who wanted to contribute to his continued financial well-being.

So, did making the PDF perma-free pay off?

On the Kindle version of Let's Get Digital is priced at $4.98 and is at rank #26,388 which is good. In fact, the electronic version is selling the best out of all David's books, at least those on I'd consider that a success.

Thanks to Leauxra for drawing my attention to these examples.

2) Eric Flint and the Baen Free Library

Baen Free Library was founded in 1999 by writer Eric Flint and publisher Jim Baen "to determine whether the availability of books free of charge on the Internet encourages or discourages the sale of their paper books" (Baen Free Library, Wikipedia).

Eric Flint concluded that making an electronic version of a book available for free enhances the sale of the paper version. Is he guessing? No. Eric shares his sales figures for Mother of Demons, a book he made free for electronic download around 2000 and persuasively argues that giving the electronic version away for free helped  his sales. Eric writes:
Almost eight years ago, I put up my first novel [Mother of Demons] for free online—as a result of which it got most of its sales since then, and is still selling well enough that even after the mass market edition finally runs out, the publisher is going to keep it in print in a hardcover edition.

Nobody knows exactly what percentage of first novels never go out of print for ten years and then get reissued in a hardcover edition. But the percentage is probably somewhere in the top one-tenth of one percent. (NOTE: need sub-title) ["Note: need sub-title" is the subtitle. See the reference section at the end of this post.]
So not only doesn't having your book up as an electronic copy, free of charge, hurt the sales of hte paper version, but it helps it. Sound familiar?

Thanks to Antares for not only telling me about the Baen free library but providing me the links as well.

3) Independent Author Robert J. Crane: Perma-Free Works

Indie author Robert J. Crane left a comment on my first post where he generously shared some of his sales figures. I have Robert's kind his permission to reproduce his comment here:
I have two books set to perma-free, the results are thus:

Released my first book [Defender] in June 2011. Between then and June 2012 I never sold more than low double digits (best month was something like 25 sales across 3 novels and 2 short stories).

Set my first series book free in my high fantasy series in July 2012, my urban fantasy series first book [Alone] permafree in September 2012.

July 2012: 169 sales
Aug 2012: 319 sales
Sep 2012: 1759 sales
Oct 2012: 2727 sales
Nov 1st to 20th: 3008 sales

Most of these are at $4.99 or their foreign equivalent. Hope this helps give a little inspiration or data to make a decision off of, at least.

Needless to say, I highly recommend perma-free. 
Wow! Look at that jump between August and September in terms of sales: 1,590 units more. That's over 5 times better than any of the previous months. And at 70% of $4.99 that's over $5,000.

Here are links to Robert's perma-free books:
- Defender: The Sanctuary Series, Volume One
- Alone: The Girl in the Box, Book 1

Here is an excellent article Robert J. Crane wrote about how he became a self-publisher: Why did I self-publish? He is one of the few writers I know who have a degree in Creative Writing.

Perma-Free: A Strategy Worth Trying?

I think so. The data I've seen so far is compelling: free works as a sales tool.

What do you think?

#  #  #

NaNoWriMo Update: Well, I'm at 39,034 words. Whew! I tell you, that was not easy, it felt like the words were being pried out of me. (shiver) Hopefully the words will flow (versus wrestle!) tonight. I hope to have 41k done by tomorrow. :)

Other articles you might like:

- Rejection Enhances Creativity
- How Often Should A Writer Blog? Answer: It Depends On Your Goals
- Outlining: Kim Harrison's Character Grid

Reference Links:

- Thirteen Steps to Write and Publish a Free Ebook In Thirteen Hours (from
- Baen Free Library
- A series of articles by Eric Flint on the topic of piracy and whether it hurts book sales (short answer: No!): Prime Palaver.
- Eric Flint: Salvos Against Big Brother. Towards the end (it's a LONG page) Eric shares his sales figures for Mother of Demons, a book he made free for electronic download around 2000. He shares several years of data and persuasively argues that giving the electronic version away for free helped  his sales.
- Note 1: "NOTE: Need sub-title" is the title. I guess it was a note to someone to get the article a title, but it was never done. Works for me! I also wanted to note that there is no direct link to this article. It is one of several that have been pasted together on a webpage. The only way to go from one to the other is by scrolling or searching on the name of the sub-title.

Photo credit: "Free Daddy and His Little Shadow Girls at The Skate Park Creative Commons" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, September 14

How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King

How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King

Have you ever woken up with a question on your mind? This morning I woke up wondering: How do writers get their ideas?

So I Googled it. (This amuses me endlessly. Did I mediate on the quesiton or ask friends? No. I Googled. Nothing wrong with that, but it is incredible the extent to which a technology--the internet & Google--has changed my life over the course of a decade.)

Here's what Seth Godin has to say:
- Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
- Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
- Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
To read the rest of Seth's ruminations, click here: Where do ideas come from?

My ideas seem to hide in the shower, ready to pounce the moment I've gotten my hands wet and there's no paper in sight. But that's okay. I love their mischievousness.

Here's how Neil Gaiman answered the question for a group of 7-year-olds:
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.

You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if...?

(What if you woke up with wings? What if your sister turned into a mouse? What if you all found out that your teacher was planning to eat one of you at the end of term - but you didn't know who?)

Another important question is, If only...

(If only real life was like it is in Hollywood musicals. If only I could shrink myself small as a button. If only a ghost would do my homework.)

And then there are the others: I wonder... ('I wonder what she does when she's alone...') and If This Goes On... ('If this goes on telephones are going to start talking to each other, and cut out the middleman...') and Wouldn't it be interesting if... ('Wouldn't it be interesting if the world used to be ruled by cats?')...

Those questions, and others like them, and the questions they, in their turn, pose ('Well, if cats used to rule the world, why don't they any more? And how do they feel about that?') are one of the places ideas come from.

An idea doesn't have to be a plot notion, just a place to begin creating. Plots often generate themselves when one begins to ask oneself questions about whatever the starting point is.

Sometimes an idea is a person ('There's a boy who wants to know about magic'). Sometimes it's a place ('There's a castle at the end of time, which is the only place there is...'). Sometimes it's an image ('A woman, sifting in a dark room filled with empty faces.')

Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven't come together before. ('If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?')

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.

And when you've an idea - which is, after all, merely something to hold on to as you begin - what then?

Well, then you write. You put one word after another until it's finished - whatever it is.

Sometimes it won't work, or not in the way you first imagined. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. Sometimes you throw it out and start again.
Neil Gaiman: Where do you get your ideas?

I'll close with a quotation from Stephen King:
I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it's seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question 'What if?' 'What if' is always the key question. ( FAQ)
That nicely brings together what Seth Godin and Neil Gaiman had to say! I love it when things work out. :-)

Other articles you might like:
- The Role Of The Unconscious In Writing
- Writing Resources
- Harper Voyager Open To Unagented Submissions For 2 Weeks

Photo credit: technicolor76

Tuesday, September 4

The Secret Of Learning To Write Well: Write

The Secret Of Learning To Write Well: Write

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm nuts about Seth Godin. The man has the best ideas!

Today Seth blogged that the best way to learn marketing is to market. Makes sense! I think this is true as well:
The best way to learn to write well is to write.
I read somewhere that the most important asset a writer can have is an eye for good writing, or at least for what he or she likes. I think many writers have this and that's exactly why it's so painful in the beginning. You know your writing falls far short. (Keep in mind, though, that if you're comparing yourself to someone like Margaret Atwood ... well, just don't. No ego can survive that!)

Having an eye for good writing allows us to spot mistakes in our own work. Perhaps in the beginning we just know that a certain passage is aweful without knowing why or what would fix it. That's fine, we put it away and keep writing new things, we continue reading, then, eventually, we can look at what we've written and have an idea WHY it feels clunky and what we can do to fix it.

Perhaps surprisingly, I've found reading prose which grates on my nerves helps me discover what, exactly, doesn't work for me.

Kinda seems magical, doesn't it? Just write, and read, and you'll become a better writer. But writing is a skill, and like any other skill, one has to practice to get better. Perhaps this is a silly example, but when I started typing I used to fantasize about the day I wouldn't have to look at my keyboard and could type more than 40 words a minute. Today I don't even think about typing, it has become second nature. What did it take? Lots and lots of practice!

Slowly, painfully slowly, the understanding of what works for us and what doesn't becomes part of who we are and we begin to write less clunky prose. Or at least that's the idea, I'm afraid I can't tell you since I'm not there yet! ;)

Keep writing!

Other articles you might like:
- Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes
- Fifty Shades of Alice In Wonderland: Sales Peak At $1,000 Per Day
- Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule

Photo credit: foxrosser

Wednesday, August 15

Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes

Seth Godin on creativity, childhood and heros
Seth Godin

I know I just posted an article on Seth Godin and I don't usually do two articles in a row on someone, but his interview over at The Great Discontent was just too good not to mention! Here's a sampling of what Seth had to say:

On Seth's journey to becoming an entrepreneur:
In the years that followed [getting married, moving to New York and starting a company], I just failed and failed and failed and failed. I got 900 rejection letters in the mail from book publishers. I would go window shopping at restaurants and go home and eat macaroni and cheese. It was a very long slog, right on the edge of bankruptcy for almost eight years. I did a whole bunch of books as a book packager; I did almanacs; I did books on personal finance; I did the Professor Barndt’s On-the-Spot Spot and Stain Removal Guide; I did a book which I’m embarrassed about called Email Addresses of the Rich and Famous (laughing).
Creativity and childhood:
I think “creativity” is better described as failing repeatedly until you get something right.
.  .  .  .
In terms of creativity, the really formative thing that happened to me is that I started teaching style canoeing in Canada at a very old co-ed summer camp in a national park , which I still do every year—I’ve been doing it for 42 years. What I discovered is that if you’re in a situation where people don’t have to engage with you—because at this camp they could do anything they wanted—you have to figure out a way to attract them. The number one way I found to attract people was to help them connect with their dreams. And so, when I was 17, I started a cycle of creative ways to put on enough of a show in front of people that they would choose to engage in that to achieve their dreams. I’ve basically been doing the same thing ever since, except that there are no canoes in New York City. 

Heros vs. mentors
I think that heroes are more important than mentors. A hero is somebody who you can emulate; somebody who raises the bar for you. Heroism scales, so one person can be a hero for a lot of people. Mentoring is over-rated in that there’s this myth that they will pick you, cover for you when you make mistakes, encourage you, and be at your side until you become your true, best self. There are very few of those relationships in the world. 

On taking big risks:
When I finally had my book packaging company working after seven or eight years of struggling, I had ten employees and we were finally making a profit. Two-thirds of our revenue came from one company and they were jerks. They were making our lives miserable and what we were becoming was the kind of company that was good at working with difficult clients. I didn’t want to become that kind of company, so I fired our biggest client—the one who accounted for more than half our revenue. I said, “Here. Here’s the project we spent four years building. You can have it. Keep it.” It could have wiped us out, but instead, the group was so energized that they made up all the revenue in the next six months. 

On social responsibility:
I have all the toys and stuff and detritus that I need. Getting more stuff is not what I’m trying to do. I wonder, “Who can I impact today and how can I do it in a way that in four years from now, they’ll be glad I did?”

Seth's one piece of advice: pick yourself
There’s a picture that I just saw online two days ago. Monday I have this seminar I’m running for free for college students and I’m going to show them this picture before we start. It’s a picture of someone graduating from college. You can’t tell, but you can guess that they’re probably $150,000 in debt. Written on the top of their mortarboard with masking tape it says, “Hire me.” The thing about the picture that’s pathetic, beyond the notion that you need to spam the audience at graduation with a note saying you’re looking for a job, is that you went $150,000 in debt and spent four years of your life so someone else could pick you. That’s ridiculous. It really makes me sad to see that. The opportunity of a lifetime is to pick yourself. Quit waiting to get picked; quit waiting for someone to give you permission; quit waiting for someone to say you are officially qualified and pick yourself. It doesn’t mean you have to be an entrepreneur or a freelancer, but it does mean you stand up and say, “I have something to say. I know how to do something. I’m doing it. If you want me to do it with you, raise your hand.”

Seth's typical day:
Ha! There isn’t one. That’s on purpose. If you have a typical day, I think that that’s something you should work on. 

You know, I don’t know how to pick one book. I tend to read mostly non-fiction leavened with trashy fiction and science fiction. Back when Neil Stephenson was good, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age were two of the best books ever. I probably read four or five nonfiction books a week—everything from The Peter Principle, which I started reading 35 years ago when I was just a kid, to books that have shown up lately that make me sit up straight. Kevin Kelly is three for three; his new book, What Technology Wants, is an absolute must-read and will change the way you see the world. 

On the kind of legacy he hopes to leave:
I think the goal I have in my work is not to be remembered, but for the people who use the work I did to be remembered instead.

These are just excerpts, I'd encourage everyone to read Seth Godin's entire interview: Seth Godin. Thanks to for passing on the link.

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule
- Indie Writers: 10 Things Not To Do
- 10 Tips For Decluttering Your Life and Increasing Creativity

Tuesday, August 14

Seth Godin: When To Go With A Traditional Publisher

Seth Godin: When to go with a traditional publisher
Seth Godin

I love Seth Godin's ideas so I was thrilled to come across this video over at the Smithsonian! Seth's video came up on the heels of one about independent publishing, so the videos displayed on that page probably change, but from what I've seen they're all great (which is pretty much what I'd expect from the Smithsonian!).

You may also like:
- Seth Godin: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
- Seth Godin: Resist Greed, Do Not Pander

Photo credit: Unknown

Tuesday, August 7

Ewan Morrison's Misconception

Ewan Morrison's Misconception

Ewan Morrison has made a number of incendiary remarks about the future of self publishing and social media. He believes that self publishing is a fad and that it's day will soon be over. Specifically, in his latest article, Why Social Media Isn't The Magic Bullet, he claims that writers who have published their work themselves will not be able to use social media as an effective means to grow a readership for their work.

My response: Time will tell. It seems to me a number of writers are doing just that, but if Mr. Morrison believes this is a bubble and it's about to burst, well, I guess we'll wait and see.

David Gaughran has a more active and literary response, one much more befitting an indie author. He writes:
This gets to the heart of Morrison’s misconception of how self-publishers use social media. It’s not about selling books, it’s about making connections. The only thing that has ever really sold books is word-of-mouth.

The difference today is that social media can act as an accelerant to the spreading of that “word.” If a reader discovers a book they enjoyed (whether self-published or not) they don’t have to wait until they meet somebody in person to recommend it to them. They can email their friends, blog about it, post it to Facebook, or tweet it (reaching all their friends in less time than it takes to meet one of them for coffee).

Note: I said “a reader” not the author. If you are friends with somebody, and trust their taste in books, you will place value in their recommendations. What happens with social media is that such recommendations can spread much more efficiently.

Authors – whether self-published or not – who attempt to mimic this organic process through relentless tweeting about their own work will soon find that such an approach is ineffective (and counterproductive).

That doesn’t mean that authors don’t do it. You only need to log on to Twitter and Facebook to see plenty of “buy my book” spam.

The problem for Morrison’s argument is that he (a) assumes that all self-publishers use social media in this way and (b) assumes that such marketing is integral to self-publishers’ sales/marketing strategies; neither claim bears any resemblance to reality. In fact, I would wager that there is an inverse relationship between a self-publisher’s sales and the amount of “buy my book” spam they emit.
Precisely! Growing a readership is about connecting with people, as Seth Godin says, it is all about building a tribe. And who wouldn't want to be part of a tribe? I'm part of many tribes/communities.

As David writes:
I don’t relentlessly tweet about my work. I announce a new release, or a special sale, and I might point my followers towards a nice review now and then – but that’s about it.

The rest of my time on Twitter or Facebook is spent connecting with people – hashing out the issues of the day, making friends, joking, sharing advice, seeking help, getting to know each other; you know, just like meeting people in real life.
David mentions that well-known self publisher Joanna Penn has a rule-of-thumb. 80% of the time don't say anything about what you're selling. Less than 20% of your social media time should be taken up with promoting your products.

That seems about right to me. By the way, if you haven't taken a look at Joanna's website, it is full of great articles. You can visit her here:

Further reading:
- The Harlequin Class Action Lawsuit Explained
- Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps
- Writer Beware: Outskirts Press

Photo credit: Alaskan Dude

Friday, June 29

Seth Godin: Resist Greed, Do Not Pander

Seth Godin has just posted an excellent article on pandering, or doing something simply for money. He writes:
Yes, you can pander, and if you're a public company and have promised an infinite growth curve, you may very well have to. But if you want to build a reputation that lasts, if you want to be the voice that some (not all!) in the market seek out, this is nothing but a trap, a test to see if you can resist short-term greed long enough to build something that matters.
Read the rest here: Do we have to pander?

I looked up "pander" in the dictionary and here's what I found:
verb: "Gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire, need, or habit or a person with such a desire, etc.)."

noun: A pimp.
It seems that it isn't so much the indulging that's distasteful, it's the desire, the want that is the reason for the indulgence. And so, because a certain desire is distastful the indulging of it is so as well.

I mention this because I think perhaps there's a difference between folks who do distasteful things because they want to have a place to live and food to eat--folks who are fighting just to get by--and folks who do it because ... well, you pick. Because they want more money than their neighbors, because they want to buy the neighborhood playground, pave it over, and turn it into a car park. Whatever.

Or is there a difference? Of course some ways of making money are beyond the pale, whatever the reason. Human trafficking for instance. But a person can work in a soul-killing job for years because they love their family and want to help provide for them. What should they do? Quit their job and put their family in jeopardy, trusting to the fates that something will intervene to avert disaster, or should they continue to chip away fragments of their soul in exchange for security?

What a cheery thought! I think I really do need my morning coffee now. 

Seth Godin has the best posts, they make me think, and for that I am immensely grateful.


Related reading:
- Writer Beware: Outskirts Press
- Kris Rusch: The Value of Imperfection

Photo credit: TED

Sunday, March 4

Martin Picard: A genius at being remarkable

After I wrote my blog post, Seth Godin: The best thing since sliced bread, I talked to a fellow foodie about the importance of doing something remarkable.

Talk about synchronicity, just that morning he'd been reading a Globe & Mail article about Montreal chef Martin Picard's latest cookbook: Au Pied De Cochon Sugar Shack in which he has recipes for, among other things, squirrel sushi and beaver tail. Whatever you think about the cookbook, the chef has to be given credit for at least not letting anything going to waste. He stuffed the beaver with its own tail and organs and then cooked it with maple syrup and duck fat.

If that isn't a remarkable recipe then I don't know what is! Pretty much every recipe in the cookbook is ... well, insane remarkable.

But, you might wonder, what are his sales like? Here's what the Globe and Mail article had to say:
Yet this isn’t stunt cooking or a ironic postmodern art project. Mr. Picard and his collaborators printed 40,000 copies in advance of the volume’s release this week. If history is any guide, they will almost certainly need to do a second printing before long. The cookbook from Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, Mr. Picard’s original place on Montreal’s Duluth Avenue East, has sold an estimated 50,000 copies since its publication in 2006. (Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon is available for $70 on the cabane à sucre’s website, as well as at better bookstores.)
Not bad. On top of all that, he is self-published and, as far as I can tell, only sells his book through his site and a few bookstores, Chapters among them.

- Squirrel sushi? 'That's a very, very good meat,' says Montreal chef Picard
- Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack on sale at Chapters.

Friday, March 2

Seth Godin: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

I love reading Seth Godin's blog and watching his videos but there's one video I keep coming back to, his TED talk: Sliced Bread and Other Marketing Delights.

Here are a couple of highlights:

Ideas that spread, win
Take this idea/phrase: The best thing since sliced bread. When the technology to slice bread was developed in the early 1900s no one cared about it. For 15 years no one cared about it, not until Wonderbread came along. They spread the idea.

Don't market to the masses, market to a few people who are completely obsessed with something
Another thing Seth says -- one that seemed counter-intuitive to me at first -- is don't market to the masses, market to a niche, to folks who are completely obsessed with something.

- Lionel Poilane. He sold bread to people who not only cared about eating great tasting bread, he sold bread to people who cared immensely how it was made.

- Aeron Chairs When Herman Miller designed a chair for himself, he wanted something comfortable and inviting to look at. Most of us want that as well, but at about $900 per chair it's a niche market. (Can you imagine Kevin's reaction (Kevin of Dragon Den fame) to this idea? I can just see him asking: Who's going to buy an office chair for $900 when I can pick one up at IKEA for $100?). Some people really want a comfortable chair that is great to look at. That's Herman Miller's niche.

Tiffany & Co. Everyone knows this company name, but it sells things that only a few folks can afford and that absolutely no one needs. Yet, in 2012, when many companies are closing their doors, Tiffany's is showing record profits.

Don't be very good, no one will notice
This is outrageously counter-intuitive, at least for me. So I started hunting for examples. I didn't have to look far. Here's what I thought of:

Good for Rebecca Black, but her success does illustrate a point. Something doesn't have to be very good in order to succeed.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 12

Seth's Big Ideas

I love Seth Godin's blogs. I may not always agree with him, but I usually come away with at least one tantalizing idea.

Here are Seth's big ideas:

* The launchtime for books is measured in years, this is often longer than the selflife of the ideas it contains. *

* Most book publishers do not effectively promote most of the books they publish. *

* That said, it's not easy selling books. It's difficult to get folks to read ANYTHING because reading takes time and, usually, it costs money. *

* Being a publisher is like being a venture capitalist. *

Publishers INVEST in writers; they give them an advance, spend time creating and selling the book and give printers money to produce the book. After doing all this, of course the publisher wants a large return on her investment.

Do you, as a writer, need the advance to live on? If so, then it makes sense for you to go the traditional route. If you don't, though, and if you're primarily interested in spreading your ideas, then self-publishing is something to look into.

The above is a paraphrase of some of the points in Seth Godin's article, Advice For Authors. So, what, according to Seth, is a poor author to do?
Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or...

Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet (a cheap one--the Joy of Jello sold millions and millions of copies at a dollar or less).

Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they're not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.

And the punchline, of course, is that if you do all these things, you won't need a publisher. And that's exactly when a publisher will want you! That's the sort of author publishers do the best with.
Isn't that always the way? The minute, the very second, you don't need something it will flutter into your hand.

Now if only I could think of an idea ...


(By the way Seth's article, Advice to Authors, was the first in a two part series. The second part, an article ALSO entitled Advice to Authors, can be found here.)

Wednesday, November 2

Seth Godin: Free Wins

Seth Godin is a new discovery of mine. I had heard his name for years and kept meaning to look him up on the net, but never got around to it. Then a friend of mine said, "Yea, I love Seth Godin's blog, you should read it, I think you'd like it".

So I did.

He opened up my mind to a new way of thinking about community, about what it means to be part of a group, a tribe.

I discovered this video Seth Godin made and want to share it. In it he talks about his book, Unleashing The Idea Virus, and says:
Ideas that are free spread faster and ideas that spread, win.
So, free ideas win.

You might be thinking, yea, sure, you can say anything, what is he giving away for free? For starters, he's giving way Unleashing The Idea Virus as an ebook. You can get it from his site, here.

Here's a video where he talks about how he came up with these ideas:

Friday, October 28

Paying for first

Seth Godin:
Here’s a bit of speculation:

Soon, there will be three kinds of books on the Kindle.

$1.99 ebooks. This is the clearing price for virtually all ebooks going forward.

$5 ebooks. This is the price for bestsellers, hot titles and books you have no choice but to buy because they were assigned in school.

$10 ebooks. This is the price you will pay to get the book first, to get it fast, to get it before everyone else. There might even be a subset of books for $20 in this category.

For example the new Steve Jobs book. The only reason it wasn’t onsale two weeks ago is that the publisher needed to move tons of molecules from the printer to the store. That means ebook readers have been waiting so that the paper readers could get their copy.

The analogy is paperback and hardcover. You paid extra for the hardcover because it was first and because it was a classy thing to display on the wall. A year later, the very same book is half the price or less as a paperback.

One of the unused features of digital ebooks is that the price can change easily, daily, by volume and by demand.

Starting soon, you’ll pay extra for the hot, fresh ebook (at $20, the publisher can do quite well for two weeks while we wait for the hardcover, thanks very much) and you’ll pay a lot less when it’s on the clearance rack.
- Seth Godin, The Domino Project, Paying For First

I've been working on my bedbug post for the last bit (yes, bedbugs! I'm going to post it in an hour or so) so when I came across this post I thought it was interesting because it talks about how the form of a book -- electronic versus paper -- changes things. And it's Seth Godin, everyone loves Seth Godin!

Saturday, October 15

Seth Godin: Open conversations

A guy walks into a shop that sells ties. He's opened the conversation by walking in.

Salesman says, "can I help you?"

The conversation is now closed. The prospect can politely say, "no thanks, just looking."

Consider the alternative: "That's a [insert adjective here] tie you're wearing, sir. Where did you buy it?"

Conversation is now open. Attention has been paid, a rapport can be built. They can talk about ties. And good taste.

Or consider a patron at a fancy restaurant. He was served an old piece of fish, something hardly worth the place's reputation. On the way out, he says to the chef,

"It must be hard to get great fish on Mondays. I'm afraid the filet I was served had turned."

If the chef says, "I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your meal..." then the conversation is over. The patron has been rebuffed, the feedback considered merely whining and a matter of personal perspective.

What if the chef said instead, "what kind of fish was it?" What if the chef invited the patron back into the kitchen to take a look at the process and was asked for feedback?

Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning... for both sides.
-- Seth Godin, Open conversations (or close them)
I love Seth's blog. Often, after reading one of his posts, and I'll look at the world -- even if it's only one small corner of it -- in a new way. Take his post on opening conversations, above. He is right! Rather than saying, "Can I help you?" when someone comes into the store, say, "Hey, I love your handbag, where did you buy it?" That opens the conversation. "Can I help you?" gives the customer an obvious out, just say: No thank you. No further interaction.

It's common sense, but I'd never have thought of it in just that way.

Now, how do we apply this to writing?

Sunday, September 25

Seth Godin: How to overcome writer's block

We've all heard of writer's block, so why not talker's block? Questions like these are why I love Seth Godin's blog.
No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.

Why then, is writer's block endemic?

The reason we don't get talker's block is that we're in the habit of talking without a lot of concern for whether or not our inane blather will come back to haunt us. Talk is cheap. Talk is ephemeral. Talk can be easily denied.

We talk poorly and then, eventually (or sometimes), we talk smart. We get better at talking precisely because we talk. We see what works and what doesn't, and if we're insightful, do more of what works. How can one get talker's block after all this practice?

Writer's block isn't hard to cure.

Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

I believe that everyone should write in public. Get a blog. Or use Squidoo or Tumblr or a microblogging site. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly--you don't need more criticism, you need more writing.

Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something.

If you know you have to write something every single day, even a paragraph, you will improve your writing. If you're concerned with quality, of course, then not writing is not a problem, because zero is perfect and without defects. Shipping nothing is safe.
I didn't feel right copying and pasting Seth's entire blog post, but I wanted to because it was so good! I encourage you all to go to Seth's site and finish reading this most excellent article: Talker's Block.

Sunday, August 21

Seth Godin: If We Imprison Ideas, We Imprison Ourselves

Seth Godin writes, "governments and organizations are lining up to control ideas and the way they spread."

How is this control happening? Seth Godin gives three examples:

1. Nathan Myhrvold: Patent Troll
Myhrvold worked at Microsoft for 13 years, where he founded Microsoft Research in 1991. Intellectual Ventures, it is alleged, accumulates patents not in order to develop products and reward inventors, but with the goal acquiring licensing fees, often using shell companies.

Technology companies pay Intellectual Ventures fees ranging “from tens of thousands to the millions and millions of dollars … to buy themselves insurance that protects them from being sued by any harmful, malevolent outsiders,” says venture capitalist Chris Sacca.
There’s an implication in IV’s pitch, Sacca says: If you don’t join us, who knows what’ll happen? He says it reminds him of “a mafia-style shakedown, where someone comes in the front door of your building and says, ‘It would be a shame if this place burnt down. I know the neighborhood really well and I can make sure that doesn’t happen.’ “
2. BART: 1st Amendment issues mount over cell shutdown
In 1967, the California Supreme Court ruled that a city couldn't prohibit nondisruptive political activity inside a railroad station.

That was before cellular phones were invented and before the first BART train rolled down the tracks. But it's a precedent the transit agency may have to confront as it defends its decision to cut off cell service at the site of an expected trackside protest last Thursday, and its long-standing ban on "expressive activities" inside the fare gates.

BART says it might pull the plug on phone service again this afternoon to counter plans for a 5 p.m. demonstration at Civic Center Station in San Francisco, where a transit police officer fatally shot a knife-wielding man July 3.

The legality of such a decision may soon arrive in court.

"This is new territory in the United States," said Gene Pilicinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. Although courts haven't addressed a government cell phone shut-off, he said, "historically we have kept our hands off free expression. ... The government has a very high ladder to climb." [Read more here.]
3. How the Legal Fight Over 'Y.M.C.A.' Could Change the Music Industry (Analysis)

Does an artist have the right to terminate copyright?
In 1976, the U.S. Congress lengthened the copyright term, but as a fig leaf to artists who had created works at the early stage of their careers but handed their rights over without much bargaining power, legislators thought it wise to give artists another bite of the apple. So they allowed artists to enjoy the benefits of the latter stages of a copyright term by terminating a copyright grant.

However, in doing so, artists need to adhere to a strict protocol, including sending out precise termination notices during a short few-year window. Artists are allowed to terminate a copyright grant 35 years after first publishing, and since the Copyright Act amendments went into effect in 1978, it means that 2013 is the first year where musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and Victor Willis can effectuate a termination. Since these notices have to go out in advance, it also means that these artists are now under the clock to send out their termination notice or forfeit the right for the foreseeable future. [Read the rest here.]
What should we do about these cases? Wyhat can we do?

A good first step would be reading the rest of Seth Godin's article.

Saturday, August 6

Seth Godin: How To Change Your Luck

Seth Godin writes, "One of the biggest distinctions between old publishing and new is the nature of luck." Giving your book to a traditional publisher was often like spinning a roulette wheel and hoping your book would get lucky and be the next surprise bestseller.

Independent publishing doesn't rely as much on luck, or perhaps relies on a different kind of luck, one more tied to people and to building a culture, a tribe. (For more on this, watch Seth Godin's TED talk, Seth Godin on the tribes we lead.)

Building a tribe is not a matter of a miracle, instead, it’s about converting tiny groups of people at a time, leading them, connecting them, building an audience. When a self-published author does this, she has a new job. Not the author part, the publisher part. She’s not putting a book into the universe and hoping it will be found. She’s not even putting a book in a journalist’s hands and hoping it will be hyped. No, she is engaging in a years-long journey to build a platform. It might take a decade to become an overnight success, but if you keep it up, if you keep building, the odds keep getting better and better.

That’s why it’s silly to compare the two ways of making a book happen. If you can get a great deal from a publisher and you’re into the spin, go spin! If you want to control the building of the platform, get your hands dirty and avoid the whims of fate, then the other path makes a lot more sense, no?

Read the rest of the article here: Are you feeling lucky?

Thanks to Passive Voice Blog for the link.