Are traditional publishing houses necessary for authors to get their work out to the general public? Author Seth Godin, an “outspoken critic of traditional publishing models” doesn’t think so (mashable.com). Rather than deal with the long delays and editorial decisions that conventional publishing entails, Godin prefers to take matters into his own hands when it comes to writing and publishing his work.
Godin is best-known for the concept of “permission marketing,” which places power in the hands of consumers deciding where to spend their money rather than advertisers targeting people and trying to get them to buy products. His views respecting the power of consumers also carry over to the literary world.
Of publishing houses, he said in August 2010, “I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread” (mashable.com).
Using Kickstarter, a crowd funding website for creative projects, Godin raised $90,000 in six hours. Along with several books from traditional publishers, he has previously published two books, Poke the Box and We Are All Weird through The Domino Project, an imprint overseen by Amazon, which generates high e-book sales as compared to print book sales.
What does this mean for authors and publishers?
Godin’s fundraising campaign is an indication of the independence that authors can opt to have, loosing themselves from the ties of publishing houses who control marketing budgets, sales strategies, and book positioning. But it’s the rare author who can raise nearly $100,000 to fund his or her book.
While independent funding and marketing may work for established authors, writers trying to break their debut books are better off partnering with a reputable publisher. Amazon’s many imprints and self-publishing models are making it easier and easier to get published– and consequently creating more and more competition.
Godin is right about consumers having the power in the 21st century. The question keeping authors and publishers up at night is where the consumer’s loyalties lie– and judging from Godin’s fundraising success, it might not be with the established industry professionals, but with people looking at books and publishing in entirely new ways.