15 Responses

  1. Mike Cane
    Mike Cane September 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm | | Reply

    >>>You cannot now, nor will you ever be able to, do this yourself.

    Snort. Yeah, except for all those who have already done that for years and years and years.

  2. Mark Barrett
    Mark Barrett September 27, 2009 at 2:26 pm | | Reply

    I don't see this as compelling:

    “If you write a novel, why should I read it? If Knopf publishes it, or Two Dollar Radio publishes it, or Melville House publishes it, I will likely give it a shot. Why? Because somebody other than you — and somebody who reads a lot of fiction, no less — also says that it’s good.”

    To the extent that publishing houses legitimize published authors compared with non-published authors, I grant the point. But this assumes that the word 'published' is not going to morph to involve a new class of writers, when it's quite clear that it's not only going to change it's pretty much going to be obliterated in the process. I'm publishing these comments. Publishing them. Not writing a letter, or an email: I'm publishing them.

    I also think this argument denies the second inevitability that everyone is talking about. (The first is that publishing will be redefined.) It's the idea — which I subscribe to — that social networks will become markets, and that those markets will be as important as any of the broadcast (non-targeted) old-media markets (TV, print and radio).

    In five years (or less, or maybe even now) the validation of a given author is not going to come from associations with a publisher, it's going to come from word of mouth (or text) in your social network. And you'll probably pay more attention to those voices and opinions than you ever did to a publisher's branding. I also think there will be reliable reviewers and critics covering non-publishing-house novels, and that it will be harder and harder to make the case that the better works being published by corporate publishers are inherently superior to the better self-published works.

    Yes, there will always be gatekeepers. But the gatekeepers of old stood watch over a portal leading to a two-lane blacktop. That pipeline only supported a certain amount of content. Today's portal leads to an infinitely-wide road, where any author has a chance of finding their own market, whether that be five readers or five hundred thousand. It is this fundamental change in distribution which is driving everything else, including a decrease in the ability of any person or business to gatekeep.

  3. Paul
    Paul September 27, 2009 at 9:32 pm | | Reply

    Three times as many journalists are losing their jobs as anyone else. Nobody who is publishing 'literature' or poetry is making any money. Maybe there will always be gatekeepers but they won't be the same people standing at the same gates as they are now.

  4. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez September 27, 2009 at 11:51 pm | | Reply

    He's looking at things from a traditional bookseller's perspective, so I can see where that came from; one of a handful of off-key notes in an otherwise thoughtful, well-intentioned post.

  5. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez September 28, 2009 at 12:00 am | | Reply

    There's a big difference between “markets are conversations” and “conversations are markets”, and I don't believe social networks operate the same way “old media” markets do/did. In that context, I agree with Dr. Augustine Fou's take that “there's no such thing as 'social media.'” (http://www.clickz.com/3633341)

    Your point about the “infinitely-wide road” actually supports my assertion that, not only will gatekeepers persist, old and new, but that they'll be looked to more and more to separate the signal from noise, or to go with your analogy, the Yugos from Hyundais and Mercedes.

  6. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez September 28, 2009 at 12:09 am | | Reply

    Publishing has never been a high margin business, and newspapers are in a very different situation than books, but it's not true that no one's making money doing it. What's challenging the major publishers are the horizontal consolidations (and the overleveraging that enabled them) which have effectively made them too big to succeed, especially in a down economy. (Reminds me of Lawrence's The Rocking-Horse Winner.)

    Smaller niche publishers, old and new, have a great opportunity ahead of them, though. While every day isn't rainbows and butterflies, I think it's a pretty exciting time to be working in publishing itself, if not necessarily for specific publishers.

  7. mariaschneider
    mariaschneider September 28, 2009 at 9:47 am | | Reply

    Seth Godin is a marketer, not a saint. One of his books is titled All Marketers Are Liars after all. Just because Seth has lots of good ideas and shares them prolifically doesn't mean we should blindly follow suit.

  8. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez September 28, 2009 at 2:40 pm | | Reply

    Agreed, Maria. I'll still recommend Tribes to any and everyone! But I think Godin's credibility took a big hit with the Brands in Public thing; it displayed a level of tone-deafness that was surprising from the originator of Permission Marketing.

  9. Ben Atlas
    Ben Atlas September 29, 2009 at 11:20 am | | Reply

    I think Seth is isolated. Even the smartest people need someone who would *stress test* their ideas before they hit the reality. Perhaps most people are intimidated to tell Seth what to do and he needs it like the rest of the mortals. Its like you been looking at your own writing for so long you no longer notice your own simple typos.

  10. Ryan Chapman
    Ryan Chapman September 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm | | Reply

    I agree Guy. I was initially excited about Seth Godin's ideas, but lately I've had reservations about his statements. It's hilarious to think one could ever organize a tribe of 100,000 people around “literary fiction;” the heterophily of an American literary readership is among its topmost virtues. I fear this comes from looking at book as products, in turn be marketed as products, instead of individual loci of ideas.

    In terms of the industry's migration online, I think the models of YouTube and the music industry are good for authors to study: the role of the content producer will be democratized into the noise of the internet, with freak outliers (Keyboard Cat, Lily Allen) and increasingly important curators (Pitchfork).

  11. Ben Atlas
    Ben Atlas September 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm | | Reply

    “I fear this comes from looking at book as products, in turn be marketed as products, instead of individual loci of ideas.”

    Nothing else to add to this statement. There is one thing that I find very contradictory about Seth. On one hand he hates old marketing that abuses the users. On the other had he often slips into talking about the new marketing in similar terms. How do we f. the users with effective new tools.

  12. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez September 30, 2009 at 7:16 am | | Reply

    I wonder if Brands-in-Public came out of his alternative MBA program, and because he's more of a 1.0 pundit who monitors the conversation but doesn't proactively engage, I can see where he might not have seen the downside to the project. Still, as the originator of Permission Marketing, it was incredibly tone-deaf (and hypocritical?) of him.

  13. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez September 30, 2009 at 7:21 am | | Reply

    Like many marketing and publishing pundits, Godin's got a huge blind spot for fiction (especially literary fiction), and as you noted, views them as products instead of looking at the bigger picture. YouTube has proven that curators are invaluable and necessary, while also demonstrating the limitations of online advertising as a revenue source.

  14. Ben Atlas
    Ben Atlas September 30, 2009 at 9:15 am | | Reply

    Seth actually replies to every email and follow up email people send him, a rarity. Send him an email you will get a response the same day.

  15. timmoon
    timmoon November 14, 2009 at 8:45 pm | | Reply

    I'm not as optimistic about the “wisdom of crowds” because most people are followers. After all, the crowd led us into Iraq and that wasn't very wise.

    In any case, Guy, you lay out a well thought out critique of Godin's work.

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