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January 17, 2018
by seth godin

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A few years ago, I self-published What To Do When It’s Your Turn. We now have more than 150,000 copies in print. That’s amazing for a book that lists for $32, is in color and is hardly a traditional business book. It’s not sold in stores, and is rarely found on Amazon.

How did it become a bestseller?

The biggest amplifier of the success of the book is the way I chose to price and ship it. More than a third of the book’s sales have been to people who bought ten or more copies at a time. Each of these people bought a few, then a few more, then a bunch.

Arithmetic is on the side of the publisher who can embrace the power of bulk sales. When a reader finds that a book resonates, she can invest in buying more copies and give them away. And books that are given away are books that get read.

It’s worth pausing for a second to consider the significant shift that this represents. Traditional publishers have always been wary of bulk sales. It’s so difficult to figure out that an entire company (our friends at 8CR) is devoted to making it easier. The traditional model is that a bookstore might sell 50 copies of your book. Or that a particularly successful PR match might lead to a TV show or radio appearance that sells 1,000. But the thinking is that the middlemen are stores and media outlets.

But what if instead, the middlemen are your readers and fans?

Traditional bestseller lists work hard to avoid bulk sales. They don’t count as ‘real’ apparently.

But the author’s goals are different. The author merely wants to spread the word. Lists are for groceries.

Cat Hoke’s new book, A Second Chance, is about forgiveness. It’s not just a memoir, but a call to action for each of us, a chance to change the way we engage… not just with criminal justice, but with each other.

As the voluntary publishers of her book, we’re counting on bulk sales from individuals and organizations to replace the book media that used to exist but is now missing for most authors. By encouraging people to buy five or ten or fifty books for their organizations, we accomplish three things:

1. Most important, we give the reader’s organization a new vocabulary. When a team reads a book at the same time, they change in sync. They develop new words, new approaches and new cohesion. I’ve seen this happen firsthand with The Dip and Purple Cow.

2. The Proustian magic of the book format carries far more weight than an email or a video can. Handing someone a book is a respectful act, the way to open a door of possibility.

3. Priming Amazon’s pump with a significant number of bulk pre-orders ensures that we won’t run out of stock on pub date at the end of February.

Here’s a preview galley of the first thirty pages of the book.

We’ve donated 20,000 copies of the hardcover to Defy so that every copy sold generates nothing but contribution to their important work. My hope is that Defy’s supporters, plus readers of this blog will step up and invest in ten or twenty books for their friends and family. Thanks to Pamela Slim and Marketing Over Coffee for getting us started. I know that it’s a stretch, particularly for a book you haven’t read yet, but I’m hoping the galley will help you see the power of what Cat and her team are building.

You can check out the book (in hardcover and Kindle, and soon audio) here. Thank you.

January 12, 2018
by seth godin

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Most books are self-published. Perhaps half are non-fiction.

And the number of self-publishers who miss this secret is astonishing. Here you go:

The purpose of a book cover is to remind you of a book you’ve read that you liked.

The goal is not to invent a new way to design a book cover.

The goal is not to prove to the world that you have good taste.

And the goal is not to save money by designing it yourself in Microsoft Paint.

The thing is, the eye is discerning. It can instantly tell the difference between the real thing and something that’s almost the real thing.

I had the privilege of working with our Creative Director, Alex Peck, in designing the cover for Cat Hoke’s new book.

Alex is a craftsman. And a designer. He understands the power of design thinking, and always begins with, “what’s it for?”

In the case of Cat’s book, the what’s it for is simple: The purpose of the cover is to establish quite clearly that this is a book of substance, by a professional, a woman with something important to say.

In the book world, this is communicated NOT with cutting edge fonts and colors, but with nuance. With the patina of experience. With 100 tiny adjustments, with line spacing, shading, shadows, stickers, emblems and embellishments.

It’s painstaking but it’s worth it.

Here are just a few of the iterations that Alex went through:

The book is being printed and comes out in late February. If you want to see the final cover, here it is.

Does it pay to own a small bookstore?

A student asked this question. My answer: …it’s a bit like asking if it pays to be a poet. The answer is, “it depends.” It certainly doesn’t pay to be a poet who only makes money from a few journals who pay a few dollars a poem. But it might pay to be Bob Dylan. [...]

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Building a book (part 2)

Amazon is it. There are now two channels for non-fiction books in the USA. There used to be 4,000. The second channel is “special sales.” This means sales to organizations, sales at events, sales through your team. It means, most of all, using the book as a method to spread the word. The first channel, [...]

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Building a book (part 1)

Tom Kubik is a gifted and successful commercial photographer working in New York. He’s also a generous soul and an active volunteer at Defy Ventures, the organization that Cat Hoke founded. Cat is on the front lines of fixing the massive problem facing those released from our sprawling prison system. While recidivism is more than [...]

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A new book… we would love your help

In February, we’ll be publishing Catherine Hoke’s new book, A Second Chance. Cat’s the founder of Defy Ventures, a groundbreaking non-profit that is changing the lives of men and women while they’re in prison (and after they get out.) As a direct result of Defy’s program, recidivism has gone from 75% to less than 6%. [...]

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All the books, any book and this book

At the beginning, bookstores only sold the books they actually printed. The bookstore and the publisher were one and the same. Throughout our lifetime, of course, that hasn’t been true. A unique element of this industry more than any other I can think of is that every store sells every book. They might not have [...]

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Harper Lee and the two mythical promises

Harper Lee is a legend and a genius. She’s also the exception that proves the rule, twice. Rule 1: Your book will not be beautifully edited, it will not be lovingly hand sold, it will not be taught in schools across the country. Your book will not pay you millions of dollars of royalties, year [...]

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Goal setting (and a discount)

Sometime on Tuesday, February 17, Amazon is clearing out the inventory of Zig Ziglar’s goal planner. The 4-pack is here. The discount, when it’s live for four hours, will be here. For about $3 a copy, less than $12 for the four pack. The current plan is for it to be an active discount from [...]

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The bestseller effect

There are two markets for books (and music). The first market are grazers, collectors or omnivores. They make the market happen. They read a lot of books. They visit the library often. They have 2,000 LPs in their collection. They listen and read around the edges. The second market consume in response to the market. [...]

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