Judging Books by their Readers

That’s (almost) the title of an interesting article in the June 24 Wall Street Journal. For those who don’t subscribe to the Journal, I’ll summarize:

It’s always interesting to watch Seth Godin navigate marketing’s bleeding edge. For more than a decade Godin has cut through the fog and told us how to navigate with books like ‘Permission Marketing’ (1999) ‘Tribes,’ (2008) and ‘Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable’ (2009).

Lately, Godin has been experimenting in the world of self-publishing. Two years ago he partnered with Amazon to create an imprint called the Domino Project which eventually published a dozen titles including one of his own.

Disappointed by the results, he’s now returned to his long-time publisher but with a new wrinkle in which he’s selling shares of forthcoming books. The idea is to avoid the will-they-come-if-you-build-it approach in favor of one where his customers/readers tell him what they want him to write and back it with their own money.

While this approach may not work for beginning writers who lack an established fan base, it’s working just fine for Godin who raised more than $230,000 in a week’s time.

What it does suggest to writers who are just starting out, however, is that the sooner you start interacting with your readers and potential readers the better. You may not want to try to replicate Godin’s specific approach, but you don’t have to.

Using Twitter, their blog, etc. to reach potential readers, unknown novelists might ask potential readers to vote on their book’s ending, or where the story takes place, or offer three possible names for a character.

All of the above have the potential to get readers invested in your forthcoming book. Once they’ve done so, asking them to plunk down $10 for a paperback or $4 for a digital copy, won’t seem like such a stretch.

I intended on trying something like that myself. Of course, I’ll report on the results and I look forward to hearing from others as well.


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