I must admit that I'm not too familiar with Seth Godin. But according to his interviewer, Jeff Rivera at Digital Book World, he is arguably one of the most successful bloggers and thought-leaders of our time. (And I thought that honor went to Matt MacNish!)
I'll link to the whole interview, but here's bits and pieces of what he says:
About publishing: I think we’re going to see consolidation, fire sales, layoffs and a lot of uncomfortableness … Not happy, but true.
Rivera: When do you see the book publishing industry being completely unrecognizable as we have come to know it? What will it look like instead?
Godin: Big advances for midlist authors are the first to go. Second: all the hard-working people in the book production chain, because the lack of scarcity makes it hard to pay them to do the work they do. Mostly, though, I think it’s a fading of the power of a published book to influence the conversation. (My emphasis) When anyone can publish an ebook, anyone will.
Rivera: The role of literary agents has changed in the last few years and it’s changing even more. What can literary agents do right now so that they remain apart of the equation instead of lost in the digital eBook dust?
I’d start by redefining what you do. I don’t think the goal of the agent is to maximize the size of the advance (which is what it was, as evidenced by what agents talked about and how they got paid). I think the goal going forward is to represent every element of an author’s impact on the world, including their permission asset, the way they build a following, the approach to building a tribe.
He goes on to say this about writers:
An author starting out today needs to pick herself, establish a niche, become truly the best at it and relentlessly and generously give it all away as a way of leading and making a ruckus.
It takes a long time, but it’s still faster than waiting for Binky Urban and Knopf to find you.
Rivera: Many authors hear your message about being willing to give away their books for free, or to focus on spreading their message but their question is: “I’ve got rent to pay so how do I turn that into cash money?”
Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? I gave hundreds of speeches before I got paid to write one. I’ve written more than 4000 blog posts for free.
Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word–over. (My emphasis.)
|Journeyman writer in the new publishing age|
(Actually "The Death of Chatterton" by Henry Wallis)
Rivera: If writers shouldn’t presume they will make money directly from book sales, what other opportunities exist for them indirectly so they don’t have to flip burgers?
Godin: Depends on what you write! The Grateful Dead certainly didn’t depend on CD sales.
Are you a chef? A public speaker? If you’re a mystery writer, can you find 1000 true fans to pay a hundred dollars a year each to get an ongoing serial from you?
It’s not the market’s job to tell authors how to monetize their work. The market doesn’t care. If there’s no scarcity of what they want, it’s hard to get them to pay for it.
Sounds Darwinian, doesn't it? It all goes back to whether, and how, an artist or a creative type should be paid for their art. If you have time, try to read the comments on the article too. Lots of agents (Wendy Strothman, Peter Riva, Jeff Herman, Jenny Bent, and Deborah Schneider among them) chiming in.
What do you think of Godin's suggestion to give it away for free and therefore build a following? Creative or Crazy?