Advice for Authors from Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the author of 17 bestselling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of and The Domino Project. I’ve been following his blog for several years, and I appreciate his insight into business, marketing, and leadership and his passion for trying to change things, especially how our thoughts and actions affect others.

Word Cloud Advice for Authors1In the introduction to the reposting of his two-part article “Advice for Authors,” Mr. Godin says, “If you’re an author or an aspiring author…it’s time to end the fruitless struggle with a dying business model and think hard about how the world has changed.” The following is the second part of his article – though it was originally written in 2006, it’s still relevant to the current author and publishing landscape.

Advice for Authors by Seth Godin

It happened again. There I was, meeting with someone who I thought had nothing to do with books or publishing, and it turns out his new book just came out.

With more than 75,000 books published every year (not counting ebooks or blogs) [over 292,000 U.S. titles in 2012], the odds are actually pretty good that you’ve either written a book, are writing a book or want to write one.

Hence this short list:

1. Lower your expectations. The happiest authors are the ones that don’t expect much.

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.

3. Pay for an eidtor editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read. I found someone I like working with at the EFA. One of the things traditional publishers used to do is provide really insightful, even brilliant editors (people like Fred Hills and Megan Casey), but alas, that doesn’t happen very often. And hiring your own editor means you’ll value the process more.

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book, you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.

5. Don’t try to sell your book to everyone. First, consider this: “58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.” Then, consider the fact that among people even willing to buy a book, yours is just a tiny little needle in a very big haystack. Far better to obsess about a little subset of the market – that subset that you have permission to talk with, that subset where you have credibility, and most important, that subset where people just can’t live without your book.

6. Resist with all your might the temptation to hire a publicist to get you on Oprah. First, you won’t get on Oprah (if you do, drop me a note and I’ll mention you as the exception). Second, it’s expensive. You’re way better off spending the time and money to do #5 instead, going after the little micromarkets. There are some very talented publicists out there (thanks, Allison), but in general, see #1.

7. Think really hard before you spend a year trying to please one person in New York to get your book published by a “real” publisher. You give up a lot of time. You give up a lot of the upside. You give up control over what your book reads like and feels like and how it’s promoted. Of course, a contract from Knopf and a seat on Jon Stewart’s couch are great things, but so is being the Queen of England. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you. Far more likely is that you discover how to efficiently publish (either electronically or using POD or a small run press) a brilliant book that spreads like wildfire among a select group of people.

8. Your cover matters. Way more than you think. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t need a book, you could just email people the text.

9. If you have a “real” publisher (#7), it’s worth investing in a few things to help them do a better job for you. Like pre-editing the book before you submit it. Like putting the right to work on the cover with them in the contract. And most of all, getting the ability to buy hundreds of books at cost that you can use as samples and promotional pieces.

10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That’s the most important one, by far.

11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.

12. Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.

13. If you’ve got the patience, bookstore signings and talking to book clubs by phone are the two lowest-paid but most guaranteed to work methods you have for promoting a really really good book. If you do it 200 times a year, it will pay.

14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn’t!).

15. If you want to reach people who don’t normally buy books, show up in places where people who don’t usually buy books are. Media places, virtual places and real places, too.

16. Most books that sell by the truckload sell by the caseload. In other words, sell to organizations that buy on behalf of their members/employees.

17. Publishing a book is not the same as printing a book. Publishing is about marketing and sales and distribution and risk. If you don’t want to be in that business, don’t! Printing a book is trivially easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You’ll find plenty of printers who can match the look and feel of the bestselling book of your choice for just a few dollars a copy. That’s not the hard part.

18. Bookstores, in general, are run by absolutely terrific people. Bookstores, in general, are really lousy businesses. They are often where books go to die. While some readers will discover your book in a store, it’s way more likely they will discover the book before they get to the store, and the store is just there hoping to have the right book for the right person at the time she wants it. If the match isn’t made, no sale.

19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.


Free Resources for Writers: Promotion, Interviews & Reviews

In my quest to find online sites to promote my book This New Mountain, I’ve collected a ridiculous amount of information. Here are just a few useful websites.

Renata_PressSandy Bazinet is an author with a heart to help other writers. She broke through years of writer’s block by giving herself “the freedom to simply have fun and create” and discovered that “the story begins to tell itself.” Sandy posts interviews of authors of different genres (fiction and nonfiction) such as Anne Hillerman, Joseph Badal, Slim Randles, Sarah Baker, and Steve Brewer.  She includes a book cover image with links to your website/blog and book buying pages. Contact Sandy at to request an author interview. (Read my interview here.)

IA logo blue flaskThrough, Robin runs Ink & Alchemy (focusing on artists and creatives) and More Ink (focusing on writers). As the administrator of these sites, her goal is “to inspire and encourage others who wish to be creative, while promoting the work of existing writers and artists.” If you’d like to be a Featured Writer at More Ink, go to this page for more information. She also welcomes submissions of creative epiphanies of up to 5000 words. Check out her Resources tab for great information including places to promote your free eBooks, podcasts geared to social media and platform, and to download her free 25-page pdf  “Basics of Building a Social Media Platform.”

kornerkonnection“Discovering. Sharing. Promoting…with special emphasis on Indie Authors.” This site offers free book promotion on their EBookKornerKafe Facebook page (which has over 19,000 likes at this point). Go to and read their notes to understand how it all works, then fill out the form, submit, and watch for your book to show up on their Facebook page. There’s also a less active page for print versions at KlassicKafe. You can submit to both, but the submission form for Ebook Korner Kafe has a place to indicate  both versions are available.

bookgoodies-sq-logo-200“Our mission at is to present information for authors to make wise choices in their writing and publishing journey and give all authors a chance to be discovered, reviewed and read. We want to allow readers the opportunity to find new authors and books that will enrich their reading enjoyment.” Some services cost, but the following are free:

  • Authors: Tell Us About Your Book: Submit information about your book (for all genres) or use the special links for memoirs (with link to book review request); cookbooks and food; cats, dogs, and other pets; and craft books and tutorials.
  • Book Reviews: To request a book review, submit electronic copies of your book in pdf, plain text, rtf, doc, docx or mobi format. (I had to hunt for this link which isn’t obvious in any of the main tabs.)
  • Author Interview: Answer their questions and include links to your website, Amazon pages, Goodreads, etc.
  • Guest Posts: Submit a guest post and include links to your website, Amazon pages, and other social media sites.
  • Author Services: Submit information for the services you offer to writers; explain what you do and how people should contact you.
  • Other: The Author/Bloggers/Reviewers tab is the general area that links to the things available to authors, etc. If you review books, go to Book Blogs. You can submit your short stories, book excerpts, and links to your book trailer through the Under the Reading Room tab.

What are your favorite websites for free book promotion?