Seth Godin Goes Solo

Seth Godin, the best-selling marketing author, announced on his blog earlier this week that he is parting ways with his publisher, Portfolio, and that Linchpin, his fastest selling book to date, is the last title he will publish via traditional channels.   

A post from Godin’s blog states that the architecture of the publishing industry is broken.  It certainly hasn’t yet caught up with the lightening speed of the Web– it can take 12 months or more to get a book into reader’s hands.  And with the advent of social media, authors are no longer dependent on publishers and traditional bookstores to help them engage with their audience. If you’ve ever read Godin’s blog you know the amount of material he can spew out in a matter of hours, so I’m not completely surprised that he’s exploring direct- to-consumer publishing channels.    


As you might suspect, this move has ignited conversations in book publishing circles and begs the question: Will other high-profile authors follow Godin?  According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal, it’s uncertain.   Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s article explains the larger impact of Godin’s departure on the industry,  “With many new titles spending less time on best-seller lists and in bookstores, publishers are increasingly dependent on brand-name authors such as Mr. Godin to deliver significant book sales. “


Even if other well-known authors jump ship, I think publishers will evolve their business models and ultimately survive.   The industry is already increasing its number of e-books and there are many apps underway that will enhance traditional publishers’ delivery methods.   

Maybe the silver lining in all of this is for inspiring authors.  Will publishers will be more inclined to work with lesser known, more middle-tier authors as a result?  For authors that don’t have 70,000 fans on Facebook, the traditional publishing route is undoubtedly still the way to go.


2 thoughts on “Seth Godin Goes Solo

  1. This was indeed big news, but I’m not so certain that it’s everything it seems to be…

    Publishing is on of those ‘authoritative institutions’ that’s getting blown up by people connecting directly with one another. Financial institutions, media companies in general, even governments have lost a lot of their credibility. Yet what people gain from quicker, less edited engagement with one another they sometimes lose in the quality and utility of that engagement. Publishers take too long but they also review, analyze, edit, and stand behind what they publish. No amount of direct contact can replace that, per se.

    There’s nothing stopping ‘middle-tier’ authors from engaging with their readers just like Seth proposes to do. Hell, anybody can write and distribute a book these days. The problem is that very little of it is any good, and all of the blather about ‘content’ and ‘engagement’ doesn’t make up for it…

    I’m actually waiting for said authoritative institutions to rebuild their credibility and stature by helping consumers make sense of the online chaos. In this sense, Seth has just taken himself out of the conversation.

  2. Interesting insight Jonathan. We’re currently working with a few clients that are setting up their own direct-to-consumer channels and pursuing traditional publishing houses. I don’t think one is mutually exclusive of the other. As you mentioned, there is still immeasurable value that comes from working with seasoned editors and publishing execs. In fact, for aspiring authors having a substantial online audience certainly helps when trying to get an agent or publishing house to take notice of your work. Thanks for your post.

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