Seth Godin’s Keynote Address to the Nonfiction Writer’s Conference

The keynote address for the 2017 Nonfiction Writer’s Conference was a special presentation by permission marketing guru Seth Godin.

1,000 New Books a Day

His first point: there are 1,000 new books published every day. Every day. Two quotes you may find surprising:

“Your problem is not piracy. Your problem is obscurity. If everyone on the planet read your book for free, then what would happen? Would that be a bad thing or a good thing?”

“It’s really easy to hire a writer but really hard to hire a marketer. And that’s because marketing is harder than writing. People haven’t done the hard work and emotional labor of figuring out how to see people where they are, and how to bring a new voice to a conversation, and how to get an idea to spread. If you don’t do it, no one’s going to do it for you.”

At Ausoma, we agree with Seth: writing the book, hard as we know that is, is not the hard part. The hard part is getting the book to interested readers, getting found, making the connection.

Most writers can only outsource the mechanical parts of marketing, the management and dissemination of the message. You can hire a consultant to help with the hard parts, the creative parts, like crafting the marketing message, making the sales pitch, finding the sales, but unless you’re willing to do the hard work of engaging in creative marketing along with them, the cost quickly becomes prohibitive.

Bestsellers?

According to Seth the New York Times bestseller list is meaningless (he used the word “corrupt”.) We at Ausoma feel that because the sales systems are so easy to manipulate (and because they are so very often manipulated) the very word “bestseller” means nothing.

Seth’s advice? Be a great writer, not a great bookseller. The huge bestsellers we all hear about (and, we admit, dream of emulating) are those bought by all those people who only buy one book a year (which is most people.) All those people who don’t normally read jump on that bandwagon.

Your goal is not to write for people who don’t read much. Instead of “bestselling”, Seth suggests, be an important author. Write and market to achieve greater depth and impact, not more sales.

If people have 1,000 new books a day to choose from, why are they going to choose yours?

The Biggest Mistake

According to Seth, the biggest mistake authors make is a lack of empathy for potential readers. We’ve all seen it: authors who won’t spend on a professional cover, photo, editing, layout, but they want others to spend money on them. Potential readers can see they didn’t put together a professional package. Why would they buy it?

If you can’t or won’t spend on the package, give the book away. Develop a reputation, a following, a platform. Write a worthwhile gift rather than assuming the work of an unknown writer is worth money to total strangers.

Doing It Right with Two Popular Tools: Kickstarter and Your Blog

Kickstarter was supposed to bring new artists to a waiting fanbase. That’s not how it ended up working. Kickstarter only works when you already have a following. Seth’s 3-hour Kickstarter success for What to Do When It’s Your Turn took 8 years of blogging and preparation. Seth says that Kickstarter is the last step, not the first.

What does work is one bit of advice every author hears and so few follow: blog.

“I strongly urge every nonfiction writer in the world to have a daily blog…If you have a daily blog, every night you will go to bed knowing that tomorrow you need to say something interesting. And then, you will.”

A Better Plan

Opening again with a quote:

“It’s almost impossible to make a living as a writer of books. If you can divorce yourself from the need to make a profit on your book you will probably be able to make a bigger difference. And making a difference with a book is a true calling and a wonderful thing to be able to do.”

Seth’s recommendation? Make a beautiful PDF of your book. Email it to 100 people who like you. Do not ask for feedback. Say “if this is worth sharing, please do.” If it’s a great book, they’ll share it. If it goes wild, someone will offer to pay you to write the next book. If not, write a better book.

Some Final Advice for New Authors

“Define success as something that’s under your control.”

“If you want to write, write. Write today and write tomorrow and continue writing. Write to change the world. Write to share your truth. Don’t write to make a living.”

“This is a lousy way to build a career. It’s a really good way to build a life.”

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