I imagine that people who read my blog who are professional marketers say, “well, this is all nice and well – this build an audience thing. But the only people who do it are those who don’t have an audience, or don’t have any money to run advertising.”
That would be a foolish assertion/assumption.
There are two examples to point out to you. The first is Seth Godin, and his decision to publish his latest book, What to do when it’s your Turn. The second is William Shatner’s latest crowd-funded project Catch Me Up.
Time for Your Turn
I have not yet read the book, this is not a book review. I have no doubt it is insightful and jammed full of great stuff. It’s on my desk (thanks to a colleague) but I haven’t read it yet (I will soon – I read about two books a month).
Instead, what struck me as interesting was his decision to self-publish.
The notion of self-publishing seems to be relegated to authors who are in the tin-foil hat club. Having been rejected by publishing houses everywhere, but undeterred to share with the world their thoughts and innermost secrets, they pay an online typesetter, upload to Amazon, and away they go. There are entire self-publishing services that for a few thousand dollars can get your book looking like a New York Time’s best seller, and with Amazon, you can sell it anywhere in the world on demand.
This isn’t a blog post about self-publishing; we’ll do one later this year on that topic for those interested.
Again, this is about the decision to self-publish.
Someone like Seth Godin, especially given his history in publishing, could have any publishing house he wanted publish the book. He has the most followed blog on marketing, is instantly recognizable, and has a demonstrated track record of writing books that sell very well. There is no doubt in my mind, if he wanted, any publisher would have taken his latest work on and published it.
Why then chose to self-publish?
The simplest answer is a deeply held conviction and belief about connection and controlling your empire. In listening to interviews about this book (the most insightful was Brian Clark’s Rainmaker.fm episode), Seth laments how as a book producer, he produced books for the agency/publishing house and not necessarily the reader. He also admonishes people for waiting for “their turn” to contribute. Taking his own advice, he decided to self-publish his book – taking his own turn. Not waiting for someone to pick him – but just doing what he wanted, how he wanted, and waiting for the audience to give him feedback.
A rather interesting thought – a man who could have had any publisher, chose himself.
To Boldly Go…
Another example, William Shatner’s new project, Catch Me Up.
Again, love him or hate him, William Shatner is well known. He’s been an actor, a signer (Rocket Man is legendary – parodied still to this day), and an author. He’s written several fiction series – the most popular being TekWar. He’s obviously written several books about Star Trek. Additionally, he’s written seven non-fiction books – four about his time playing Kirk, and three about life, leadership, and business.
Here’s another individual who could have anyone publish his works, or back his projects. Where did he go for his latest work – Catch Me Up? An unlikely place – Kickstarter.
Why would a guy like Shatner go to Kickstarter? According to Shatner himself, “I’m encouraging people to use new tools like Kickstarter, so I thought why not create this book the same way?”
But the core reason appears to have been that only by owning his creation would he be able to follow his passion and deliver to his audience that which he thought they needed most: “”This book and the website are labors of love. I really believe it can give hope, skills, and even community to a portion of our population that really needs it right now. Frankly, lofty goals like this are not that appealing to big publishers. Going the traditional route would’ve required a number of sacrifices including a change in the overall message. So I’ve decided to take a page from my own book, so to speak, and use crowd-sourcing to fund this project. Through Kickstarter, I can preserve the integrity of this movement and give you, my backers, the [sic] chance to be a significant part of my cherished project.”
Now, I can’t imagine that William Shatner needs the 60-100K to do the project. So why go to Kickstarter?
Well, one idea I had is it’s a great way to figure out if there is an audience for what you’re going to attempt to do. By doing the Kickstarter project, he’s gotten buy in from these people who are willing to invest in his idea. That means when he launches, they’ll also be there to promote the idea. Shatner is using Kickstarter to build an audience.
It’s actually a very smart idea if you ask me.
Our endeavor here at the Brand Media Studio is to help our readers see how they can connect with their audience. Maybe publishing your own book is the way to go – I’m not saying you should. However, in the case of Seth Godin and William Shatner, you have two guys who really didn’t need to prove anything to anyone in order to get their ideas picked. They could have had anyone publish their materials – they instead chose themselves.
There is a lot to go into about the idea of “owning your empire” that really can’t be covered in a single blog post. That’s why I invite you to join the studio, so that we can continue the dialogue in our forums, seminars, events, and podcasts. We’ll be talking more about this – how to own your empire and develop a platform you can be proud of. I hope you’ll join us.