Seth Godin, Margaret Atwood reveal new publishing strategies

Authors look for new ways to build audiences

Prominent authors Seth Godin and Margaret Atwood recently announced new creative publishing strategies designed to build audiences before a book gets published. The strategies reflect a changing marketplace where authors need to take control of building their audiences, rather than leaving it to the publisher as they have in the past.

Godin has been using Kickstarter, a funding platform for artists, to help fund his latest project. As an established author, Godin has found that it's fairly simple to get to the first level critical mass of readers, which he considers 10,000 readers, after which, as he says, either the book resonates or it doesn't.

For Godin, the Kickstarter funding project he created solved the issue of getting those 10,000 readers, but as he pointed out, it worked because he already had an engaged tribe of people who were interested in his work and who would read the early copies of the book, talk about it on social networks and help sell the book for him. For aspiring artists who don't have a tribe of people interested in the work yet, the work comes in creating that tribe before going to a place like Kickstarter.

It's a bit of a conundrum for new authors. How do you create that audience or tribe without funding to create your work? It's not easy to do, and it takes a lot of hard work to get your work in front of people and gather that critical mass of people talking about it. 

As for Atwood, another established author with a strong following, she is taking a different track. According to NPR, Atwood is selling her latest book in serial format online, one "episode" at a time. Atwood is using a site designed for authors to distribute their work online called Byliner. The site seems to be favored by more established authors.

Atwood told NPR that she is actually following a 19th century publishing model in which authors published a few chapters and got reactions from readers before writing the rest. This model died out in the late 20th century, but one of the more interesting cases of serial publishing was Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," which was published in serial format in Rolling Stone magazine between 1984 and 1985, and eventually sold over 3 million copies in hardcover and paperback--all long before the world wide web.

What Atwood is doing is taking that idea of serial publishing and bringing it to the web. 

For more information:
- see Seth Godin's post on the Domino blog
- see the NPR post on Margaret Atwood's serial publishing project

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