About a year after it launched, Seth Godin is ceasing publication of new titles at his Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Publishing imprint, The Domino Project. His biggest takeaway, he writes, is the importance of “permission”: “The core group of 50,000 subscribers to the Domino blog made all the difference in getting the word out and turning each of our books into a bestseller.”
The Domino Project’s last print book, its twelfth, is an illustrated hardcover version of B, a poem by Sarah Kay. The imprint will also publish a “digital bonus,” and then will not publish any more new titles. “As far as I know, all the books will continue to be promoted and sold,” Godin told me. “No reason for that to change.”
On his blog, Godin writes that he is stopping the Domino Project “mostly because it was a project, not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books. Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever.” I asked him if there were any other reasons he could share about why the project is ending, but he did not elaborate. It seems unlikely that Amazon is pulling its support, since the books have sold so well–much better than most of Amazon Publishing’s other titles, in fact, at least in print. “We very much enjoyed working with Seth and wish him and the Domino Project team all the best,” an Amazon spokeswoman told me.
Godin has a list of takeaways and lessons learned, all of which are worth reading. Here are a couple:
1. Permission is still the most important and valuable asset of the web (and of publishing). The core group of 50,000 subscribers to the Domino blog made all the difference in getting the word out and turning each of our books into a bestseller. It still amazes me how few online merchants and traditional publishers (and even authors) have done the hard work necessary to create this asset. If you’re an author in search of success and you don’t pursue this with singleminded passion, you’re making a serious error. (See #2 on my advice for authors post from five years ago, or the last part of my other advice for authors post from six years ago.) …
6. Sponsored ebooks are economically irresistible to readers, to sponsors and to authors. I’m proud to have pioneered this, and I think it’s a trend worth pursuing. The value transfer to the reader is fabulous (hey, a great book, for free), and the sponsor gets to share in some of that appreciation. The author gets a guaranteed payday as well as the privilege of reaching ten or a hundred times as many readers.
7. The ebook marketing platform is in its technical infancy. There are so many components that need to be built, that will. Ebooks are way too hard to give as gifts and to share. Too hard to integrate into social media. And the ebook reader is a lousy platform for discovery and promotion of new titles (what a missed chance). All that will happen, the road map is there, but it’s going to take commitment from *Apple*, B&N and Amazon.
Godin also reviews the books the Domino Project published, explaining the marketing techniques used for each title. It’s really interesting (I wrote about one title, Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want, earlier this year.) For example, here’s what they did for Zarella’s Hierarchy of Consciousness:
Certainly the cutest of all of our covers, this book was sponsored by HubSpot and MailChimp. As a result of Dan’s network and sponsor support, we were able to break the Guinness world’s record for the largest ever webcast (really, I don’t make this stuff up). The book went to #1 among all ebooks, and spread Dan’s ideas around the world.
And for Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Yes, he’s dead, and yes, he’s a pleasure to work with.
A student recommended the essay to me, and I was blown away by its currency and utility, even today.
We made a limited edition that sold out in less than a day. Using elephant poop paper, the folks at Holstee made some very cool greeting cards.
In addition, we did a sponsored edition with Ibex that reached nearly a hundred thousand people.