Internet marketing huckster Seth Godin is at it again. Apparently he started some publishing house with Amazon, and it was such a huge success that he's shutting it down. I don't get it either. But in his blog post where he declares victory and leaves, he says this:
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.)
If you don't feel like clicking through, I'll summarize Seth's advice: you have to spend years building an audience for your blog and then use this asset to sell your book. This is what Seth wants you to pursue with singleminded passion.
Now, I've always been mystified by this guy's popularity. For reasons that escape me, he's built an army of people who hang on his every word. And I guess he sells a lot of books about marketing and hucksterism or something.
But I will tell you this: his advice is terrible. He thinks because it worked for him, it can work for you, but it can't. Here's why.
If you write fiction, it's very difficult to translate a blog audience into a fiction buying audience. (Yes, Cory Doctorow did it. Name someone else.) It's also very tough to build a blog audience if you're just writing whatever random crap interests you,as I do here. When I was being very assiduous about updating every day (this is back when I was writing full time, so I had time to do that), I got about 60 views a day. Now I get between 20 and 40. I am grateful to everyone who ever thought the crap I spew forth here was worth reading, but there were never enough of you to build a career on.
And if you write nonfiction, well, I'm afraid the wild west era of staking a claim to your corner of the internets and establishing an audience is pretty much over. Too many other people have been at it too long. Into celebrity gossip? Why would I read you when Perez Hilton, TMZ, and Gawker have that covered from all angles? Interested in gadgets? With Mashable, Techcrunch, and Gizmodo out there, why would I read you? Want to rant about how publishing sucks and you are smarter than everybody else? J.A. Konrath has that market cornered. Want to pull prounouncements about the future out of your butt? Sorry, but Seth Godin's been at it for years.
Outliers who don't understand that they are outliers are annoying. At least traditionally published bestselling authors don't run around going, "Oh, everybody should do what I did." They understand that there's a certain amount of luck involved in their success, as in everyone's.
There is no blueprint.
My advice is this: ignore everybody's advice. Including mine.