Godin Moves from E-Book To Hardcover P-Book
Charlotte Abbott -- 9/18/00
Says he is in a position few would have predicted: in the black.

Free book
becomes p-book.
After giving away more than 125,000 electronic copies of Unleashing the Ideavirus on the Web (News, July 17), seasoned author and marketing maven Seth Godin said he is in a position few would have predicted: in the black. With enough advance orders to justify a 28,000-copy hardcover print run that shipped on September 15, a new trade distribution deal with Dearborn and translation deals with publishers in Brazil, Japan and Korea, Godin told PW that he has recouped his printing, promotion and distribution costs only nine weeks after he first posted the book on
Launched on July 17 with a first serial excerpt in Fast Company, Godin's e-book has since become an electronic "virus," demonstrating the Internet marketing principles it espouses. As readers forward electronic copies to their friends, they are not only proving the efficacy of Godin's approach but also spreading his ideas and driving up their currency at no cost to him. That currency was enough to support a first printing that, according to Godin's agent and packager Lisa DiMona, is "comparable if not better" than that for Godin's New York Times bestseller, Permission Marketing. It has also helped Godin garner higher lecture fees and allowed him to sell the book on a nonreturnable basis to Dearborn.

It was always part of Godin's plan to self-publish a hardcover that would be available through online booksellers. But after his appearance on the radio show The Connection, which aired on an NPR affiliate in Boston, he received an e-mail from Carole Horne at the Harvard Book Store, who had sold his prior books and was wondering how to get copies of this one. She says that Godin's first response was that he was self-publishing the book through Web booksellers and didn't have the capacity to work with small accounts.

Within a week after Horne wrote him back to express her disappointment with his approach, however, Godin had struck a trade distribution deal with Dearborn, which has published many of his books over the last four years. Horne said, "While I was pleased with the outcome, you can't fight this battle on a book-by-book basis. I'm quite concerned about this growing trend toward nontraditional publishing that d sn't take independent bookstores into account. When independent bookstores get excited about a nontraditional book like [Godin's], they can handsell it quite nicely."

For his part, Godin emphasized, "This wasn't all premeditated. I did almost nothing fancy to make this work. The bottom line is that it d sn't take cash to distribute a book any more. You can now build an asset on the Internet, and then transfer it through a publisher, distributor or partner." Launching an "idea virus" might have been a little easier for a seasoned author, but Godin remains optimistic that it can work for authors who have a natural constituency on the Web. "It's a lot of work to do it this way, but it's possible to get a new idea out and probably make some money, too."