June 25, 2012

News & Opinion: Big News from Seth Godin and Portfolio

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:24 PM – Filed under: Publishing Industry

Seth Godin is returning to Portfolio! That is the big news.

But the news is delightfully nuanced if you've been following Seth's progression since he left Portfolio in 2010 to start the Domino Project, which was as its name implied a project, and by almost all measures a successful one. It was, at the very least, a much bigger and more intriguing idea than any other author has come up with to explore the new possibilities in publishing. And the best thing about it was that it wasn't just about publishing his own ideas. He gathered a talented group of people around him and set up a project that shared other authors' voices, and put many great ideas into a world that desperately needs them.

The return to Portfolio comes on the heals of another interesting idea—a Kickstarter campaign to gauge interest in his new book, The Icarus Deception: Why Make Art? His pitch for the campaign began:
Please help me show my publisher, the bookstores and anyone with a book worth writing that it's possible to start a project with a show of support on Kickstarter.

The Icarus Deception is an experiment in publishing, an opportunity for real growth, an invitation to challenge your friends and something you can touch.

This is a book about the mythology of success (and failure) and how our economy rewards people who are willing to stand up and stand out. For too long, we've been seduced into believing we should do less. It's time to redefine what we're capable of.
Many people, including me, have been wondering what exactly Seth is up to. Some have faulted him for going with a traditional publisher instead of self-publishing after raising so much money ($235,138) on Kickstarter, but it seems to me that he hinted at the possibility in the opening sentence of his pitch. He did, after all, write "please help me show my publisher," which implied he has one. Many people probably took that statement as an adversarial, "we'll show them" remark, or read it as "please help me show the publishers," which I'm sure delighted many who rail against "the big six" in publishing. But that reading doesn't make sense when followed up with mentions of the bookstores and fellow authors he'd also like to show the possibilities to. And it certainly wouldn't have stuck had they watched the video in which his passion for books and publishing is on clear display.

If you're interested in reading more about The Icarus Deception project, check out Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg's Wall Street Journal article on Giving Readers a Say, or read Seth's Kickstarter update when Portfolio signed on to publish the book.

I'm still not sure I know exactly what Seth is doing, if I'm "in on the joke," but I hope he keeps on doing it. I'm positive that I have no idea what he'll do next, which is refreshing. I do believe that, whatever it is, he'll be doing it with an honest and earnest passion for ideas and a love for books in whatever form they take, and that he will be doing his darnedest to move both forward. I also believe that, like any true artist, he views his work as a series of projects. And whatever his next project is, I'll be one of a great many paying attention.