August 08, 2000
When a traditional publisher offered best-selling author Seth Godin a "very significant advance" for his next book, "Unleashing the Ideavirus," he turned them down. This was his big chance to prove his ideas were right on the money -- that content owners can make a profit by giving it away ... free. Hear how Godin, winner of a 1999 Tenagra Award, succeeded at:
When a traditional publisher offered best-
selling author Seth Godin a "very significant advance" for
his next book, "Unleashing the Ideavirus," he turned them
down. This was his big chance to prove his ideas were
right on the money -- that content owners can make a profit
by giving it away ... free.
"From the math point of view, each hardcover book costs $4
to print and I'm selling it for $40. I'll break even when
I sell 5,000 copies." When we asked why people would buy
the book when he's giving 100% of the content away in it
for free digital download Godin explained, "It's a
souvenir. You're not buying the idea. The idea is free."
Godin sent a single short HTML email to everyone
who had read his last book, Permission Marketing, and
emailed him asking to be placed on his email updates list.
The subject line read "Read my new book ... Free". Body
copy was very short, friendly and to the point. It
reminded us that we'd asked for an update from him and
briefly told us where we could download the new book for
Being the opt-in King, Godin was careful to send this email
ONLY to people who'd opted in for more news and not to the
127,000 names he'd gathered of people who'd just downloaded
portions of his last book from his Web site. "A more
aggressive marketer might say, 'Here you can get another
one', but I didn't go that route."
Godin supported the campaign by building buzz during the
two prior weeks via stories in major media including USA
Today, Wired Online and The New York Times.
"My email had a 33% click through rate. It worked
far out of proportion to my expectations and I'm a pretty
optimistic guy. So far 55,000 people have downloaded it
[the book] from me. That combined with the fact that the
average person shares it with three other people means I've
now reached 2.5 times more people than my last book, which
was a New York Times Bestseller, in 1/20th of the time."
As of August 7th, the hardcover version of the book was
#930 on Amazon's best-seller list, a remarkably high
ranking considering it's almost double the cost of most
hardcovers, won't be published until September ... and a
free digital copy is also available for download there!
(Granted, you have to look for it.)
NOTES: Godin says, "The lesson here is an opt-in email list
is the single greatest asset a Web site can build. If your
response rates aren't like mine that means you're not
getting good opt-ins. Most marketers have trouble
"My message here for content owners is that the most
precious thing available to you is attention and giving
away things to get attention is smart. I believe we'll see
more and more of that, as people consider that any piece of
digital media you can give away is worth it; which is why
the whole problem with Napster is so ridiculous. Let
people sample new ideas!"
NEXT: After traveling around the world almost non-stop last
year on speaking gigs, Godin has decided to stay put for a
while. He doesn't like consulting, "I'm an idea merchant."
So he's doing the next best thing, offering 50 lucky
business executives (no consultants or service people) the
chance to spend one special, tax-deductible, day with him
en mass for just $8,000 each. As Godin says, "If I can
teach you to fish, then that's a bargain." Interested?
Editor's Note: OK how embarrassing is this? When we picked
up the phone the other day and a voice said, "This is Seth"
we just assumed it was our pal and Board Member Seth
Fineberg. So we were horsing around, giving him the kind
of relaxed backtalk we give all our pals, when after a few
minutes it dawned on us ... this wasn't Seth Fineberg at
all. This was Permission Marketing King Seth Godin.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has entered the building!