I’m in the final stretch of the 2nd Edition of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. I’ll be publishing drafts of sections and chapters here. The final is due on July 31. Those of you who would like a preview can find it as it appears here — just subscribe to this blog via newsletter or newsreader.
This is very difficult for me to do. I’ve been taught all my life to polish, then publish. Part of me is screaming that I have to polish for the next two months, get it as good as I can, then submit it, let the editors improve it, approve the edits, then wait until the Fall when the final masterpiece comes out, neatly bound and beautifully designed. That’s what I did the first time. My publisher, AMACOM, wouldn’t let me publish on a web site any significant parts of the book before, during or after publication. It was understandable then, before the Word-of-Mouth Revolution, before the soft coup that put the customer in charge. Really in charge, in ways outlined in the book. Who knew, then, that giving away free PDF files of a book would increase sales? OK, Seth Godin did, but no one else believed that it could happen again. And again. And again
So, when AMACOM wanted a 2nd Edition, I asked my agent, Wendy Keller to set up a meeting with Hank Kennedy, President of AMACOM, and my editor, Ellen Kadin. I told Wendy that I wasn’t interested in revising the book unless I could market it using Word-of-Mouth Marketing, not just the traditional marketing I was understandably forced into with first book, having no leverage as a first-time author. I’d rather change it completely and self-publish. Wendy was highly skeptical about our chances of getting a traditional publisher to give permission to do it the way I proposed. I had my doubts, but had nothing to lose, since in this case I was the customer and the customer is in charge. I now had alternatives. Anyway, I prepared my case and we assembled in Hank’s office.
I wish I had a recording of that most extraordinary meeting. To the best of my recollection, here’s what happened:
I got about 30 seconds into my pitch when Hank interrupted. He said, “OK, when can we have it?”
Taken aback, I blurted out, “Is that a ‘Yes’?” He nodded. Even more dumbfounded, I said, “You mean you’re not even going to give me a fight? You’re going to deprive me of the pleasure of at least an intense discussion?”
I don’t remember his exact words, but he pointed out that he wasn’t exactly living in a cave, unaware of what is going on in publishing, media and the rest of the world. He pointed out the obvious, that he was president of a major publisher of business books, books that he actually reads and is proud of. He knew that the world had changed. That it was obvious him that what I was proposing was the ONLY way to bring this book out and that it would be hypocritical to do it any other way. I was so amazed that I don’t remember anything else that happened.
I didn’t put as much up on the web site as I had hoped. It was easier to write privately than to expose first drafts to criticism. While I kept telling clients to “put it out there,” I was still reluctant to do it myself. I came to realize how my clients feel when they don’t even want to get together informal groups of customers to serve as an advisory group. It’s really scary to invite criticism. Our creations are precious little children that we want to protect from the harsh realities of the outside world. But they are also works in progress that are shaped and improved by the outside world much more often than they are trampled. I think I’m over it. I think that somewhere between the people who tweet every passing thought that occurs to them in the shower and waiting until things are “perfect” lies a vast middle ground that we can all be happy with, or at least tolerate, and maybe even come to love. I’m still uncomfortable. Old habits die hard.
There is a lot in life that is simple but not easy.
Welcome to the New Marketing.
The next post will have the actual table of contents.
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