The news has been plastered all over the web: Seth Godin announced his most recent book, Linchpin, will be the last to be published traditionally. He blogged about it today:
Linchpin will be the last book I publish in a traditional way.
One of the poxes on an author’s otherwise blessed life is people who ask, "what’s your next book," even if some of them haven’t read the last one. (Jeff did, of course). To answer your question, this book is my next book. I think the ideas in Linchpin are my life’s work, and I’m going to figure out the best way to spread those ideas, in whatever form they take. I also have some new, smaller projects in the works, and no doubt some bigger ones around the corner.
A little background: For ten years or so, beginning in 1986, I was a book packager. Sort of like a movie producer, but for books. My team and I created 120 published books and pitched another 600 ideas, all of which were summarily rejected. Some of the published books were flops, others were huge bestsellers. It was a lot of fun. As a book packager, you wake up in the morning and say, "what sort of book can I invent/sell/organize/write/produce today?"
It took a year or so, but I finally figured out that my customer wasn’t the reader or the book buyer, it was the publisher. If the editor didn’t buy my book, it didn’t get published. Here’s the thing: I liked having editors as my customers. These are smart, motivated and really nice people who are happy to talk with you about what they want and what they believe. Good customers to have. (In all of those years, only one publisher stole any of my ideas, no check ever bounced, and no publisher ever broke a promise to me).
When I decided to become focused on being an author, the logical thing to do was to sell to that same group of people. And it worked. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great editors, and my current publisher, Portfolio, has been patient, flexible and, did I mention, patient. Adrian Zackheim, who runs the imprint, is exactly what you’d hope for, even if the architecture of his industry is fundamentally broken.
Authors need publishers because they need a customer. Readers have been separated from authors by many levels–stores, distributors, media outlets, printers, publishers–there were lots of layers for many generations, and the editor with a checkbook made the process palatable to the writer. For ten years, I had a publisher as a client (with some fun self-published adventures along the way). Twelve bestsellers later, I’ve thought hard about what it means to have a traditional publisher.