Lessons From Publishing Innovation The Domino Project With Ishita Gupta

In the first podcast of the 2012, I discuss The Domino Project with Ishita Gupta who has worked with Seth Godin on this exciting publishing experiment. [Video version at the end of the post along with notes].

In the introduction, I also announce the publication of my latest novel, Prophecy. It’s currently in ‘soft launch’ phase as I gather reviews. Other achievements in 2011 include: The Creative Penn made the Top 10 Blogs for Writers for the 2nd year running. Pentecost has sold over 16,000 copies. I have moved continents from Australia to London and also quit my consulting job for full-time author-entrepreneur status. I also discuss some of my goals for 2012 and some publishing rumours about Apple.

Ishita Gupta has helped create 6 bestselling books as Head of Hoopla for The Domino Project, Seth Godin’s publishing experiment. She also runs Fear.less online magazine, described as Fast Company meets Oprah.

  • How Ishita got started with her online magazine, Fearless, and as a participant in Seth Godin’s alternative MBA course. She had previously learned about stories and how powerful they can be. The alternative MBA introduced her to all the real-world necessities for running a business online. There are so many aspects to a business: personal initiative, writing, marketing, sales and much more. Working with Seth meant things took off.
  • Ishita and I wax lyrical about the opportunities of the internet these days. We’re both so excited!
  • On the Domino Project, a publishing experiment. It was a short project and here’s Seth’s post on lessons learned from it (must read!) It was powered by Amazon so they partnered with Seth to publish the books which were all short, inspiring business books. The main difference was the internet which means speed and targeted marketing as well as mass distribution. They produced a book a month and brought them to market much more swiftly than traditional publisher. But Domino was still a ‘traditional’ publisher in terms of curation, editing, design, marketing etc.
  • Domino targeted Seth’s tribe by writing books for them – entrepreneurs, marketers, business people. The aim was to make books that people want to buy, aimed at that market and building in the ideas of the internet. [Note: this tribe includes me – I bought most of the Domino books & have all Seth’s books, so I know this works!]
  • Failure is hugely important in order to push the envelope on what you can achieve. Domino was trying to teach that there is not only one way to publish. Embracing change is important in publishing but people are scared of their system disappearing. Authors do have more power these days. They can create their own lists, they can be their own sales & marketing force, you can speak directly to readers. It does beg the question – what can a traditional publisher provide? If that’s the question, you have to be able to differentiate yourself. [Note: we love publishing in all its forms and we want to help them through!]

Quote from Seth from his lessons learned post: “If you’re an author, pick yourself. Don’t wait for a publisher to pick you. And if you work for a big publishing house, think really hard about the economics of starting your own permission-based ebook publisher. Now’s the time.”

  • On permission marketing and having your own list. A lot of the authors for Domino had their own list already and it is a critical part of book marketing. However, clearly people can achieve without a huge list but in general, you need a communication channel to your readership. But it shouldn’t be me, me, me; it should be more attraction marketing when you create value and people come to you. That is the asset of a list or a blog. You can then see how word of mouth makes a difference these days. Specificity is everywhere on the internet so you have so much choice. People need a way to find things, so be useful and people will come to you. Time and attention are scarce and your recommendations can cut through the noise if you build your list. [Check out How you can build your own email list here]
  • Other book marketing techniques. The online media tour / virtual book tour means you schedule online appearances in a specific period. Ishita talks about the process and you can see Seth’s Book 2.0 media tour here from Linchpin. Traditional media was used but mainly picked up the stories from the web. The default was web first, you can control, measure and see direct results. [You can see my slightly smaller launch for Pentecost here.]
  • Creating an opt-in list specific to books is also a good idea, even before you have the book ready. [I did this for Prophecy, check out how to do it here]
  • Ishita is now working with authors on book marketing and will definitely be staying in publishing. She has some information products coming out. She is also continuing to build Fearless magazine which has morphed over the years but tackles these difficult issues.

You can find Ishita at IshitaGupta.com and at FearlessStories.com and on Twitter @ishitagupta


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  1. says

    Another good piece Joanna, The Domino Project is on my list to look into in the coming weeks, so some really good links here. First time i’ve heard of Fearless too, but it sounds like a great website. I’m going to have a really good look later on when it’s not early and my eyes have woken up :)

    Hope the soft launch is going well so far

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  2. says

    So great to have two of my favorite author entrepreneurs in one place. Ishita has been a big inspiration for me (Fear.less magazine is a great source of motivation), as have you Joanna. It’s really enlightening to hear the two of you talk about opportunities for the writers of today.

    I foresee similar conversations happening more and more very soon online.

  3. says

    New to this site but I think the phrase ‘ failure is hugely important’ should be broadcast from the on high, all part of the learning process. Thank you.

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