The funny thing is - I feel pretty strongly that publishers are increasingly important to the future of books. If you think about it, publishers are, at their core - curators. They find talent, they make often difficult judgments about what should (and what shouldn't) be published. They help readers by sifting through the large volume of material to find the best of the best.
So why, you may ask, are you crowdsourcing the funding of your next book?
It began almost a year and a half ago. People starting asking me about when I was going to write my next book on curation.The questions began gently enough. But over the course of a year they became more insistent reaching a crescendo that sounded something like this:
"Hey, we get it. You've convinced us. We need to curate. But what can we do? What are the rules? What are the guidelines?"
The world was turning to curation - and thanks to my work with McGraw Hill on what has become, some say, the leading big-think piece on curation. I'd become the defacto expert. Ok, that's not fair. I think about, write about, and curate about 'curation' pretty much all the time. I'm passionate about the power of human intuition and intelligence to help us filter the rising tide of unfiltered noise and data. I think curation rocks!
So, after the pings started to turn into a drumbeat, I went off to my publisher and said: "Ok, time to write the companion book to Curation Nation."
Here's what I learned from my journey with a number of publishers and my fine book agent John Wright; How-to books don't sell. They're hard to write, harder to market, and they tend to have a very short shelf life.They're not "sexy." And, with the exception of a handful of franchises like "Dummies," they're just not that interesting. Now, to be fair, there are some publishers who do a great job in 'how to' - my friend Tim O'Reilly for example. But I wasn't writing to become a how- to author, I just wanted to share what I'd learned.
The thing is, I love writing. There's no doubt that this is a book that is ready to be born. I just didn't want to have to engage the meat-grinder of publishing. What I wanted to do was on a more human scale, with a community of curators (or would be curators) that I could engage in a journey.
I started thinking about how to gather together friends, and 'pass the hat' for the dollars it would take to engage a professional editor, graphic designer, researcher, and printer. Yes, it would be an ebook, but I'd need some hard copies as well.
Then I gently reached out to my book friends, authors, and my agent, and they suggested that I might find some joy in birthing this book. Shockingly, even some of by biggest book-snobs all seemed to suggest the tide had changed.
"If you've got an audience of readers who value what you have to say, then mixing social publishing in with big name imprints can only help grow your brand," said one of my book-ish friends. So, then the question was how.
Here author and social media fellow traveler Guy Kawasaki came roaring in. He'd just published APE. The book for "Author, Publisher, Entrepreneurs." I'm not sure I've ever powered through a business book faster, or with more gusto than this resource-filled book. All I can say to Guy is thank you! It's a gift.
But that brings me to the big question, the scary one. Social.
Sure, there are platforms and I am on them all. But how do you launch a book? And what if you write it and no one comes to read?
Here's where my author friends have changed the world. Seth Godin's experiment on Kickstarter was a call to action. He dove in, empowered his community, and invited early backers to help him copy edit and even shape the book. Why? Because Seth isn't afraid of his readers and fans, he knows that he's got the editorial voice and chops to filter, organize, and.... curate the best book possible. And more input only makes it better.