Seth Godin’s unconventional publishing
project reached more than a million readers
By Calvin Reid
Seth Godin, marketer extraordinaire, entrepreneurial maverick, and publishing visionary, says
the latest exercise in reinventing publishing, the Domino Project, is an effort “not to be a
hypocrite.” What he means is that after 25 years and 13 books often focused on what is wrong
with the publishing industry, he set himself the task of showing the way forward.
Launched in 2011, the Domino Project was a year- long exercise in finding unconventional ways to publish a series of unconventional books, including the last book in the project, The Flinch, a motiva- tional title by author, lecturer, and social media
expert Julien Smith, coauthor of Trust Agents (2009), released as
a free Kindle e-book at the end of 2011.
Over the course of a year, the Domino Project released 12
books, in all formats—hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio-book—some for pay, some given away for free. All of them
became bestsellers. While technically, the Domino Project is a
self-publishing venture, it’s self-publishing on steroids, involving a meeting of the minds between Godin and Amazon.com
that was just short of a true joint venture. Overall, the project
attracted more than one million readers to the series of books.
The Domino Project—so named because one idea strikes
another, like a line of falling dominoes—is an exercise in what
Godin likes to call “spreadability,” or the ability to find the best
way possible to circulate an interesting idea to as many people
as possible as quickly as possible.
Among the titles released by the Domino Project are The
Flinch, in which author Smith exhorts readers to break with
conformity; Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science,
Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by social media
researcher Dan Zarrella; Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, a
manifesto on how to take action and get things done; B, a book
of poetry by poet and TED speaker Sarah Kay with drawings by
Sophia Janowitz; and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay
Self-Reliance, produced in a hardcover edition. The Domino Project
also published two books by Godin, We Are All Weird, a meditation on the end of mass marketing and the primacy of individuals and their choices, produced in a limited edition of 11,000
hardcovers whose price includes a donation to the Acumen
Fund, a nonprofit venture that uses entrepreneurial projects to
fight poverty; and a new edition of Poke the Box, Godin’s own
call to break away from conformity.
The Domino Project offers a mixed bag of titles that would
give most publishers pause before taking them on. And it’s also
doubtful that a conventional publisher would find ways to give
away titles by its most prominent and salable authors. But the
Spreadability: Books, Ideas
and the Domino Project