Sarah Kay: Seth Godin’s Last Domino

Seth Godin's Last Domino: Publication of Sarah Kay's poem "B" marks the end  of the year long Domino Project.

Seth Godin is turning the page on The Domino Project following publication of Sarah Kay's poem "B".

“Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever.” ~ Seth Godin

A year after Seth Godin launched The Domino Project he’s calling it quits. He summed up the takeaways in his post, “The last hardcover” which merits more rumination (preferably with several friends including an author, a publisher, and editor, an agent and a bottle of eighteen year old Laphroaig,) but absent the minds and the bottle of Scotch at 9:00am in my study, I’ll limit myself to an invitation and a few amuse-gueules.

First off, why’d he quit? What did he learn. And why’d he do it in the first place?

“The plan was to build a publishing imprint, powered by Amazon and filled with thoughtful books by inspired authors.” ~ Seth Godin

Right. So it was an experiment, Godin’s a laboratory for testing “what could be done in a fast-changing environment. Rather than whining about the loss of the status quo, I thought it would be interesting to help invent a new status quo and learn some things along the way.” (“The last hardcover”) Did you catch that? Godin stepped away from the traditional publishing world which had become increasingly bogged down in neigh saying and resisting the rapidly evolving publishing industry in order to help reinvent the publishing industry! That’s an ambitious experiment by my yardstick. And by his own estimation, it was a largely successful experiment.

It’s worth noting that even envisioning, announcing and launching The Domino Project was a successful experiment. The impact was real and the aftershocks are still tickling the tummies of the publishing industry. But catalyzing debate, driving change and incubating/publishing “twelve bestsellers, published in many languages around the world” is only part of the equation, you can bet on that. Savant Seth’s projects are rarely so tidy. They have tentacles and afterlives… He’s experimenting again. Authors need closure. Start a book; finish a book. Go on to the next. You can be sure that the phoenix already incubating amidst The Domino Project ashes will rise again, will rise soon, and will awe/shock many.

Prime time to reference Sarah Kay‘s short poem B, The Domino Project’s dazzling caboose and one of TEDTalks’ most riveting performances. Did you see it?

“There are plenty of things that I have trouble understanding, so I write poems to figure things out. Sometimes the only way I know how to work through something is by writing a poem. And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and look back and go, “Oh, that’s what this is all about.” And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and haven’t solved anything, but at least I have a new poem out of it.” ~ Sarah Kay

I understand this as if I’d written it, spoken it, myself. I wonder, wander and write to figure things out, to discover and ponder and sometimes even untangle the mysteries and adventures which swirl around me. Sometimes, not often. But at least I have the poem, the story, the journey. I suspect that Godin nodded his shiny pate when he first heard Sarah Kay explain what compels her to create poetry. I suspect that he realized Kay’s poem was the perfect way to conclude an experiment that had succeeded before it began, an experiment that discovered more mysteries and more adventures than it untangled or resolved. Whether a book, another project or a still unfathomable experiment, I’m confident that Godin’s next experiment will both awe and shock in the tradition of the best poets and oracles.

Until then, I offer you several remaining bite-sized-but-brain-busting amuse-gueules to challenge your own experiments.

“The ebook is a change agent like none the book business has ever seen. It cuts the publishing time cycle by 90%, lowers costs, lowers revenue and creates both a long tail and an impulse-buying opportunity. This is the most disruptive thing to happen to books in four hundred years.” ~ Seth Godin

“There is still (and probably will be for a while) a market for collectible editions, signed books and other special souvenirs that bring the emotional component of a book to the fore. While most books merely deliver an idea or a pasttime, for some books and some readers, there’s more than just words on paper. Just as vinyl records persist, so will books… because there’s something special about molecules and scarcity.” ~ Seth Godin

“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.” ~ Seth Godin

“Publishing is about passion and writing is a lifestyle, not a shortcut to a mansion and a Porsche. Bestselling authors are like golfers who hit holes in one. It’s a nice thing, but there are plenty of people who will keep playing even without one.” ~ Seth Godin

By the time you read this post, the publishing industry will have already changed again. It’s changing that fast. Faster! If we learn nothing more from The Domino Project it is to stop lamenting, denying and resisting. Start inventing.

“This world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to reach out and taste it… never stop asking for more.” ~ Sarah Kay

I invite you to stop whining and start inventing!