The Domino Project is a new way to think about publishing. Founded by Seth Godin, we're trying to change the way books are built, sold and spread. Find out more about our mission here.

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Selling vs. reading

December 3, 2011
by seth godin

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Back when the only way to get someone to read your work was to get them to actually buy your work first, a focus on selling and a focus on being read were the same thing.

Paper cost money. You need to sell the book if you want someone to read it, so feel free to spend all your time persuading people to buy it.

In the digital world, there’s a little bit of bluff calling going on. If the cost of delivering one more copy of the book is zero, then choosing to sell your work is optional. You might choose to work hard merely to get people to read your work, leaving money out of the equation.

Money cuts both ways, of course. If someone pays for your book, perhaps they’ll take it more seriously, focus a bit more energy on it. If your book is easy to get and find and discard, perhaps it’s not valued as highly. On the other hand, it will certainly spread faster.

Too many choices, no doubt.

But the real question remains: are you writing to be read, or are you writing to get paid? They are becoming ever more divergent paths, with gradations ($6? $9?) in between.

(An example of this is the publishers and authors that oppose libraries and the lending of ebooks. In these cases, even though money was paid, they’re apparently against being read–even though there’s zero evidence that library reading hurts book sales.)

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