Domino Project: It's Gatekeeping



Well, I’m sure we’ll step in it with this, but whatever. I’m poking the box. I probably have to find a bunker somewhere for doing so.After I told my personal publishing story, last time we talked about self publishing and gatekeepers and how gate keepers are an important part of how we find ideas.Then Seth Godin wrote a post reiterating how bad gatekeepers are, so I guess we should keep going. I never intended for a split second for this to become some silly war about the Domino Project or its validity.It is valid. It’s awesome. Seth is ridiculously smart and engaging. It’s just….more gatekeeping.

I like gatekeeping. It makes my life easier. It's one of the mechanisms of critical thinkers. There’s really no reason to tear down publishing houses for their evil inequities of gatekeeping only to set up other forms of gatekeeping that will, ultimately, go the way of publishers.First of all, while Seth’s email list/blog is going on and on about people who self publish (and let me be the first to say that if you are making millions self-publishing your work, GOD bless you, because that’s so incredible it’s sick), Seth isn’t self publishing. [Hi, Seth.] In fact, while we often read on Seth’s blog about how bestseller lists are meaningless, this is how Book Business Magazine intro’d the project:

International-bestselling author Seth Godin and Amazon today announced….

...that The Domino Project is happening."Bestselling author." It matters. It’s one of the reasons why we as readers take him seriously. Turns out, it’s how he takes some other writers seriously, too. Of course.

Godin will serve as the lead writer, creative director and instigator for a series of "Idea Manifestos" under his new imprint, The Domino Project, which will include books by other bestselling authors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

He’s going to have other bestselling authors on his curated list of thinkers. Of course. Because they’re often right and they get a lot of marketing traction. Seth is a genius marketer. Then he says the following about the game plan at Domino, which, frankly, sounds an awful lot like…. what traditional publishers do.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to break ground and help define what a new publishing model can become," said Godin. "We all know that ideas that spread win, and this new publishing house will enable my colleagues and me to create, write and spread ideas that matter.

Interjection: Seth’s ideas matter. With the new publishing company he started, he can gatekeep ideas that matter to him. That’s all that’s happening here. Again, great. …but that’s what he’s doing. As he suggests, you don’t have to wait to be picked, but that doesn’t mean that Seth will pick you.Or me.Well, at this rate, we can pretty much guarantee that he won’t pick me. As he was saying:

At the same time, we can leverage Amazon's strength in what they do best: fulfill to a global audience, across all formats, and help me reach my core audience while increasing discovery among brand new readers. A book that isn't read doesn't do anyone any good, and too often, the structure of the book publishing industry gets in the way of books reaching people who can benefit from them. Amazon knows what to do to help these books get read."

Orrrrrrr Seth has such an enormous following that he has a 1,000 member tribe of fans who will spread his word, so he doesn’t need someone else to publicize/market for him.Maybe because he's hit the bestseller lists so many times?In fact, because the bestseller lists have done him so much good, Seth gets incredible, lucrative speaking engagements (and warranted fees) from that notoriety. This is how it works. This is what published authors do. Not only that, since he has what is, frankly, far more than a 1000-member tribe, he can gatekeep not only his own ideas but ideas of other people. Seth is vetting ideas. We all love Seth and respect his ideas, so we trust the new ideas he’ll be vetting.I applaud this. He’s doing what great thinkers do. But he’s not reinventing publishing, and if you think he is, you're drinking the Kool-Aid. He’s not making it more likely that your (or my) self-published works have any more chance of success than they did last year. He is making it more likely that you and I will read his ideas, whether they'll good or well-written or not.What’s happening over at Domino is not the same thing as you hopping on Amazon with Create Space. This is not a great moment for independent authors. This is a publishing company that happens to have a special agreement with Amazon to spread ideas that matter… to Seth Godin and his editorial board. It’s cool and all, but it’s not an act of heroism. It’s just publishing.Which is why publishing, in all its straining to regain its footing, will remain an institution in some way or another, and why you should look to get on board with it.That's why I’m on board with it... and why Seth is, too. [I just want to note that today, that very famous multi-million-dollar self-published author Amanda Hocking signed a book deal with a publisher, too.]

Elizabeth KingComment