Monday, May 14, 2012

What Kindle Taught Me About Business

Last week, I released eight new books, all for free.

The goal was to flip the digital bird to the mainstream publishing industry, send a global message about the state of modern art and offer a thank you in perpetuity to the audience that’s supported, shaped and stuck with me over the past decade.

From a philosophical standpoint, I was ecstatic. The outpouring of support and encouragement from my friends, fans, readers and colleagues was tear worthy.

From a mechanical standpoint, I was frustrated. The downloading problems, pricing issues and conflicting messaging confused a lot of people and made me feel like a hypocrite.

But thanks to the generosity of my colleagues, especially Daniel from The Ink Studio, most of the digital kinks were worked out. And since my best way to cope is through creation, I spent some time reflecting on the lessons learned during this process.

Leading edge, bleeding edge. When you’re the first in the industry to try something, sloppy execution is inevitable. But it’s also forgivable. When people know that you represent something important, they’re willing to overlook imperfection. If your work creates spectacle, starts a movement, inspires a revolution, changes popular culture, defines the norm and raises global consciousness, over time, your mistakes will become a distant memory.

Failure isn’t fatal. If you can’t fail, it doesn’t count. And if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough. Fortunately, failure is forgivable when you’ve already built a solid foundation of goodwill with an audience who loves you. Odds are, when the shit hits the fan, the people who matter most will respond from place of curiosity, not judgment. Instead of complaining, they’ll reach out to make sure everything is okay and find out how they can help.

Opening big is overrated. Consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness. In the grand scheme of things, one isolated week that nobody remembers counts for absolutely zilch when compared to the lifetime impact of a work of art. Especially now, with the infinite shelf space, unlimited airtime and endless viewership of the web. Nothing lives once anymore. It’s not about being a blockbuster, it’s about busting through the blocks of resistance to make something worth making.

Feedback is the best fuel. Every complaint is a chance to engage with your marketplace. It’s an opportunity not to leave them hanging in a moment that counts. And it’s a tool to make the business smarter. Especially when a barrage of criticism comes crashing in. Try treating every new complaint as a piece of content. Literally keep a tab. Then, embed those thoughts into your evolving apology to preempt future dissatisfaction. This keeps a finger on the pulse of the problem and builds greater empathy in your interactions.

When in doubt, create a placeholder. Anything that’s a barrier to getting your work in people’s hands is a problem. If the evil forces of technology decide to screw up your launch, find a way to offer a standby version until the problem is resolved. Give people something to nosh on while you’re scrambling in the kitchen. Then, once you restore the issue, they can keep both. By intentionally creating this service event, you deliver bonus value and come out stronger than if nothing happened.

Compete with yourself. Years ago, a colleague of mine advised against writing too many books. He said they would cannibalize each other. But in my experience, I found the opposite. Turns out, the best way to beat the odds is with massive output. The best way to beat the competition is by owning every team in the league. By releasing eight books on one day, I put myself in a position where losing was a mathematical impossibility. I’m not trying to get on the bestseller list, I’m trying to share what’s important to me.

Anyway, that’s what I learned.

It’s not about the books, but the person you become by writing them.

You can still get them for free right here.

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Writing, Publishing, Performing, Consulting
scott@hellomynameisscott.com