SIBF 2020: Marketing guru and author Seth Godin on why literature should never be marketed

The author of 20 bestsellers spoke about why an author should never
write a book for money, to conclude the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair


Sharjah, November 15, 2020

The bestselling author, serial entrepreneur and marketing maven, Seth Godin, has a singular piece of advice to authors who are looking to get started. “Never write for money,” he told the moderator, entrepreneur Spencer Lodge, at a Sharjah International Book Fair 2020 virtual session held on Saturday, the concluding evening of the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair, on Saturday.

“You must write only as a hobby, for yourself. Not for others. Only then will it have any value,” he asserted, adding, “Otherwise, you are just a professional writer, who makes a promise to his readers and must constantly strive to keep it – that of pleasing them. There is nothing wrong with that, expect that money or fame are the only motives there. And for that you have to spend a lot of time marketing yourself before your books start selling.”

He advised debutants to use their maiden effort as a springboard for their writing careers. “The pressure can get to be too much,” said Godin, who sold his first book, written in college, for $5,000. “The second book is the one that matters, and you can put more of yourself in it and be true to your idea.”

Godin grew up on science fiction, devouring Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. “What I learned from them is that you can make assertions about how the world works and then fill in the blanks later. You can see the possibilities it offers in a field like marketing.”

“Never be afraid to fail,” said Godin. “I have never shied away from talking about my professional failures. After I luckily sold my first little book, I decided I might be able to do that for a living and got 900 rejection letters in a row. Then for the next 7 – 10 years, my company was basically on the verge of bankruptcy the whole time.”

Then Godin discovered the secret of marketing. The secret of successful marketing, according to Godin, lies in showcasing products and services that matter to people, and tell true stories about those products customised in ways people want them. “It is all about making things better and telling the story truthfully, unlike the scam many people consider it to be,” he said.

Though Godin felt that audiobooks make more sense in a world bereft of time, he thinks the physical book will never die. “A book is something people can touch, hold, and put on a shelf,” he said. “It is also something you can go back to and refer whenever you want.”

Earlier on Saturday, two more sessions focused on social media took place on the Sharjah Reads platform. In the first one, social media marketing expert Maram Alloush spoke about how big brands had dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic situation and got their marketing right, in a session titled ‘Brands and COVID-19’. In another session titled ‘TikTok Marketing’, the Head of Video and Creative at TikTok, Rami Zeidan, introduced the audience to the world of TikTok and gave pointers on how to create content for the platform.

Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), SIBF 2020 ran from November 4 – 14 under the theme, ‘The World Reads from Sharjah’.   

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