An Interview with Seth Godin [Video]

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of hosting the Chick-fil-A Leadercast Backstage program. I interviewed several notable authors as they came off the stage, including John Maxwell, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Cathy, Suzy Welch, Frans Johansson, and several others. I thought I would share these with you over the next several weeks.

This one is with Seth Godin. He talked about several topics, including:

  • Why things are the way they are
  • The massive change we are witnessing in almost every field
  • Why the “new normal” is the chance of a lifetime
  • How people can approach change
  • Why we experience stress
  • Why he started The Domino Project and how it is disrupting the publishing industry
  • The old model of publishing compared to the new
  • What kind of push-back has he received from traditional publishers
  • His advice he has for new authors (caution: this is radical)
  • Why authors don’t need to wait to be picked
  • The role of traditional publishers in the future
  • His favorite book out of all the ones he has written (I hadn’t even heard of it!)

Seth was as delightful as always. I could have talked with him for hours.

Question: Of all the comments Seth made, what intrigued you the most? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Jack Lynady

    Favorite Comment: was about his book no one’s heard of. That says a lot to me about what and why u write. And even for who.

  • Sarah Siegand

    Totally agree that authors need to pick themselves and give away their first book. Wondering if there is an opportunity for authors to partner with people who know how to turn their work into a pdf (and not just one that is visually uninteresting). I am a graphic designer who used to get work from publishers all the time, but that work is gone now that the industry has changed. Now I am finishing my own written work and able to self-publish it exactly as I see fit because I know the tricks of the trade. What are other authors to do? Is there a forum for them to connect with someone to take their Word doc manuscript to the next step?

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might find this helpful, Sarah: How to Create an e-Book in Seven Steps

      • Sarah Siegand

        Thanks Michael. I think most self-publishing authors have trouble executing step 4 & 5 in a way that looks professional and compelling. Because of your position in the industry, you of course have an understanding for how to space your text, what should be larger, how to ensure copy space on your stock photo — what an advantage. Just wondering if maybe authors and designers still need each other to some degree.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Absolutely, I think they do. I am the exception in that I can both write and design. Design is not something authors should skimp on. This just cheapens the whole book. Thanks.

    • Jack Lynady

      That’s huge Sarah. I’ve been looking at self-publishing. There still seems to be way to much “technical” stuff behind it. WordPress has made it easy to post a blog. Someone needs to make it easy to make an e-book. And also cheep. Seven steps is good. Get it down to one. One website, one app, whatever.

  • Spate1

    How do you see the future for academics who write long books for those who have a lot to learn?  

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am very excited about this, because the books will be able to be delivered less expensively and updated more easily.

  • Anonymous

    Watching this video is like the proverbial drinking from a fire hydrant.  I could listen to him talk for hours.

    Has Godin ever mentioned advice specifically for pastors or leaders of parachurch organizations?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am not sure. He has spoken at Catalyst several times. As I recall, most of his talks have been applicable to anyone in leadership.

    • Steven Cribbs

      “drinking from a fire hydrant”…I like it!  And, it’s true.  There is so much stuff that it will take time to process.

  • womenlivingwell

    Excellent interview!  I wish you would have talked for another hour!!! Thanks for this!

  • David

    I’m jealous, the video won’t load for me… :>( 

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Just watched the video again. Apart from the great content, you’re a really good interviewer, MH. Wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true. :)

    • Dylan Dodson

      I thought so too. Interviewing is much harder than you would think.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Mark.

    • David Santistevan

      There’s definitely an art to interviewing. Michael did a great job but Seth is also always ready with his thoughts. I think even if Seth had a bad interviewer it would still be a great interview. He’s always ready to share his ideas.

  • Matt Lynn

    “Stress is what happens when you want to be two places at the same time.” An interesting way of putting it.

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    I suppose the “Give away your first book” idea is like sitting for a pilot license test. If your first book flies, this proves you have piloting abilities.
    My question is this: if you have a couple of small books to give away but are totally unrelated to the genre or topic of the first book you really want to publish, does this help in any way?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am not sure that would help. Your first book kind of establishes your brand.

  • Jeremy Santy

    Wonderful interview, thanks for sharing Michael.

    I google’d “the enemy of authors isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity” some interesting articles came up. But, I would love to see a blog post with your perspective Michael! I imagine others would too. Thanks again for sharing this great resource!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I wrote about this a while back using almost this exact same idea, “How to Protect Your Intellectual Property Online.”

      • Jeremy Santy

        Solid. Lot’s of steps in that article that I need to think through. Thanks Michael!

  • Ayoung24

    Aside from his idea to give away your first book, the idea that short is not bad was the most interesting fact. .  With all the digital distraction,  shorter really is better.   

  • Greg Lee

    I think many of us live in the past in relation to what normal was, and now is. Ive often used the phrase “new normal” myself in counseling sessions and in talks with teens in our student ministry. The simple truth is, there is always going to be “new normals.” Its inevitable with no way of skirting around this concept. 

    For myself, I’ve often found and seen the resiliency of todays teens in relation to the idea of new normality in whatever form it takes. This is especially true in the realm of technology and social networking. Somehow, I think teens, today and past, are somehow hardwired to adapt and implement things they are exposed to. That for me says that we have a lot to learn as adults and leaders. 

  • Christine Cape

    I just love Seth Godin opens your mind and makes you think outside of the norm. He challenges each of us to think differently, think in a new way and realize that there are no lines. Great interview. 

  • Gwendolyn Lewis

    Why the “new normal” is the chance of a lifetime.

  • Mary DeMuth

    I like Seth’s mind. I have sort of a crush on it. Having been a rule following girl all my life, it’s been freeing to think beyond traditional and start to embrace ebooks as an entrepreneurial possibility. So on my strategic plan this year, I am developing several ebooks, including some I’ll give away. I’m cautiously optimistic.

  • Diana Trautwein

    this was just amazing – thank you so much for doing this and for helping us oldsters to try and stay in step with the time.  yeah, i’d like to write a book, too.  wouldn’t everyone you’ve ever met??  and I do have some stories and some stuff i’ve learned over a good, rich life.  and i love the idea of a pdf, sent to friends – great help, great encouragement to this particular old broad.  thanks so much.

  • TNeal

    Intrigued me the most? I think his comments about publishers in general and you in particular. How you run your site, what you post on, the people who respond, the books I’ve read thanks to you–all of this seems normal, business as usual, doesn’t everyone do publishing the way you do? (that’s not a question, just the end of an observation).

  • Brooke McGillivray

    Thanks for this great interview.  Giving my first book away for free has me intrigued – - lots of new ideas rolling in my head now.

  • Eric

    Great interview. I’m always amazed at Seth’s view on business and change. He always seems to be ahead of the game. He even seems to rewrite the rules of business. As leaders how do we get to this point?

  • Anonymous

    I Googled “advice for authors”! Next, position my first book as FREE in preparation of the second… absolutely brilliant!!!

  • Robinson Mertilus

    Seth never fails in offering great advice. His suggestion to give your first book away for free used to be  absurd, but now it makes so much sense. I call it “pulling people in.” This gets your message out and keeps people wanting more.

  • Anonymous

    I always chuckle when I see Seth in a necktie.  I know he’s just being courteous for the audience he’s speaking to but it seems to scream conformity when nothing that comes out of his mouth is.

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  • Caleb McNary

    Great interview! You really make room for the speakers to expand their thoughts, I’ve seen a few “pros” that could use a lesson in this art. I can’t wait to see the other interviews you did.

  • Anonymous

    Michael (and Seth),

    thanks for doing this – an excellent interview; I wholly agree with Seth’s comments at the end.


  • Danblackonleadership

    I really enjoyed watching this interview. Seth Godin is great.

  • Beck Gambill

    Hot Dog! That was a fantastic interview! I was intrigued by his whole outlook of work, spreading  information and publishing. His advice on how to share a book to your friends and on from there was great. It made my spine tingle when he said, essentially, if the book doesn’t go past your 2o friends, you’re not a good writer but if it spreads you’ll have an audience, they’ll be standing in line for what’s next. I want to step up to that challenge. I was excited by your conversation about word count, padding, cost, etc. of a book and how sharing smaller books on line has changed the old word count model. I think I’ll have to re-watch the interview and soak up all that great advice! I also agree with his closing remarks, what you are offering to people in information and encouragement is so valuable. I’ve been surprised in the last several weeks to discover that your blog has become my favorite and I look forward to reading each post!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words and for your encouragement!

  • Brad Voigt

    Thanks for posting this and asking such great questions!

  • Tammy Helfrich

    Great interview. Thank you for all you do to bring awareness and insight to relevant topics.

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  • Kim Gentes

    I watched the interview with Seth Godin. I agree with a lot, and yes, Seth is right to call for change in publishing. He is generally a brilliant guy, but I think he is off fundamentally with his understanding of the whole publishing situation.
    At the core of error (in my opinion) is his belief of assessment of zero-value for books. I think he missed it, really. If you listen to what he is saying, he thinks scarcity is equivalent to pricing. That is where he is wrong. Even in a digitally enabled world scarcity does not mean “free”- it means *access*. The answer is to make your products (free or for cost) available to as many people as possible.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make them free. Make them accessible, don’t necessarily make them valued at zero. I am not talking dictionary definitions here, but reality of valuation.

    He says that access means “free”. Wrong.  Netflix, Redbox, XBOX, iTunes, Harry Potter books, Starbucks, Taylor Swift concerts, Amazon, and many others are not free- instead, they provide so much access (or even evil advertising about themselves) to their products or offering that people pay for it. You can’t go anywhere without knowing you are just a minute or two from those products. You believe in the value of the products, so you pay money. The fact that they are accessible means you just know its easy to buy when you are ready.

    The problem is that Godin is trying to create an answer in book publishing by trying to superimpose the failure of the music industry on it. That is another error he makes. He is assuming that people think of books and music the same way- make them digital and they should have instant free access. But the truth is people don’t think of books this way. Yes, they may certainly like them in digital formats, that is not the issue. But there is something intrinsically different in books than music. It has to do with people and their understanding of value. Godin loses by trying to assume that people value books at zero, like they do music.  I am not saying that the publishing business isn’t in trouble. It is. But it has something going for it that music never had. And if Godin can’t see that, he is going to miss the real issue with the value of artistic and content based products.

    Again, don’t get me wrong. Godin is brilliant. He is just wrong on this.  He may find a small measure of acceptance, but in large part, thoughtful people who consume entertainment and informational material – readers! – represent the market, not Godin’s idea about giving things away free. There are places for giving away things, and I am not saying that strategy is worthless. But the publishing market (real people) ultimately won’t believe it.  Mark my words. On this one, he’s just wrong.

    Then again, I could be wrong too :)

    btw, I am NOT in the publishing industry. I am saying this to defend some archaic industry that is in dire need of revolution. I am just saying Godin has the wrong answer here. Not saying he isn’t right for trying.

    • Kim Gentes

      woops.. my last sentence was missing a key word. Here is the last paragraph, corrected—

      btw, I am NOT in the publishing industry. I am also NOT saying this to defend some archaic industry that is in dire need of revolution. I am just saying Godin has the wrong answer here. Not saying he isn’t right for trying.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think Godin is advocating “free” as a business model but as a promotion model. Just look at The Domino Project, his own publishing company. They often give away books at the launch, but then charge. If you try to buy any of the three books they have published so far, you pay for them.

      • Kim Gentes

        You are right Michael. Good point. I was mixing the two – promotional models and business models.  Thanks for correcting me on the distinction. 

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  • BG Allen

    Good job – really appreciate Seth Godin’s challenge!

  • Kev sutherland

    The Domino Project was such an innovative concept. Make the body of work avaiable, and publishers can get excited about that particular work! Seth is smart, and such a forward thinker! 

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  • Anonymous

    This is a great  video. I learned so much by watching it. I have quite a few blog post ideas for my leadership blog. Thank you for sharing.

  • anon

    While Seth is definitely smart and finds creative ways to describe things, I don’t quite understand why people think ‘The Domino Project’ is so revolutionary. There are hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of independent publishers who have been doing what he’s talking about for years. As one of those publishers, Seth’s claim that this is new or original makes me like him a little less (perhaps he has his marketing hat on rather than his truth/reality hat on?). The only thing new or original is that he’s bought Amazon’s line that they’ll take care of him better than a ‘traditional’ publisher. And they probably will because he’s basically now their publisher and spokesman. I’m not sure your average writer will get quite the same deal. Consider this a warning!

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  • Anonymous

    “The enemy is not piracy, it’s obscurity.” This thought is leading today’s new media economy. You see this idea in companies like StumbleUpon and new products like Google +. When people find something valuable, they share it; and if you can find a way to capture that information and then share it in a meaningful way, you have found the “golden marketing ticket.”

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  • MichaelBungayStanier

    Michael – I’m the initiator of the “charity book” that Seth is talking about. Would love to connect with you about it directly – I’m at

    Michael Bungay Stanier

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  • Sophia Dare

    It’s amazing how much I learn even from reading the comments on this site. Thanks for a great interview. I am anxiousto read Seth’s books, and have developed some clarity about an ebook I have been working on.

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