Prepublishing Works

One of the great trends around blogging is that book authors can use blogs to share their thoughts as they happen, gauge their readers' reactions and interest to ideas as they are formed, and then select their most compelling work (or Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas, as the case may be) and put it into a tidy, portable (as in hard copy aka "old school portable") format that's marketed, distributed, and consumed like any other book. Book CoverWould you pay $16.35 for a book full of "best of" blog entries that you can also get online, just in a different order (book is alphabetical, blog chronological)? If you like what you're reading, I expect you would. What about if you'd already read every entry, the day Seth Godin wrote it? If you're a Seth fan, certainly. That's just what Seth's latest book, Small is the New Big, is: blog entries (mostly) in a "handy, nearly waterproof, easily shared and referred to format." It's a book that was prepublished in bits on Seth's very popular blog, and it's going to be a bestseller. In a nice chat with Guy Kawasaki this week, Seth points out that "books are the new t-shirts." He likens them to souvenirs as he explains how non-fiction work is written these days -- with all the "core ideas available for free, online" and often in pieces as it is realized. The result is that the readers are along for the ride, and authors have a much better sense for what's working. Would prepublishing work this well for other industries? If the Rolling Stones had released the riff to Satisfaction the moment Keith Richards came up with it, would they have recorded the song the same way? And, would people have still listened (again)? If you watched one scene from Rocky every day for a month, would you go see them all put together in a movie? Prepublishing certainly works in building web businesses. When we run a strategy workshop, we try to conjure up every idea, every possible feature, every marketing tactic that might fit, and then focus in on just what we need to build to go live. Launch something remarkable, but keep it as simple as possible. Then, stay dedicated to adding to that foundation over time by building in all those great features, with their priority influenced by your early users. If Seth sat down to write a book every day, he'd get nothing done -- no blog posts and no books. When you think about your web business, think in manageable pieces and consistent progress. By prepublishing the core elements of your web app as a starting point (i.e., the beta period), you'll leverage user community feedback and practical experience to ultimately create something that's much more likely to be successful. Try to do too much all at once, and you just might get nothing done.

Brian is Viget's co-founder and CEO. He does everything from advising our clients to building our conference tables with his bare hands in our Falls Church, VA, HQ.

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