Last Friday, I used the words “wait until you see what he’s going to do for us next week” about Julien Smith. And yesterday, Julien did something important, but it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
He put me in my place.
It only took me a few seconds of reflection to feel happy about what Julien said, by the way, but in getting there I needed to drink some of my own Kool-Aid. Perception, as I’ve told you many times, is reality.
Here’s what Julien said to me:
Dude you shared it publicly! Of course I took it down.
Let me explain.
Early last week, I wrote a piece about Julien Smith’s “The Flinch“. I had put off writing that piece for a few days; The Flinch is a pretty decent little e-book, and I wanted to hold back until I had a feel for why Julien was giving it away on Amazon instead of selling it.
Julien and I began talking over Facebook (Wow. Social media actually doing something useful!), and he posted me a link to a PDF copy of the Flinch, thinking I needed it. I didn’t; some of his fans were complaining about The Flinch “only being available on Kindles”, and I pointed out that while that isn’t true—many people don’t understand that they can install Kindle software on their computers or SmartPhones and read The Flinch even if they don’t own Amazon Kindle devices—the perception was different from the reality. In short, I was questioning why Julien Smith, a guy who genuinely “gets it”, would release a book in a limited-to-one-platform manner.
The words Julien used when he sent me the link to The Flinch in PDF format were these:
there ya go. uploaded it just for you.
My perception was that “uploaded it just for you” were words whereby Julien was saying “I hear ya, Jeff; there’s no reason I shouldn’t let this bird fly free”. In fact, Julien Smith’s reality was “I want you to read this, so here’s a private copy“.
So for the record: Julien, I apologize. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. But also for the record, my intentions were good. And this was all about perception and reality doing what they do.
With that out of the way, let me move on to the Julien Smith story I had been planning for this week.
It turns out that Julien Smith has published The Flinch as part of Seth Godin’s new Domino Project. Seth Godin is one of the smartest and deservedly best-regarded marketing guys in the world, and The Domino Project has at its heart the right idea: take control away from publishers and give it to authors. It’s genuine business change, much in the same vein as Louis C.K. removing the middleman from distribution of his concert video.
Except, maybe it isn’t.
I asked Julien Smith whether he had intended to release The Flinch as a free title. He never exactly answered me and The Domino Project is designed to alter the price of books it publishes over time and funnel the long-term, long-tail profits to its authors. So I believe the correct answer is that Julien intends for The Flinch to be free—for now. Good enough, and a good explanation of why Julien doesn’t want an unprotected .PDF file floating around; when he raises the price, The Flinch will no longer be free to new Amazon Kindle readers, nor to readers using other platforms.
Yes, that all sounds like business change, but where “no it isn’t” comes in is that Seth Godin, certainly offering a way better deal than traditional book publishers offer authors, becomes the middleman in this transaction. Unlike Louis CK, by publishing it under The Domino Project Julien Smith loses control of his media title. This is a business reality beyond the grasp of many authors.
I’m not casting Seth Godin as a bad guy, and I know Julien Smith and his work well enough that I’m pretty certain he’s adopted a “lesser evil” viewpoint on this decision, rather than a naïve one. And as popular as Julien Smith is in his realm, he doesn’t have the drawing power of a Louis CK.
Of course, neither do I; in fact, I can’t even touch Julien Smith.
But <wink>, Answer Guy Central is pretty important in Google’s eyes when it comes to discussions about Julien Smith. And The Flinch. And especially “Julien Smith The Flinch PDF”:
Search Engine Optimization, anyone?