Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Giving It Away

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 14, 2009

I know Giving It Away is supposed to work as a web marketing strategy, bringing in new customers. (Like when rock bands offer free downloads of their songs and the new listeners then go out and buy the group’s CDs or attend their concerts.) I’ve tried this. I must confess that so far the only part I’ve mastered is giving it away. But there’s one gentleman who really knows how to do this crazy new thing and actually make it work.


His name is Seth Godin. Do you know him? Seth is the author of the best-sellers Purple Cow, Tribes and the upcoming-in-January Linchpin. He’s a wizard marketer, author and champion of self-empowerment, particularly through employing the power of networks and multipliers. Seth’s message, to all of us imprisoned by our own self-limiting beliefs, is this: find your true being, your emotional creative heart and follow it full-bore. Be a heretic. Break the mold. This is what works today, says Seth–and he’s certainly proved it by his own tremendous success.

We can learn from Seth. His message is for us as writers, artists and entrepreneurs–particularly in these tough economic times as traditional support and promotion systems (book reviews, ads, etc.) either vanish or lose their power.

Let’s consider Seth’s current venture, What Matters Now, a free 82-page e-book that he is giving away, starting today, on his site. Full disclosure: I wrote a short piece for the book, entitled “Tough-Mindedness.” So did about sixty other artists and business people. Seth set all contributors the same question: What Matters Today? What’s foremost on your mind in these times? What does the zeitgeist demand right now? The answers that came in are smart, provocative and insightful. It’s a fast, easy, fun read.

But that’s not the point I want to make here. What we can learn from Seth is how to use the principle of Giving It Away–to connect, to raise visibility, to make friends (and maybe even a little profit) and to actually help. Consider what Seth did:

1) He created value. He came up with an idea that would help people (the e-book). He found contributors to write segments; he edited their input; he put the book together (designed it, packaged it, set it up to roll out.) He created a product that is of value to an audience.

2) He made this product available for free.

3) He used the power of tribes to produce awareness of the book. Seth has his own huge following, to whom he can promote What Matters Now. But by enlisting 50+ contributors (each with their own tribe), he added tremendous leverage and reach–as each contributor adds his or her own oomph to raising awareness.

See how it’s working with me right now?

4) He used the power of multipliers. Tribes tell friends; tribes tweet and re-tweet. Starting from nothing, Seth has been able to recruit a small army to spread the word.

It seems like a trick, but it’s really plain old-fashioned hard work linked to an idea of value, empowered by the magic of “free”–with the whole wagon hitched to the also-free viral expansion mechanism of the web, of tribes and of friends telling friends.

How does it pay off for Seth? Every person who wants the free e-book has to stop by Seth’s site. Maybe they’ll read about Linchpin. (I’ve read it; it’s terrific.) Maybe they’ll be intrigued. Maybe they’ll order a copy.

If not, the whole process from Seth’s point of view has at least been fun. He’s made a bunch of new friends, raised awareness for himself and his books, and he’s actually given away something of real value–a manual of mini-essays by thought-leaders from different fields, offering readers an insight into what’s foremost on these trend-setters’ minds.

The other thing Seth has done is he’s taken charge of his own destiny. He is not sitting back passively (as many of us writers, artists and entrepreneurs have done), waiting for his publisher, his agent, his editor to do something for him. Seth is the poster child for Those Days Are Over. I salute him. This is the new era, the new paradigm. This is what works now.

I just wish I could figure out how to do it at Seth’s level myself!

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

29 Responses to “Giving It Away”

  1. December 14, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Steve, the way you effortlessly command the language and order it around… and thus order us around… is a gift beyond measure.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s masterful.

  2. December 14, 2009 at 6:28 am

    You are especially right about the “hard work linked to an idea of value” part. I’m lucky I get to see it up close. Many lose sight of the hard work part, especially when technology makes certain work easy. Thanks for reminding us.

  3. December 14, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Hello Steven. I hope this finds you doing well. Been awhile since visiting at the nest. Just downloaded the new e-book and I’m excited to dive in. Looking forward to reading your portion and certainly getting inspired going into 2010.

    All the best for a wonderful holiday season. Hope we can connect again sometime soon.

    Best regards,


  4. December 14, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Hi Mr Pressfield

    Your Writing Wednesdays are up there with Seth

    ps: nice to read in the War of Art you enjoyed playing Old Prestwick 🙂

  5. December 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Well, I found your site after reading the eBook, so now you’ve got a new reader! Had it not been for that free eBook I would probably not have come to your site.

    How’s that for a start? BTW, if you find out how to translate all this ‘free’ readership, etc. into actual money please let me know! 😉

    • Steven Pressfield
      December 14, 2009 at 3:26 pm

      I will, Dan, if you’ll do the same for me. Wait, I’ll ask Seth!

  6. December 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm


    I think that you do Give It Away every time you post – certainly I gain something of value to me from each new addition.


  7. December 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Great stuff!

    Seth knows how to share the wealth. The wealth of exposure, that is.

  8. johnmark7
    December 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    C’mon, that book and what you’re saying about it is another breathless version of the Amway Way.

    Folks, every year companies spend millions if not bilions on the advertising and marketing of new products. You hear about them, see them on TV, walk by them in the store and guess what? Most of them FAIL!

    Milions of people are given the best possible pitches and come ons and the products still FAIL!

    So all this silly happy talk about tribes, links, freebies is more of the same Power of Positive Thinking crap you’ve been getting forever to make you feel like trying to sell something and then crying because you failed and it must be your fault since you couldn’t possibly have done everything the book told you to do for guaranteed success.

    Yeah, you have to work for success but you still need to be lucky. Anybody remember The Pet Rock? Brilliant marketing for a stupid idea and a nearly worthless item. Guess how many good ideas with even good marketing FAIL? Tens of thousands.

    How many books are written every year? How many published? How many make the bestseller list?

    Do the math. 99% do what? They FAIL! Doesn’t matter how good they are, how bad they are, how middling they are. They mostly FAIL!

    Get on TV. Get big endorsements (Oprah loves it!) and so on. Yeah, that book might do well. But your second book comes out — nothing. Your third book — nothing. Now you’re done. You have a few fans and you sell to them on the internet but it’s not a living. Back to the coal mine for you.

    FAILURE is the rule for the great majority in every field of life. Reading more books on to succeed won’t do it.

    • P-dawg
      December 19, 2009 at 11:18 am

      Dear Dr. FAILURE, I have an ache in my creativity cavity. Should I just flush myself down the toilet like you suggest?

      Really, dude . . . are you still here?

      Okay, if everybody who seeks to improve his/her lot in life–via dreams, reading books, conversations and quests, trying out new and old ideas, whatever–is so f—d up and futile, what’s your prescription for success, fulfillment, etc.? I seek but cannot find the like in what you say.

      Peeing your pessimism all over our floor does nothing but flood us with your self-loathing. All I get from your diatribes is a “Give up and wallow in your sh*t, you fools!” Hey, thanks for the net loss. I can get all I want of that on Fox News and CNN. C’mon, man, do you have anything to say except that everything sucks?

      I bet you do and I’d love to hear it. You have acquainted us well on what you think doesn’t work. So tell us what does. Seriously, let’s hear it. Don’t make me call the carpet cleaners again. And don’t die of a cerebral stress fracture before you give us the scoop!

      Thanks, and holiday blessings to you and yours.

  9. December 14, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Coming in from Copyblogger.

    Re: Monetizing… it’s blurry picture that fades in and out. Sometimes I see it – feel it – then, poof, it’s gone.

  10. Robin
    December 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I visited your site because of the e-book…so it really does work!

  11. Melissa
    December 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I sent this e-book to everyone in my marketing dept. at work and lots of people in my email list. We all need a dose of positivity now and then. Not everything has to be a FAILURE, JohnyMark!

  12. December 15, 2009 at 4:04 pm


    Writing Wednesdays is classic Giving It Away.
    Your goal is to share your secret. And to sell more copies of The War Of Art.

    The War Of Art is a fantastic book that frames a core truth. 99% of writing is discipline, 1% of writing is craft. Most people fail because they can’t finish. They start. Face Resistance. Dead book.

    The insane thing is that 99% of the Writing Books on the market focus on craft. Your book, The War Of Art, is the only book on the market dedicated to Discipline. Ass to chair. Page 1 to Page 300. First draft to final polish. Book after book after book. You teach a mindset. You teach your peers how to prevail. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not, if you’re 17 or 71, if you’re on book 1 or book 100. Discipline is 99% of the job. If you work every day, your craft levels up. If you work every day, success is inevitable.

    That was my unconditional praise. (And well-earned.) This is my question?
    Have you noticed a significant spike in booksales since you started disciplined blogging?

    – Jack

  13. March 12, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    The point is well taken. And, it doesn’t apply just to writers and artists. The fact is, success on any playing field is going to involve hard put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other discipline. Most people just aren’t as willing to put the effort in as they are to dream about the rewards of success. Perhaps this is why Passion is so critical to success… Who would want to put all that effort into something they hate to do?
    Thanks for the kick in the pants.