Poke the Box, the first title to come out of Seth Godin’s new publishing venture powered by Amazon, The Domino Project, is selling like hotcakes. The book has been out less than 30 days and there are already close to 60 five-star reviews on Amazon. As of this writing, the book is #70 in the Top 100 Books on Amazon.
I’m not surprised. Poke the Box is vintage Seth. (He’s the author of a dozen other business bestsellers, including Tribes and Linchpin.) At only 85 pages, Poke the Box is a seamless read. Provocative. Underline-worthy. Filled with nuggets like: "Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself." and "Look for the fear. That’s almost always the source of your doubt." Those two speak directly to me.
There are dozens of other short passages that may speak to you, or anyone interested in creativity and productivity. The book has a simple message: start, initiate, don’t wait to be told what to do. Then carry through and finish, or ship, as Seth calls it. I asked Seth if he would answer a few questions about the actual writing of the book. Below are his responses.
Five questions with Seth
DW: Poke the Box has no table of contents. What are you telling readers by leaving that out? Is that part of your message?
SG: Let’s remember that books used to be the only option (the one and only option) for finding information and for spending idle time. Books were for scholars. A book presented itself, spoke with a deep voice and a British accent. You accepted it as the answer, and the author could take his time and lay out the argument.
Today, of course, you’re already busy tweeting, shopping, browsing, changing the tracks on iTunes, checking your email and having a cell phone conversation while you’re on the plane and ostensibly starting a book. I’m sorry, but we just don’t have time for you, Mr. Book. In creating Poke the Box, I’m trying to reach people who don’t read books. And people who don’t read (perhaps 90% of the US population reads just one or fewer books a year) certainly aren’t interested in a table of contents.
DW: Poke the Box is only about 85 pages. How do you know when a book - or manifesto - is a "book" vs. a Kindle Single? Is there a difference? Does it matter?
SG: A Kindle single is just a well-priced and short Kindle book. The Domino Project books are as long as necessary, but no longer. And we’re happy to price them accordingly. [The Kindle edition was available for pre-order for only $.99.)
He had no outline (really)
DW: The book is written in short blog-like riffs. Is there an organizing principle or structure to your message about the importance of starting - and also finishing? I refuse to believe you sat down and wrote for 85 pages without some kind of outline.
SG: Believe, Debbie. Believe. Do you have an outline when you argue with a friend or teach a new employee? The point of this manifesto is to pester, cajole, remind, argue, inspire and push people to think differently about instigation. I can’t see what the reader is doing while reading, so I bob and weave and wheedle, hoping to get under her skin.
DW: Did you have a particular kind of reader in mind when you wrote Poke the Box?
SG: Someone who is smart, but stuck in a corporate cubicle. It’s a permission slip. The boss or a co-worker or a teacher gives it to you and now you’re okay, you have cover, someone said it was okay to go.
The words book vs. blog
DW: Has the word "book" lost its meaning?
SG: No, but the word "blog" has. Book is more important than ever as a concept. And even if you read it on a Kindle, it still carries gravitas along.