The Flinch and The Future of Publishing

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Earlier this year, New York Times bestselling author, Julien Smith, and I had an interesting moment.

It happened during a skype interview about swearing on blogs and in business. The whole conversation was fantastic and generated a lot of conversation and just a wee bit of controversy. But, what I didn’t know was this one moment would leave Julien spinning about something that would, over the course of the year, evolve into a book called The Flinch that’s being released today by Seth Godin’s The Domino Project.

So I circled back to Julien for round two.

In this new video interview, he shares what really happened in that pivotal moment earlier this year. We get into what led him on a quest that ended in him writing The Flinch, what it’s all about, why he did it with Seth Godin and The Domino Project and why it’s only on kindle and it’s being released at the price of…nothing.

But, as often happens when you get Julien and me talking, that conversation somehow led down the publishing industry rabbit hole, and we go off on a whole new tangent about the future of publishing for authors and publishers and how authors can leverage what’s nothing less than mass disruption for serious gain.

The Flinch is published today, it’s available only on kindle and it doesn’t cost a dime. You don’t actually need a kindle to read it, you just need the kindle app and you can read it pretty much anywhere with that. So, go download it now.

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18 responses

18 responses to “The Flinch and The Future of Publishing”

  1. Jim Kukral says:

    Isn’t it great how one moment can turn into an amazing business idea, or a book, or whatever? We all have these moments, but the difference is the people who take action on the ideas are the ones who have success. Excited to read Julien’s book as well.

  2. Joanna Penn says:

    Great chat guys, I enjoyed hearing you discuss these concepts.

    At the recent #futurebook conference, it was clear that publishers know they have to change, they have to have lists of customers by verticals, they are obsessed with discoverability – all the things that we as internet marketers already know about, and as authors, we are already doing for our books.

    It’s funny hearing you guys talk about The Flinch and then discuss what side you want to be on for your own book – do you want the disruption in digital publishing or sticking with traditional publishing. Julien says ‘everybody gets to be an author now’ and yet you’re both sticking with traditional from your discussion. Are you flinching from the hard work of indie? 🙂

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      It’s an interesting question, right? Julien and I have actually talked about this in much more detail than we had time to in the interview. Part of the reason is based on both of our bigger business models. We’re not straight-up authors, we also derive a serious chunk of income from speaking and/or consulting and in that world, who you publish with still matters.

      BUT, even that is changing rapidly right now, so while I can’t speak for Julien, we’re both pretty much just keeping our fingers very much on the pulse of change. And, on any given day, how I decide to move forward could easily change.

      It’s less about the publishing flinch and more about trying to constantly reassess what direction a very rapidly moving train and the various business offshoots that flow from it are traveling and how fast it’s really moving. I think, as we talked about in the video, the question is more about when, than if.

      • Jim Kukral says:

        Fair enough. That all makes sense. I do worry about you renegades though. 🙂 I mean, the industry is going to be 100% different than it is now in probably a year, or less. In 3 years? My God, who knows. You guys are locked into these contracts with companies that have shown a clear refusal to adopt to the new way of publishing.

        I know why most of the people in our space write books. It’s not to make a million bucks from selling copies of the books. The commissions are way too low in a legacy book deal. 17.5% typically. You write to use the books for speaking gigs and consulting etc… I get it.

        But have you ever really sat down and ran the numbers? How much more money could you have, or will you have made, if you were taking 70% or more instead of the measly 17.5% that a traditional publisher is giving you?

        I guess I look at books as a long-term business. I’d like to earn a living from books directly as well. Forever. On my terms.

        • Jonathan Fields says:

          Jim – Totally get it. A little more information…

          From what I understand, Julien and Brogan’s next book is out in 2012, which isn’t all that long term.

          And as for me, my publisher for Uncertainty has an option on my next biz book (which is standard), which means I have to show it to them first, but only if it’s business and it’s traditionally published. I haven’t signed any deals with anyone for my next book, not do I yet know if I will.

          Once I decide which I’m writing next, I’ll figure out my next move based on where the market is and what my bigger business plan is at that moment in time. Right now, nothing is ruled in or out.

          The nice thing, too, is that I already have books with Random House and Penguin, so from a “pedigree” standpoint for speaking (whatever that means), it helps a lot should I choose to go indie/self moving forward. But, if I was just starting out and I really wanted to build a well-paid keynoting career, I’d probably still want a book or two under my belt from traditional houses because, like I said, in that world, at least for now, it still matters.

          • Jim Kukral says:

            I’ve got too much to say to wait a year to have a book published. 🙂 Since I got out of my contract, I’ve published 5 books, with 6 more coming. Sure, most of them are smaller books, but I believe just as good as quality. My readers think so too.

            I know you get it. And I know why you do it. It makes sense for you to do it that way. Not everyone has the same goals as you do though. I simply worry about other authors getting stuck in long-term contracts that just make zero sense for them.

            If I owned Attention!, my first and only legacy published book, right now, I’d re-title it, and put a different cover on it, and cut the price, and a million other things. I can’t do any of that. Nada. I wish I could buy the rights back to the book. I’d even buy up the rest of the print run and sell them myself. But they’re not making me that offer.

            I can’t stand not having that control. To each is own.

  3. Thank you for posting this Jonathan I remember the interview you did with Julien, and how he called you out.
    The Flinch reminds me of your book on facing Uncertainty.
    It’s really interesting to see the two different approaches you have taken with publishing.
    None of this stuff matters if you write crappy books That is the reality, although the barrier to entry is lower, the barrier to success didn’t move.

  4. Jen says:

    I remember the first interview that you and Julien did around the f-bomb. This is a wonderful follow up! I can’t wait to read The Flinch.

  5. Owen Marcus says:

    Thanks Jonathan for being the instigator, even if unintentional. Your chat with Julien inspired me not only around publishing but also with moving through the flinch.

    I just the first few pages I read of the book were awesome… I wish I didn’t have to go back to work.

  6. I just invested some time this morning watching these two videos. (It’s too bad that there isn’t a transcript of this one) There is a ton of outstanding thinking in them that I am looking forward to digesting further, I have half a page of notes and a head full of questions/ideas.

    Thanks for sharing this conversation!

  7. […] Julien Smith and Jonathan Fields talk about Julien’s new book The Flinch and where they believe the future of publishing is […]

  8. Dennis Leger says:

    Personal flinch, yes! But on a bigger scale, a plague of contagious fear. Perceiving such a dangerous world no wonder we often flinch.

  9. […] past few weeks. The system of publishing, from blogs to books, is being disrupted. To paraphrase Jonathan Fields, “it’s more than choosing which door to go through, it’s about which door do you […]

  10. Rog Law says:

    “The flinch is your real opponent, and information won’t help you fight it.”

    This line alone is so damn true that I could’ve stopped reading right there, but I’m glad that I didn’t. This book challenged me in a way that no other book has, and quite frankly I can’t go back to living the life that I was prior to reading this.

    • Anon says:

      Yes, “the flinch” is great.

      It’s just about brought me to my knees in despair, but boy, I needed to read it.

      Talk about “killing me softly”.


  11. That video was exactly 100% what I needed after a long day. Thank you for the inspiration to keep going and kill it.


  12. Aflame says:

    […] Postscript: This poem was inspired by The Flinch by Julien Smith.  I finished reading it a few days ago, such remarkable art, absolutely free. […]

  13. […] had received a sizeable book deal and the movie rights were optioned. Additionally, the comments on Jonathan Fields post about Flinch providing some interesting reading for those feeling […]