Amber Rae is the embodiment of the optimism that held court at the first Brooklyn DIY Business Association Conference last month. The various panelists extolled the transformative power that passion has for turning any project from a personal hobby into a successful business. And Rae is a prime examples of it: she was doing social networking for a start-up in San Francisco, but after her first visit to New York City, she packed her life into a suitcase and moved to New York. She was on her way to following her dream of being a "creative catalyst:" someone who inspires others to chase their passions. Soon, she got her wish: she's now the "chief evangelist" for The Domino Project, a new publishing venture from author and business guru Seth Godin. The project has partnered with Amazon and seeks to revolutionize not just how books are distributed but also how they are consumed by marketing directly from author to customer, with a focus on viral marketing. Rae also founded the Passion Experiment, a one-woman consulting firm of sorts that helps clients get "unstuck" and overcome obstacles. On top of all that, she runs revolution.is, where she shares personal stories of entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Rae spoke with Inc.com about why dedication to dreaming big has brought her success, and what it's like to work inside an organization that could shake up the old model of publishing forever.
What drew you to work with the Domino Project?
I've been interested in spreading ideas since I was 12 years old. Bothered by the de-motivating content available for girls my age (what to wear, how to please, etc.), I launched an online magazine focused on inspiring confidence in young women. We don't have to live how others expect us to and I hoped to help young women have the confidence to create their own path. This obsession eventually led me to Seth's work, and when he published the opportunity to work with him on his blog, I jumped at it.
Speaking of your job, what does the title "chief evangelist" entail? Is that a fancy name for PR?
As chief evangelist, I help spread the ideas of our authors as far as possible through social media, our street team, and engaging with people who care.
Lots of authors have turned to small presses and the internet to distribute their work. So what makes the Domino Project so revolutionary?
Ideas that spread, win. We get them to market faster, without the fluff, and with the author's best interests in mind. Books can take up to two years to publish. We bring books to market in 12 weeks or less.
How do you control things like quality of a book when it's skipping the traditional intermediary that is the publishing house?
Seth's gut is a pretty good filter of quality.
The Domino Project doesn't give authors advances for their work, so what's the revenue model?
Authors make a cut of all sales and benefit from sponsorships as well. Our vice president of sponsorships, Lauryn [Ballesteros], has been kicking ass, securing great sponsorships that are making authors very happy.
Godin has talked about how we think at a different rate than 20 to 30 years ago, and therefore he sees a need keep chapters short and leave the Pulitzer-winning to others. So in addition to reinventing publishing, do you consider yourselves as trying to reinvent the concept of a "book" as well?
At Domino, we publish manifestos. For me, I love books that shift my perspective, open my mind, and make me feel changed. To me, our books are pithy and smart. You can read them and experience this transformation in about an hour.
How does soliciting people to submit their own images for use on the cover or inside of the book factor into the new publishing model?
For the covers, we find images that resonate with us and then give the photographer credit. Alex [Miles Younger], our creative director, also does his magic to make the book covers beautiful and memorable.
The Domino system is designed to make books "spreadable" with the packs of 5 or 52. What kinds of customers are the ones who are going to buy those large bundles?
Small companies and larger corporations. The book can be a staple that spreads a message and philosophy to everyone involved.
What kinds of people are you helping with the Passion Experiment? What are the common things they're "stuck" on?
I'm working with a range of people. Some are stuck in jobs they hate, some want freedom, some want passion. It's truly incredible to watch how much potential every person has (way more than they even realize!), and then to see them literally transform their lives in a matter of weeks. It's the most fulfilling thing I've ever done in my entire life.
I launched [it] as an experiment for myself and it's generated 180 applications in 3 months. I keep meaning to create a website or craft case studies around my past clients but more and more people apply every day and I'm so busy with actually helping people that I haven't had the time.
Through all these projects, you seem to focus a lot on the benefit of collaboration and helping others: is there a less profit-centered mindset among the authors, entrepreneurs and others you work with?
Profit is an outcome and I never do anything just for the money. I'm passionate about unlocking potential, and everyone I work with seems to be this way too.