The grand experiment: ALIVE serialized audiobook on YouTube/Facebook

YouTube serialization of a novel

The ALIVE podcast novel is complete. Hurrah! Another book added to the list of Tales Told By Scott. But this time, we tried something different.

The Internet is always a-changing. If you don’t change with it, you get left behind. When I started serializing my audiobooks in March of 2005, the concept of a podcast was so new it was hard to figure out how to get them. This is way before podcasts showed up in iTunes, mind you. Know what else was new back then? YouTube.

Serialized novel ALIVE on YouTube

The ALIVE audiobook serialized on YouTube.

In fact, my first-ever podcast episode pre-dates YouTube by about a month. That’s right, y’all — YouTube is barely one decade old. The first YouTube video was uploaded on April 23, 2005. In that decade, obviously, the company has grown into a juggernaut. Here’s something trippy to the point of being overwhelming: when I dropped my first episode, there were kids who told you how old they were by showing their fingers, and this same kids are now international sensations with thousands of fans and millions of views.

While my serialized audiobooks podcast is still going great, there are millions of new Netizens who watch a lot of YouTube. Are they into podcasts? Depends on what study you read, I guess (and I haven’t read many). I feel that if they are listening to podcasts — and they like books — there’s a decent chance they’ve already heard of Scott Sigler Audiobooks and are either existing fans or my work is not for them. I wanted to find a way to reach more people who have grown up with YouTube, and our audio-only posts didn’t seem to do that for us.

QUICK OVERVIEW
If you’re not familiar with my career, I started recording my own unabridged audiobooks and giving them away as serialized podcasts. On April 1, 2007, my print novel ANCESTOR was published by a small Canadian publisher. Because of my loyal podcast audience, the book hit #1 on both Amazon’s Horror and SciFi charts, and was the #2 overall fiction novel only behind HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. We did that with zero advertising, zero PR budget, zero reviews/coverage from traditional media. And, this was before Amazon carried eBooks, so I was up against everyone else in the world that published print books — it was an apples-to-apples comparison. That indie success landed me a five-book deal with Crown Publishing. I continue to give away all of my books as free, unabridged, serialized audiobooks.

THE PROBLEMS WITH AUDIO-ONLY BOOKS:
The biggest problem is that it’s hard to make audio-only links play from mobile players. If you post a link in Faceboook, for example, that sends you to this site (scottsigler-dot-com), and then you have to click on another link to get the audio to play. It’s also hard to get audio to play natively in Facebook and other social media sites. So, we tried to find a way to make our audio files one-click-playable from within all the big social media sites — as in, you click on it in Pinterest, and it plays in Pinterest without taking you somewhere else.

WHAT WE DID TO ATTACK THIS PERSNICKETY PROBLEM
We took the finished audio episodes and embedded them in YouTube videos. I also did a little video intro for each episode, so new viewers/listeners could get to know me a bit. An example is below, for Episode 1 of ALIVE:

AUDIO-EMBEDDED-IN-VIDEO STRATEGY:
By putting ALIVE episodes on YouTube, I was able to post one-click, audio-embedded-videos to Tumblr, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. That’s right, childrens — upload in one place, post that same upload to a bunch-a social media sites. You can see players for all of those sites in the header image of this post. I also uploaded it directly to Facebook, as Facebook only allows one-click playing with native video (posting a YouTube video there produces a tiny little thumbnail, not as cool or as easy to use).

THE PROBLEM — TIME:
This crap takes awhile. First, there was the learning curve. There was a learning curve and I got faster and more efficient as time went on, but I spent about 10 hours getting the hang of things, troubleshooting, learning how to put these videos together and how to post them to the different sites.

Once I did get the hang of it, shooting the intro video, putting together the episode, entering the description and meta data, then creating the video took about an hour.

Posting to all of those sites I mention above took roughly another 60 minutes. Now, I would be posting my regular audio to those links anyway, and that takes 40 minutes to an hour. So I’m really only adding 20 minutes by posting the video instead of the audio.

It adds up, though:
• 10 hours — getting the hang of it
• 20 hours — shooting and producing each video
• 20 hours — posting to social media
–––––––––––––––––––––––––
• 50 hours time investment / 2.5 hours per episode

TOTAL TIME INVESTMENT
(2.5 hours per episode) x (21 video episodes) = 52.5 hours, which does not count the audio-only posting that I continued to do anyway.

DOES THIS STRATEGY WORK?
The goal here is to a) get new fans, and b) allow existing fans an easier way to get the episodes from social media. So has that happened? Well, as far as new fans go, it seems to be starting slow — but that’s normal on YouTube (for me, anyway — there are people who get thousands of views in the first few hours). I posted Episode 1 of ALIVE to YouTube on June 21, 2015. As of the writing of this post (November 3, 2015), I have 7,395 views of that episode. That compares to 33,066 audio-only downloads for Episode 1 in that same time period.

But here’s the catch — you can’t measure success of something like this in real time. Podcast (and now vidcasts) sit there and steadily pick up new listeners/viewers as time marches on. They sit there for years, or, if you like, forever (or until YouTube shuts down, which is probably the same thing as forever).

There’s no way of knowing how many of those 7,395 are existing fans, how many are new fans, how many actually bought a book, or how many listened to episode one and tuned out. This tactic doesn’t give me metrics like that.

THE PAYOFF
It’s the long play where I think posting Book I of the Generations Trilogy on YouTube will pay off. It’s going to sit there and get new listeners/viewers for the next five months leading up to the April 5, 2016 hardcover release of Book II, ALIGHT. I predict that 7,194 will  be more like 20,000 by that time. The audio-only version of ALIVE gets put into our back-catalog over at Podiobooks.com. To give you perspective on how my back catalog titles there continue to rack up listens, episodes of INFECTED average 141,989 downloads each in the seven years since we posted it there — for a total of 3.51 million downloads.

SUMMARY
All in all, audio-embedded-video is a lot of work for an uncertain payoff. We’ll keep monitoring it with hard numbers, and with ad-hoc analysis to try and see if this new strategy works.

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Comments

  1. Alan Clements

    Just wanted to say thanks for putting your stuff on Audible. While I love listening to you talk I like the idea of you getting paid for my purchase. You are getting a check from them, right?

  2. Mary C

    I love your podcasts. I don’t youtube much. So, I don’t know if or how to d/l for offline listening. I listen to your books while traveling. Live streaming will lose you one listener. A very, very sad listener.

  3. Amiko

    I have noticed the low view count of Scotts’ youtube content (compared to the audio downloads).
    I was wondering if it would help for fans to open and like those videos (and add comments perhaps). Would it make it more likely for the videos to be recommended to other users or would it boost the advertising revenue or have some other positive effect? Or negative effect?

    1. scottsigler

      Amiko: We’re not worried about view count or advertising revenue with this experiment. We wanted to see if the concept had legs, and the jury is still out.

      However, all “thumbs up” clicks on these videos do matter. We don’t know the math of the YouTube algorithm, but that’s a big thing the YouTube stars ask for in their videos. So do that! And subscribe there!