“Hey, Sig, what’s up with the old white dead dude at the top of this page?”
Well, Pilgrim’, we’re making some changes in these here parts. We’re easing up on something that has served us well for a decade so we can better focus on what we do best.
You won’t see the effect of these changes right away (they are more under-the-hood than in-your-face). Hopefully, you’ll see the results in 2017 and and beyond. And by “these results” what we mean is “more stories.”
Here’s the TL:DNR version of our new strategy:
- Less emphasis on courting advertisers for the podcast.
- Scott taking the time used for advertising and applying that to making new fiction (a fancy way of saying “more hours spent creating stories”).
- ARealGirl taking the time used for advertising and applying that to making finished books out of Scott’s stories, and learning more about marketing eBooks and audiobooks.
And below is the long-winded version…
LESS EMPHASIS ON ADVERTISING
In the world of novelists, our business model is rare, if not unique. I don’t know of any other original fiction creators who give away their books as serialized podcasts, and make a decent chunk of change by selling advertising on said podcast. We’ve been podcasting for ten years. For seven of that (or so), advertising has been part of our revenue stream.
For our weekly podcast (we’re podcasting ALIGHT right now), we put out an episode every Sunday and y’all hear the ads we run. But that’s not our only property, not even close. We also put our finished serial audiobooks up at iTunes and Podiobooks.com. At those sites, people can download an entire serialized audiobook, all at once. Right now we have fifteen titles available, not counting ALIGHT.
We consider ourselves to be kind of a Netflix of audiobooks — people “binge” on my work. When they download a new book, a pre-roll ad is automatically inserted. That means advertisers get their message out, the ads are current with their efforts, and the listener gets free stories. Everyone wins … or so you’d think, right?
But, we’re in the strange place of having more downloads than ever before and not being able to convert those to increased ad revenue. We had a little more than 660,000 downloads in June, and are averaging about 650,000 per month in 2016 (our most ever). That seems like a great number to us. We have that number because of our “backlist” of completed serial audiobooks you can get from iTunes or Podiobooks.com.
So, no, we’re not getting that number as a weekly podcast. Not even close. Our show isn’t at the same download level as Joe Rogan or the Nerdist. We’re still delivering a shit-ton of content, though. Trouble is, most of the big ad firms that sell podcasts to vendors only care downloads for live episodes. Even though someone downloads an archived book this month, and brand-new ads are inserted when they download it, and people are listening to the episodes and hearing the ads, that doesn’t jibe with what advertisers want these days.
In short: our strategy of podcasting serialized audiobooks is doing better than ever, but the advertisers are looking for a different model. A model that ain’t us. We get it. Every business changes over time. What worked well for us a few years ago doesn’t work as well now.
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
The obvious answer is: invest our resources to find new advertisers, develop those advertisers, and fill in the missing revenue. That’s all good and fine, and we’re sure we could do that — but it comes at a cost, and that cost is time. The more time we put into that, the less time we have to create stories and make new books. Getting advertisers ain’t easy. Making them happy is even harder.
The second answer is we could outsource our ads to companies that specialize in finding advertising for podcasts. Let’s call those companies “middlemen.” I covered that above — despite great download numbers, current advertisers don’t believe in the value of what they see as “archived content.” End result? We think it’s a waste of time to court those middlemen. We’ve tried a couple, and found that our model is not what they’re looking for.
That means we’re chucking the “obvious answer” right out the cotton-pickin’ window. We’re maintaining our current list of advertisers, but instead of going after new clients we’re trying to focus on making new books.
BOOKS ARE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THAT KEEP SELLING
Most podcasts are about hosts and guests. Shows cover timely, topical issues. The value is in the weekly episode, not so much in episode that are months or years old. Even skit-based comedy shows (including YouTube shows) are kind of timely — you tune into that show to watch the weekly episode.
Our podcast isn’t like that. We’re taking an existing property (a book) and serializing it. The book itself still sells as a product (eBook, audiobook or print), which is something most podcasts can’t do. We’re more like a TV show that can sell completed seasons as a DVD or as on-demand downloads. Another way to look at it: people will still buy a DVD of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or pay to watch it on Netflix, but they probably won’t shell out bucks for back issues of LIVE! WITH KELLY or THE CBS EVENING NEWS.
So while we make some revenue with the podcast via advertising, that revenue is ancillary. Our main jam is making the books themselves. The more books we make, the happier the fans are, the more money we make. Capitalism with a smile, folks.
Books sell. Books can be adapted for TV series, movies, graphic novels, etc. Making books is what we’re good at.
APPLYING “FOUND TIME” TOWARD BOOKS
I’m ADD AF (for you old farts like me, that’s “Attention Deficit Disorder-ed as fuck”). It’s very hard for me to concentrate on one thing at a time. When you’re writing a novel, you need to concentrate. Obvs. Chasing the advertising dolla requires attention, attention that detracts from writing. And advertising is all over the place — calls throughout the day, emails, etc. Every little thing that takes me out of writing has a compound price; the time of that action, plus the time it takes me to re-settle and slide back into the story. This new strategy is meant to mitigate those distractions.
The new goal is to get up (about 7am), go workout (7:30 to 9:00am), then come back and write (9:30am to probably 1:00pm). I’m going to attempt to not even check email, social media or other business until the afternoon. I have no idea if I can pull this off, but that’s what I’m going for.
Cutting back on advertising efforts should help. I hope it helps a lot. We want to make more cool stuff for more cool people, and hopefully have some of those stories live on in other forms.
I’m not the only horse pulling the cart. The Director of Døøm has a lot of responsibilities for advertising on the podcast, and we’re trying to cut back on those as well. You see, we’ve produced a bunch of eBooks and audiobooks, but we’ve never really marketed them. The Kindle store and Audible are entirely new economies that have popped up well after we settled into our business model.
Times have changed — we haven’t. That needs to be fixed.
ARealGirl will soon move her focus to finding ways to expose our stories to more people, in hopes that we have stuff people want to read. The time is right for this. With fifteen-plus eBooks in the Kindle store more coming soon, and a similar number in the Audible store, our marketing efforts will be multiplied because we have so many titles available. What might have had a decent impact when we had three or four books available will have a much higher impact when we’ve got twenty.
STRIKING WHILE THE IRON IS HOT
ALIVE hit #1 on the New York Times Best-Sellers list. You probably know, because I blabbed about that forever and a day. Things are also going very well with Del Rey, my mainstream publisher. I love working with them and hope to do more after the Generations Trilogy is complete.
We also soon start work on GFL Book VI. We need to spread the Sigler brand (awwww yeah) as far and wide as we can before that comes out (no, we don’t have a publication date, yet, but 2017 seems a good bet).
So we’ve got long held-back stuff coming to market. I’m trying to make more stuff on top of that. We’re content-rich, playa!
That means the time is right to back off everything that isn’t making new stories and bringing them to you. Advertising? In the back seat, brah. Social media? Going to have to ease up on that a bit, or simplify what we’re doing there.
On top of that, we’re actively courting Hollywood and hunting for an opportunity to tell stories in other mediums. That shit takes time. Tons of time. And if something goes? If a show is actually produced? You can bet I’m going into a dark, dark void and won’t be seen for ages. We need to be ready for when that happens.
Because the only variable is time …
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU, THE JUNKIE?
I don’t think it affects you at all, at least for now. Hopefully you’ve got bunches of tasty stuff in 2017, and more tasty stuff in 2018 and beyond. You guys have been asking for stories forever and a day (CRYPT, FITZROY, HUNTER, KISSYMAN, etc.). This change in what we do is aimed at satisfying that demand.
So that’s a quick overview of how we’re shifting gears and changing what we’ve done for a decade. If I’m less available online, I hope you understand.