Power to the People: Podiobooks
After reading the book What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis I started seeing Jeff’s theories more and more around me. One of the things I saw where online initiatives that give power to the people. Certain people, websites or organizations decided to give something away to their audience. To remix, remake, comment on or just to enjoy. A great example of this are podiobooks; audiobooks delivered as a podcast to your MP3 player. The fact that huge communities form around one single writer is both inspiring and interesting. Where does this huge success come from?
A few years ago I accidentally came across a so-called podiobook. The book was called One Among the Sleepless by Mike Bennett. A novel about “sex, death and noisy neighbours” according to the author’s website. His way of not reading but really acting out his stories got me hooked. The characters’ voices were hilarious, as well as the story itself. So I wanted more and came across Scott Sigler. His horror stories weren’t really my cup of tea at first, but I started digging them because of the huge enthusiasm of Mr. Sigler.
These two writers unfortunately weren’t able yet to get themselves a publishing deal to get their book printed. So the solution was quite Googly: give it away for free! But not as plain text, no, record it and give a piece away every week. This worked very well and, especially in Scott’s case, more and more readers started to get addicted to it. The “Junkies”, as Sigler’s fans call themselves, wanted more. Scott gave it to them, recording a new piece of his story as regularly as possible. They started interacting with each other, and with Scott, on message boards and social media pages. This interaction created a bond between the fans and the author and shows one of the biggest powers of this way of distributing content. The loyal bond helped Scott very well when he was able to get a ‘real’ publishing deal. Although most of the fans had already read some of his books, they still bought the official print versions of it. So, instead of waiting for a publisher to get your book out and then gather fans around it, Scott did it the other way around. He created a community of loyal Junkies, after which the publishers all wanted him.
Another case that’s really interesting is the story of JC Hutchins. He wrote a trilogy called “7th Son“. In these 3 books called Descent, Deceit and Destruction, a story about 7 clones is told to the reader by JC himself. Countless fans read the books, making all 3 books a big success. Then the unique part came: in his 3 books JC Hutchins created a unique world, which was now being used to be an inspiration for new stories. These new stories, as well as short videos, where written and made by both fans and famous podcasters. This Obsidian podcast was the first collaboration between fans and author to create a whole new podcast series. He also managed to get a print deal, with his latest book Personal Effects: Dark Arts already released and the print version of 7th Son: Descent coming October, 27th.
So, what does this have to do with Jeff Jarvis and his Google story? Jeff says that opening up your content for other people is one of the keys to success. That doesn’t mean you cannot make money of it, but you have to build a loyal bond with your customers, or readers, in this case. When the books are valuable enough to them, they’ll pay you. Even if they already know how the story ends.