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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Access to Supply Powers Demand--and First Sci-Fi Podcast Novel. (Q&A with Scott Sigler)

Pod_qa_1In this segment I'm speaking with Scott Sigler, the Sci-Fi writer behind the first ever "podcast novel", a Sci-Fi adventure titled EarthCore (the cover, featuring a bloody dagger, is down there on the right). Writing monster stories since the third grade, Sigler has created many novels, short stories and screenplays. But the real story happened when Scott's passion intersected with podcasting.

Sigler had a print deal with Time Warner in 2001, in which EarthCore, his first of three Sci-Fi books, was supposed to be in every bookstore in the country by 2002. But after 9/11 and an unrelenting recession, Time Warner scrapped everything that wasn't profitable--including the imprint that was going to publish EarthCore.

"Ss2_2We couldn't get another deal for the book", explains Sigler, "so it was sitting there when I discovered podcasting in March 2005." Releasing the book via 20 podcasts from March through September--and always leaving audiences on a cliffhanger--EarthCore claimed 25,000 downloads. With proof of demand in hand, Dragon Moon Press printed EarthCore in November 2005. (2,000 copies have sold thus far.)

Listen up marketers, this is the stuff revolutions are made of: because Scott had access to supply--once only afforded to large publishing houses--he was able to amass an audience and create an entirely new category spanning fiction, publishing, entertainment and yes, podcasting.

Scott advises, "The name of the game is exposure. You get your content out there and let the marketplace decide if it's good or not." Whether you market monster stories, manufactured goods, Sci-Fi or Wi-Fi, letting the market be your judge is mighty good advice. More great advice in the Q&A:

Sigler_3What gave you the idea of doing a podcast? It seemed like a no-brainer to deliver fiction content via weekly podcasts, but when I searched for "podcast novel", I found nothing. It hit me that the reason I couldn't find it was that no one had done it yet. That gave me an opportunity to be a first-mover and I jumped on it. So I had a professionally edited, major-house book sitting there, which meant that the quality was top-notch.

Being that you were the pioneer, how did you determine pricing? I give the books away free as a podcast during the "first run". So I podcast all 20 episodes of EarthCore, then Ancestor, then Infection, for free. This creates a larger audience. People can listen without risk, which is fine because the vast majority of listeners/readers don't know who I am. I'm already taking up their most valuable commodity--time--by them even trying me out.

Once the first-run or "podcast only" part is finished, I put the book out in print and as a paid download. As a paid download, the goal is to make it as cheap as possible--that's why I decided on $9.99. I think downloadable audio books are horribly overpriced. I want to make the work accessible. I'm here to entertain and I can entertain more people if I keep costs low. $9.99 for a 15-hour audio book is a pretty good deal.

What podcasting advice do you have for B2C marketers? Put in the wrench time and create great content. You only get one shot at adding a fan. Make it professional. The opportunity to just do a show and throw it out there--being in the right place at the right time because you did it first--is long gone. There is significant competition for every subject now. You have to create a polished show and provide content that people want to hear.

And you can NOT just "sell". People will see through a simple marketing podcast in five seconds, and you don't get a second shot at them. Create content that they want to hear, content they need, and expose your brand through association with that content. If you just want to talk about your products, you're not going to have any long-term success.

In your full-time job you create corporate podcasts for clients like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Hyperion. Any podcasting advice for B2B marketers? It's much more than just setting up a microphone and letting people talk. You have to engage in content development. How do you provide your customer the best service? By making the content broadcast ready, making it engaging. If you are the vendor, and the podcast is you talking to someone from the client's company, no one wants to hear that. If that's your model, you're basically making the client pay to generate ratings for you. That's great in the short-run, but you're using your customers and not giving them value for their time and/or money.

You need to identify the audience and analyze what they want to hear. It's much like creating a radio program--to get "ratings," you need a host that people in the organization actually want to hear from. In most corporations, that's leadership--the CEO, VPs, Lead Engineers, etc. Once you have that host, put in the time to develop content. Make scripts that guide hosts through the process, so that they have to spend as little time possible and still get a great 'cast. The point is that you, as the vendor, do all the work and then simply guide them through the process.

Infection_3 End Note: After EarthCore, Scott's second book, "Ancestor", claimed 28,00 downloads and the newly released "Infection" is topping both books at 30,000 downloads already (go here for the first installment). Scott's next book, titled "The Rookie", is a sprawling Sci-Fi drama combining organized crime, conquest and professional sports. Think "Star Wars" meets "Any Given Sunday". Hmmm, a linebacker with a light saber, maybe?

Comments? Post 'em! Ideas for an upcoming segment? Send 'em on!  Access all interview segments here. Info. on this series: here.

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For the first time in a long time, I felt my head nodding in agreement with every flipping thing this guy is saying.

He'd say something, and I'd think of a rebuttal or clarification, but then he'd immediately add the next statement that coincided with my "Yes, but..."s.

I feel deeply shamed and humbled to be in the presence of such intellectual greatness.

My weakest aspect right now is Downloadable Product. I started a Lulu print on demand account, but got lost in a perfectionist haze when it came to all the options and decisions about the product. I got overwhelmed, then distracted. But this is my #1 goal, or it was, to have Downloadable Product sold on my blog.

I think his reasoning is totally lucid, modern, and workable.

Everything Free, or At Least Abundant Free Samples, All the Time, Except for Advanced, or Full Production Mass Market Invested Versions.

That's the new business model I'm pondering ala Post Secret, Weblogsinc, Google, YouTube, and now this feller Scott.

Listen to this gospel: downloadable products. Way more effective than stupid text link ads on your blog, IMHO.

I have experimented with sci fi podcasts, like my "Hair from Hell" story on my Odeo channel Purple Plasma Podcast Spooks. Now, Scott has inspired me to pursue this whole venue much further, and include the DPs too. Thanks partner. And CK!

CK: feel free to email me alerts on your posts. Anytime. Much appreciated personal touch. You genius you.

great stuff CK, it's an example of the long-tail in action, and another wake up call the big media houses of all kinds. If artists have direct access to audiences with no distribution costs it changes the equation!

Cheers,

karl

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