March 2011 - A Podcast Platform New York Times Best-Selling Author Scott Sigler Interview excerpts courtesy of Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn
Tell Us About Your Publishing Journey?
A:I spent a good eleven or twelve years writing every day and trying to get published through the traditional channels of soliciting agents and publishers. So, I plugged away for all that time and then found out about podcasting back in 2005 and the first thing that popped into my head was this is a great way to serialize a novel, it will be just like the radio dramas of the 40s and 50s. I went looking for books to listen to via podcast and when I couldn't find any I realized it was because nobody had done it yet. But when I found out nobody had done it yet then the marketing part of my brain kicked in and I was in a real hurry to record and get a podcast novel out there to try and capitalize on being first to market. That led to several thousand followers listening to the podcast and when I put out a trade paperback book, Ancestor in 2007, from a really small Canadian imprint called Dragonmoon Press. But when that book came out despite having no marketing budget, no PR, no media coverage of any kind, no advertising, it was the number two fiction novel on Amazon the day it came out. It was only on top for a few days but it was still a big accomplishment and got New York houses fired up that somebody could do that on their own, which led to my book deal with Crown.
You mentioned your 11 to 12 years of slugging away there, which was obviously key to your success, but do you have any other recommendations for people who want to become a New York Times bestselling author?
A: Well, I think the biggest thing now, with the affordability and accessibility of all the tools online, is to write every day, create the best story you can, and edit the story heavily, because you only get one chance for people to hear your story or they'll turn you off and never come back to you again. Outside of that, which hasn't changed in hundreds of years worth of fiction writing, it's to get your content out online and start building up an audience base.
The days of being discovered, I believe are completely gone. The days of someone pulling your manuscript out of a slush pile and say, "oh my goodness this is the greatest thing I've ever seen," are totally gone. There will still be random lightening bolts that strike and people, you know, one in a million will make it through the traditional model, but I think where things are going to now is, if you can get your stories online, give them away, build an audience and interact with that audience, and you will get to a point where you bring that audience to a publisher. So, instead of saying, "I know my book will sell because this is just the best thing ever," you're going to the publisher saying, "I know my book will sell because I've got fifty thousand people reading my blog every day. There is a huge difference there and publishers now are starting to understand this as well. So, instead of them just taking a chance based on their own taste or on the taste of some English professor at some college who's dubbed the student, you know, this is a very important work etcetera, now publishers can sit back and look at what's resonating out in the marketplace.
And you've got to remember, publishers are risking an enormous amount of money with every book that they publish. People's jobs are on the line with every book that comes out. If you were in their shoes, most people are going to be more apt to go with more of a sure thing to mitigate that risk. And the way they can mitigate that risk is look to see who's out online building up an audience and already has people that like their work. Those are people that publishers are going to start signing and putting promotional money behind.
This is a new trend in pro publishing and it should happen because it just flat out makes sense. You can find someone to publish it who like your book, but still at the end of the day they have to look at that and make a business decision and if you have thousands of people following you online, that's a much more logical risk for them to take then someone who hasn't built up any kind of following at all.
Is podcasting still something you recommend for authors who want to build a platform or are there more effective methods?
A: I think it is the most effective method. It's also the most work and the reason it's the most effective method is because the author is reading his or her own work and gets to preface each episode with, hey, here's what's going on in my writing life, and then at the end of the episode they just ramble on as long as they want. So, it becomes an audio blog that establishes your personality and you as human beings in addition to giving out your stories. And that audio connection is what in all cultures is what people identify with quite frequently. If you can hear someone's voice and hear the passion in their voice for what they do, that person ceases to become just some author and becomes this friend that you listen to every week.
It's extremely powerful, it makes for lifelong fans and there is really no substitute for it. However, it is also the most work because not only are you writing, you are recording and then you have to edit your recording and then you have to understand how to post and how to podcast and how to interact with people from there. So, it's the most work.
The step down from that which also works extremely well I think is blogging your writing, be that fiction or non-fiction. There is a gentleman named David Wellington who wrote a book called Monster Island and he blogged that book and was able to build up a following and turned that into a print deal and now he has many books out. He just writes great content; he gave it away for free online and build up an audience that way. So that's the second method I would suggest that's very beneficial because people who are very busy with jobs and families are still trying to write, you were doing the writing anyways. Taking that writing and putting it up in a blog post is a very minimal amount of work so you cut out that whole audio production side of things and then you're still out there online and you still have to spend the time promoting it, interacting with your audience. But it's a good alternative method to podcasting. However, if people have the time or they really want to create a crazy fan base, still then podcasting is the way to go.
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