Charlie Sheen gave me an idea…Posted: May 5, 2011
An idea has occurred to me. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the viability of making a living as an author online. Things are changing so fast, the traditional ‘consumer buys book, author makes money’ idea might soon be defunct. But there are so many new opportunities for authors who are willing to see themselves as ‘entertainment providers’ instead of just ‘writers’, that I’m really excited about the future.
Before I tell you my BIG idea, I need a moment to explain the context. My first book, Times of Trouble, failed to win me an agent or a publisher. I self-published online (for free) and received many fantastic reviews, after almost 30,000 people downloaded my eBook. The idea behind self publishing for free was to build my reputation as a writer. I was a brand newbie after all. But just to confirm, I made zero dollars from this activity.
Since starting my second book, a thriller called Conspire, I have focused on the knowledge that it will likely also end up being released as an Indi eBook. For this reason, I wrote a plot that very much lends itself to the digital format; there is ample opportunity to increase reader engagement with add-ons (bells and whistles) such as music, videos, maps and newspaper articles linking to the text. The central inanimate object in the plot is an iPad! Don’t tell me I wasn’t thinking ahead!
Did I mention I’m also a digital marketer by trade? For this reason, I can’t help but use my knowledge of online marketing to conjure strategies for a) getting my eBook read and b) making anything more than zero dollars (which, to be honest, would be a massive bonus, but isn’t my driving motivation as I love writing. See previous post.)
I’m almost at the BIG idea. I just want to let you know where the initial seedlings of this idea came from. I was reading this post on the blog Diesel, where Frank Coelho explains that advertising is soon to appear in eBooks. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this – maybe it would be a way for authors to make a living from their work? But wouldn’t it also be very distracting to the reader and look revolting? I also tend to think that, at the rates advertisers pay for online advertising, which is usually CPM (cost per thousand views), authors won’t be making significant returns from allowing advertising messages in their digital books. So it’s probably not worth the effort.
Rather than dwell on this negative thought, my mind immediately went to the most unlikely place – Charlie Sheen. This man is quite obviously off his rocker, and yet, he was still paid almost $2 million dollars to speak someone else’s words in a sitcom, where he plays a part suspiciously close to his own personality that requires little, if any ‘acting’. Did you catch that I’m quite resentful of writers getting close to nothing when actors get, well, everything? This might be a post for another day. Back to Charlie. The only reason he gets this huge pay cheque is because of the advertising revenue from his top rating show Two and a Half Men.
So, why can’t authors make even a percentile of this sort of money by being innovative about the way we give readers access to our work? We are entertaining them in the same way that a sitcom on TV is. Some might argue even more! (Some like me.)
Here’s my idea:
Conspire is thereabouts 100 chapters long. So, what if I:
- Release Conspire as an eBook
- Advertise it using affiliate, search and social media strategies
- Insert a 15 or 30 second ‘video advertisement’ at the start, and every 10 chapters after
- The reader can only download 10 chapters at a time, once they have viewed the entire 15 or 30 second ad
- For each ad, the advertiser contributes somewhere between 6-10c (this is the metric I’m most unsure of, but considering how much it costs to put an ad on Two and a Half Men, I don’t see why innovative marketers won’t come to the party. Also, keep in mind that the advertiser can pretty much guarantee someone has viewed the commercial, rather than paying the 2-5c per TV viewer who goes to the toilet during the commercial break).
- If 10,000 readers download my book and watch ten 15 or 30 second ads, I receive the grand total of $6,000 – $10,000. Not bad at all!
- The other benefit is that you get incremental revenue from people reading the first few chapters only and then moving onto something else. Not that readers will be able to put Conspire down. I’m just saying!
- I prefer this concept, rather than having banners and text ads on the actual pages of the novel. Once the ad has been watched, the reader can get on with reading the book.
- If people are offended by the ads, they can pay for the book without ads. Their choice! This is the same concept as paid and free apps.
I don’t see why consumers would happily watch ads on TV (even pay TV) and at the movies (when they’ve bought a ticket!), but wouldn’t also be happy to accept that eBook creators need to be compensated for their efforts.
Maybe it’s time we stopped being precious about our literary mantle and realise that we are competing with other entertainment providers, who are reaping rewards from the time they are able to engage with a captive audience.
What are your thoughts? Am I being delusional to think that this could work? Have you heard of anyone else trying this idea? And do I really need an agent and a publisher if I can make this happen myself? Many many questions.
If you’re in a position to give this a go, feel free to try it out before I get there. (And let me know if it works!)
I have some other ideas which combine my digital marketing expertise with monetising digital eBooks. Stay tuned, I will be posting again soon.