For all its flaws, the Internet truly has opened up incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses. It's made it possible for you to reach a global audience with virtually no capital investment. But it's not as easy as just starting a blog and hitting publish. So how do you take advantage of it?
Here's one story of how one man leveraged free media to go from wannabe writer to New York Times best selling author.
Welcome to the Siglerverse
In a universe filled with of creatures and carnage, mobsters and murder, spaceships and Intergalactic football, one man reigns supreme. He is the Future Dark Overlord, and my favorite sci-fi author, Scott Sigler.
Creator of sixteen novels, six novellas and dozens of short stories, Sigler’s books are sold around the world. He has been written up in Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, Wired, and Businessweek. His fans (self-proclaimed “Junkies”) flock to see him whenever he’s on tour. There are even rumors of his work being brought to life by Hollywood.
Yet despite his undeniable success, Scott Sigler has given his stories away - for free.
Developing a cult following
Sigler’s road from obscurity to #1 New York Times bestselling author began in 2005. Having struggled to get his novel, EarthCore, published, Sigler released it himself. Not in print, but as a podcast . . . the first ever podiobook.
In the years that followed, countless listeners (including yours truly) discovered the podcast and became hooked on the adrenaline of Sigler’s trademark blood, guts, and aliens.
By the time he finished releasing his second novel, Ancestor . . . he had 30,000 [listeners]...With initial printings of novelists’ first books running as low as 2,000 copies, Mr. Sigler had a substantial audience, enough to attract a small Canadian publisher, Dragon Moon Press, which published EarthCore in 2005” - The New York Times, March 2007
But Sigler’s Junkies don’t just take advantage of free content; they buy. They pre-order upcoming releases, they cherish special editions, they download ebooks, and they wear Sigler swag.
Why content marketing works
Building a brand by giving away content was groundbreaking back in 2005. Now, everybody’s doing it. They call it content marketing.
Content marketing works because it lets people learn about your brand - learn if they like you; if they trust you - without taking a personal risk. It’s an investment you make, but one that really pays off. As Sigler points out on his website:
The more people who hear my stories, the more people likely to become diehard fans that are happy to spend money on products because they know they are going to get quality for their money."
To succeed at content marketing
The undeniable “secret” of content marketing success is quality. Whether you’re producing podcasts, videos, travel guides, or blogs--delivering value is a must.
Sigler’s free podcasts have only gotten better as his success has grown. The production quality has gone through the roof, the sound effects are incredible, and the cliffhangers will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Other brands try to produce content on the cheap: paying creatives slave wages, expecting everything done by tomorrow, and then wondering why their spammy content isn’t going viral.
Let’s get real. Spam doesn’t earn you a following. No one talks about how great your spam is, or shares it with their friends. You can’t force feed spam to your audience. They won’t eat it.
Your content is an extension of your brand - an asset that compounds in value over time. Be prepared to invest in making it so good your audience would pay for it. If you do, you’ll be on your way to creating addictive content that sells.
Content production is just the beginning
Scott Sigler is a truly gifted author. But his success has hinged on his ability to market his writing.
He regularly communes with his Junkies via social media, blogging, and forums. He acknowledges audience members in podcasts, invites everyone to participate in live events, and encourages fan-fiction and fan-art. He even goes so far as to name characters in his books after individual Junkies.
Many marketers talk-the-talk of relationship marketing, interactive marketing, and authenticity marketing, but Sigler has been walking-the-walk for over a decade. His advice to new authors could be easily applied to any brand:
"understand the fact that readers want to connect with the author. Embrace social media, reply to emails, to blog comments, interact with them whenever possible. Don’t be an arrogant douchebag. You are not important. Your work is not important. What’s important is giving people value for the time they spend with [you].”