The ebook revolution is all about writers selling their work directly to their fans and we know there have been a few huge successes. Now a stand-up comedian has done the same with a DVD of one of his live shows, with interesting results.
Louis CK decided recently to finance the filming of his stand-up appearance at the Beacon Theater and sell it directly to fans for $5. The DVD has no digital rights management protection (normally used to try to prevent piracy).
Would he sell enough to make more than if he’d done the show for HBO and taken the usual royalty on a traditionally produced and marketed DVD? Would pirated copies reduce the demand?
On his blog he says, “I guess I want to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave you directly because you told jokes.”
He’s using $250,000 to cover the expenses of production and marketing via the website.
He’s using $250,000 to pay his staff and the people who work for him on his TV show and this production “a big fat bonus.”
He’s giving another $280,000 to five charities.
That leaves $220,000 and that’s what he’s keeping.
He also said he could have made more via the traditional channels, but his fans would have had to pay $20 instead of $5.
I’m sure that by setting an example of generosity rather than greed he’s strengthened the loyalty of his old fans and won a lot of new ones.
What does this tell us about marketing work directly on the web?
First, that if you have a great following already, you can market to them directly and make it a win-win for you and them.
I have to admit that before this I’d been only vaguely aware of Louis, but to give you an idea of his popularity, he has 852,131 Twitter followers. He writes, directs, stars in, and edits a comedy series shown on FX. In case you're wondering about the "CK", apparently it approximates the correct pronunciation of his Hungarian surname.
If you don’t have a big following…well, probably you’re not going to gross a million dollars in direct sales. So your first priority will be to develop a big following.
That’s not easy but it wasn’t easy for Louis CK, either. According to Wikipedia, he worked as a car mechanic while trying to get up the courage to perform. His first open mic spot was five minutes long but he ran out of material after two. That spooked him so much that another two years went by before he tried again.
For writers, this is all about building what the publishers call your platform. I’ve been researching this for quite a while and will be sharing some ideas about it with you over the next month or two.
One element of your platform is your blog, of course. At times it can be a challenge to come up with material every day (although daily posting isn't a requirement, it's recommended)--and I've just noticed that this is my 2000th post!
Obviously I still have a lot of work before me, because if I apply the ratio of my Twitter followers to Louis CK's, if I launched a similar campaign to sell a $20 value product for $5, I'd gross...er...$4000.
Still, I enjoy sharing information and encouragement with my fellow writers and the fact that the blog has had more than 320,000 page views is gratifying.