In the past three months I’ve learned a valuable lesson about trying to distribute/sell content online, whether it’s books, movies or mobile apps.
Recently I watched a documentary on what it is like today to distribute art through the Internet. The video PressPausePlay (http://vimeo.com/34608191) makes the statement that even though it is easier for artists to create and publish their art through the Web, it is very difficult to get recognition because there’s too much junk (from others trying to do the same thing). The thought is that the junk keeps people from finding the good art. Based on my experience I have not found that to be true.
Now, let me begin by saying that I have not “broken through” as they say. None of my art has made it. But I do know one thing: it is a lot easier today to find people to look at your art than ever before. If you write an app for the iPhone, make a movie, compose a song, or write a novel it is very easy for people to find it. And it is guaranteed that they will find it pretty quickly, no matter who you are.
In the past you might have written a novel and it would have sat in what was called the slush pile. It would’ve sat there sometimes for up to a year before a single person would’ve read it. It was up to that person to determine if another person would get to see it, and another person, and eventually a lot of people.
Today, the world is completely different. I am not very popular on twitter or Facebook. Let’s face it, as of January 18, 2012 I am officially a nobody. I have under 100 followers on twitter and about 40-50 friends in Facebook. My 15-year-old son has a lot more friends online than I do. Yet it is not a problem for me to find people who will look at my art.
Here’s what the Internet will do for you. The Internet will give you three days to prove that you’re great. If you release an app and you make it free, without any effort, any marketing whatsoever, you will get about 4000 people to download it in a period of three days. If your application is great, then those people will tell other people, and more will download it. If it’s not great, the people will download it and go on about their day, and after three days the momentum will die and you’re done.
The same is true for a novel. If you get Amazon to sell your novel for free, you will get about 300 people to download it without any effort on your part. Sure, you might tweet, or tell your Facebook friends, but let’s face it, most of them won’t even see your post. Without a huge amount of effort 300 people will download your novel. If your novel is great, they will tell other people, and then more will download it. If it’s not great, the fun ends after three days. The numbers go down and the novel fades away. And this is the way it seems to work from my experience with novels, apps, and videos (I have done all three).
Now, notice that I said, “if it’s great,” and not, “if it’s good.” If it’s good, people will appreciate your effort. Some will reward you in the form of good reviews, but they will not be compelled to tell their friends. For you to succeed the work must be so good that they will re-tweet, they will discuss it in forums, and even tell their friends face-to-face. For that to happen, the work has to be great.
If it’s good, and you are getting good reviews, then know this, you’re on the right track. Be happy! You have found something that you have a talent for, and that’s rare. But don’t dwell on it. Don’t think, “if I just do a little marketing, then…” No. Three days, and move on. It’s not a matter of people seeing it. People have seen it. The problem is, it’s not great… yet. And don’t make the other classic mistake. Don’t say, I should’ve done this type of thing instead. I should’ve done something like Angry birds, or a novel like Hunger Games. No. If you do that you will not be great. You will switch the focus from what you can do best to what others can do better. You have to focus on what you do best and be great.
So, to go back to the PressPausePlay documentary, the problem today is not that there’s too much junk. Actually, there’s no problem. Today a lot more people will see your work than ever before with little effort on your part. The problem is the same as it has always been: Your work has to be great!