Monday, October 14, 2013
Building An Audience -- Breaking Bad Style
Some of the recent shows I've discovered on Netflix after they initially aired include:
Sherlock: I've watched both seasons twice now and can't wait for more of this modernized version of the Arthur Conan Doyle series. Best bromance on television.
Ripper Street: Fantastic cop series focused on the birth of modern forensics in Victorian London. Creepy, too, as it takes place in the shadow of the Jack the Ripper murders, 1889.
Nikita: Excellent reinterpretation of the original story about juvenile delinquents who are kidnapped and trained to become government assassins. That woman kicks ass!
The Fall: Brilliant acting in this show as we watch the Belfast police try to solve a string of serial murders. The audience knows who the killer is so the tension comes from the psychological behavior of the main characters, as we watch them work through their individual flaws and strengths.
And the newest show I'm catching up on is, of course, Breaking Bad, which brings me to the main author-centric point of my post. Ha! You didn't think there was one, did you?
Breaking Bad first aired on AMC in 2008. During its first season it garnered fewer than a million viewers. But those who watched it really, really liked it. A lot. The show came back the next season, still doing what it did best, and viewership grew to a modest one and a half million. Props to AMC for not canceling the show based solely on the numbers, because by the time Breaking Bad ended after six seasons it had over ten million viewers and was THE show everyone was talking about. A lot of that success had to do with previous episodes still being available for new fans to watch and get caught up on. When the season finale aired two weeks ago, all those latecomer fans were there for the ride.
Here's a quote from an article at The Motley Fool concerning the show's success:
"The most obvious lesson is that in today's media environment, it can really pay off to nurture what at first appears to be an unsuccessful series. Compared to a decade ago, it's fairly easy for new viewers to catch up on old episodes and become fans, meaning that low initial ratings don't necessarily toll a death knell for the series."
That is brilliant, and I wish more media honchos respected the power of letting an audience build. Shows (and books) don't always fail because they aren't good enough. Sometimes they fail because the timing isn't right (schedules, hello!), or word-of-mouth hasn't had a chance to reach the right ear (I didn't know anyone who was watching BB early on), or maybe there's a miscue in the perception of a show versus the actual content (At first I wasn't keen on watching a series about methamphetamine drug pushers, but it is so much more than that).
AND what I would propose is that there's a lesson in all of this for authors, especially those who self-publish. Traditional publishers have always relied on their backlist (older books still available for sale) for a big chunk of their income. Having those stories out there increases the chances of finding new readers. The more stories the better. Get 'em hooked on an author, and chances are they'll come looking for more.
This is why it's important to have multiple works available when you're published. The more stories out there, the more likely someone will stumble across your work. Plus, if they like what they've read, they'll probably go looking for more. It's really important for growing a reader base that they have that opportunity.
This is also why, as a SLOW writer, I've been waiting to attempt publishing until I've completed at least two of the novels in my trilogy. We all hope, in our wildest dreams, that someone will want to read more stories from us. If they do, they'll want them sooner rather than later in this digital age of instant download. If you're a slow writer, that's a challenge. But we've got to have something more to offer readers after they've devoured that first book. As authors it's important to develop a backlist for people to discover on their own schedule. Then, if we're lucky, we can start to nurture a slow but steady following -- Breaking Bad style.
Are you watching any of these shows? Got a publishing strategy? If you're published, have you seen your audience build with multiple works out there?
** Edit: I'm adding a link about the idea of 1,000 true fans for further reading via The Technium, as pointed out by rocking blogger E.J. Wesley in the comments.
* I'm only on season 2 of Breaking Bad so NO SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Really, I've done well to avoid most news about this show so far. I have no idea what's happening next. :))