Friday, September 25, 2015

7 Ways Scott Sigler Has Earned Rabid Fans

Everyone in the marketing game wants a following. You need more than just an audience, though. You need an army. You need customers and fans of your work that are hungry and eager for every single product you sell, and who evangelize your products to other potential customers. Everyone wants and needs this type of a following, but how do you actually get one?
Scott Sigler - Courtesy Empty Set Entertainment
Photo credit: Joan Allen Photography

One person who has successfully built a pretty devoted following is New York Times best-selling novelist Scott Sigler. His fans, whom he identifies and who self-identify as "junkies," are in a sense just that: addicts for his writing and stories. I know, because even though I don't generally read horror or science fiction, I find myself telling others about Sigler more often than I recommend any other product by any other producer (so there's your caveat, I'm a junkie, too). Timing-wise, Scott struck a perfect storm with the launch of his podcast years and years ago, which you would find impossible to reproduce in today's podcast-saturated market. Still, there are several traits to the way that he and his business partner A Kovacs operate their company that transcend the world of fiction-writing and could be beneficial to other marketers in search of such devoted customers.


Scott dedicates substantial effort and discussion to the idea that he must deliver a quality product. At times, this dedication has affected production schedules, caused 50,000 word novellas to balloon out to 80,000 words, and resulted in rewrites substantially changing the plot from earlier versions. But in the end, all of the actions Scott takes towards the product come from a concern for the quality delivered to the customer. His fanbase depends on him to deliver quality at least as high as the last product they purchased from him, and he makes it a point to deliver on that, at times trying to exceed his own high standards. When you focus on the quality of the product, no one can complain that you cut corners just to make a buck, and the customers respect that.


Beyond seeking the consistent quality, Sigler has managed to consistently deliver to his fans. For over ten years now, he has released a podcast every Sunday containing his fiction stories. On a weekly basis, fans have come to build expectations and he has delivered. Beyond the regular podcasting, though, Scott has written prolifically, bringing several properties to market both through traditional publishing and under his own imprint, creating a consistent delivery of product to market with which to have more available for his customers to buy. If you are in the market with one or two products, you can be successful, but a consistent approach to add products and improve or revise the products you have continually opens up new market opportunities.


Scott launched his podcast in 2005, as a vanguard in audio fiction, leading the way for other aspiring novelists to begin releasing their own free downloadable audio. But outside of the marketing innovations that Scott employed, he has also innovated in his product and career as well. Blending traditional publishing with independent publishing, creating genre-bending sci-fi sports novels alongside his traditional hard-science horror, and continuing to give his product away for free in audio format all challenge the established norms in his industry. 


This is where the personal brand strikes out beyond just the product to really hook his customers. Scott heavily utilizes social media to engage with his fans, but he also makes a point to be available to them at conventions, hangs out with them after readings on book tours, and even hosts an event in Vegas annually for connecting with his customers. Marketing your product unilaterally can get your product known, but to develop a following, take a page from Sigler's book and utilize multiple channels and means to create true engagement and dialogue with your customers.


Throughout his career, Sigler has provided behind-the-scenes looks at the production process through "five minutes of fury" at the front of his podcasts. In addition, he and A Kovacs provide even deeper insight into the inner workings of their operation in bonus Friday episodes. Opening the curtains a bit to allow the fans to see how the company and process works helps to create an even stronger sense of engagement with the fans as they feel "let in on" the secret of the operation and even part of the action. Sigler and Kovacs take it a step forward at times, even enlisting armies of fans to assist with shipping parties for new products or other projects.


Through it all, as Sigler pushes forward, he has remained extremely gracious. The humble recognition that he owes much of his accomplishments to the fans and their desire for his product makes him human to the customers, more so than many mega-brand authors. The outpouring of thanks to those that support the company by purchasing products causes them to just want more products.


Where most industries find the competitors fighting and scrapping over a percentage of market-share, Scott Sigler has found collaboration with other writers a strategy to improve his own throughput of product. In return, collaborative products with writers such as Mur Lafferty, Matt Wallace, and Paul E. Cooley offer a cross-pollination marketing effort that all can benefit from as their fans become exposed to other authors. The craft brewing industry has utilized collaboration beers to create a similar effect, but few other industries have capitalized on this same disruption trend. It flips the combative nature of marketing in locked industries (think cola wars) on its head, saying the pie is large enough for all to have a fair slice.


I'm a fan of Sigler's, a fact I am sure has come across in this post. But I am also intrigued by his success so far and the amazing methods he has used to engage fans.

Unless you write novels and have an uncanny knack for timing, you may not be able to duplicate Sigler's path or fanbase. You can, however, utilize the methods he and his business partner use to drive incredible customer engagement. Create quality products and focus on delivering high levels of value to the customers. Put the customers ahead of yourself. And, if you are part of the brand of your company, recognize that may mean making yourself accessible as part of the marketing effort.

If you're interested in learning more about Scott Sigler or reading and listening to his novels, visit his website at . If you have ideas for other ways to create a strong fan base full of engaged evangelists, then let me know in the comments or drop me an email. I'd love hearing from you.