DIY distribution nets millions for content creators

In the past few weeks there have been two stories of extraordinary success that should resonate with you as a filmmaker. In both cases, the creators earned in excess of a million dollars using the web as their shopfront.

Earn A Million With Kindle Success
Amanda Hocking had been writing novels for years, but had always met with the same negative response from publishers. To support her passion for writing, she held down a job working with disabled people and earning around £12k pa.

In 2010, enough was enough and Amanda self published ‘My Blood Approves’ treading familiar teen heartache and paranormal ground. Within six months she was selling enough to quit her job. In January 2011 alone she sold 450,000 copies! Amanda was not printing books, but selling them on the Amazon Kindle. No warehousing, no stock, no upfront investment aside from her time.

Amanda made the first book in the series available for just $0.99, with the sequels coming in at $2.99, cunningly hooking her readers.

So why did she succeed where others failed? Amanda clearly LOVES the genre and she is as much a fan as her readers. She also engages enthusiastically via her blog and social media.

Last year, it’s estimated that she earned around $2m from Amazon Kindle sales alone. Her success now proven, she has of course secured traditional publishing deals as well as a film deal.

You can publish to Kindle right now. It’s not rocket science. The door is WIDE open.


Shoot Your Comedy Set and sell it for $1m
Last year, comedian Louis C.K. filmed a performance and sold it online for $5. And in his words there was ‘no DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap. You can download this file, play it as much as you like, burn it to a DVD, whatever.’ In just over one week, he had made over $1m and it’s still selling now.

While his name may not be known to UK audiences, he is know in the USA and already had an established fanbase. In his words he considered it “a $5 impulse that 225,000 people had.” Still, no-one thought his fanbase would be SO engaged.

He also asked people not to pirate it by saying…

‘I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without ‘corporate’ restrictions. Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.’

Piracy is unavoidable and there are some torrents our there for sure, but not as many as you might expect. The real question is, did it significantly harm sales? At over $1m in just over one week, does it really mater?

Louis has subsequently promised to ‘pay-bonus’ his staff for working so hard, as well as give a huge chunk to charity (around 25%).

You can see the official site here…

So why were both these people successful?

1.    They know their audience and they care about them.
2.    They have both invested time in order to get good at what they do. Neither of these guys are overnight successes, even if they look like they are.
3.    Their product is cheap, so cheap in fact that most people won’t think too long about it, they will just buy or not buy.
4.    Their stuff is easy to buy. If you have a kindle, it’s very easy to buy a book. The site for Lois C.K. is VERY simple and clear.
5.    Both are cheap allowing for impulse purchases.
6.    Both embraced new platforms and new models for distribution.
7.    Neither have a middle man / distributor.
8.    I suspect neither went into it with the clear goal to make $millions.

Not all of these lessons and strategies would work as well for film makers, but it does prove that if you somehow capture the zeitgeist, you can become an ‘overnight’ success.

Onwards and upwards

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

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