Churn Rate and Transmedia Storytelling

Ciao, amici! Today, I’m going to throw some industry buzzwords at you and talk about churn rate and transmedia storytelling (which I’m sure you figured out already because of the title) and how we can lower the first by increasing the second.

Definitions:

Churn rate is the speed at which someone moves on to the next thing. In our industry, it’s how fast a reader gets tired of our work and moves on to another book or author.

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

Analysis:

In today’s market, churn rate is high, which is bad for creators. There are roughly 2,000,000 books published each year, which equates to nearly 5,500 a day. Can you read that many books a day? And those are new titles. All the existing books you haven’t read aren’t going away. These 5,500 books are adding to what’s already out there.

With such fierce competition and with practically limitless options, readers no longer have a reason to slog through a book they aren’t enjoying. In fact, they no longer have a reason to give an author more than a page or two of their attention before settling in for the journey or looking for a better alternative.

In short, churn rate in our industry is high. There are too many options for readers to be patient with an author. It’s one of the many reasons the slow-burn style of the classics has all but gone away. Attention spans have shortened while alternatives have proliferated.

Ah, attention spans. We need to look at that term a little more closely.

In my parents’ generation, readers didn’t have multimedia options. People who enjoyed books read books. Not ebooks. Books. End of discussion. Listening to audiobooks? Podcasts about popular fiction franchises? My parents didn’t even have that kind of technology at their disposal. And they wouldn’t have used it if they did.

My generation has the technology, though a lot of us resist embracing it.

Then, there’s my kids’ generation, and the generations coming after them. These readers aren’t even what my parents would call “readers” at all. They’re fiction consumers. Sure, they read books. But they also read ebooks. And they listen to books (while they do something else). They watch or listen to podcasts about fiction franchises they enjoy. They watch shows or movies based on their favorite books. They attend conventions. They play video games. They go to theme parks where they can ride rides, watch shows, and interact with characters and props.

They’re into multimedia. No, more than that, they’re into transmedia.

As creators, we want to lower churn rate. We want readers so in love with our work, they not only refuse to move on until they’ve consumed everything, they become brand evangelists for us. We’re looking for the super fans who post about us on social media and talk about us at work and at home. They seek out our autographs and collect series swag and do more marketing via good will and word of mouth than we could ever pay for.

This is a point that bears repeating. MARKETING is using these platforms to promote your work. It’s utilitarian. TRANSMEDIA promotes your book through story. It’s consumable. Transmedia enables you to extend your franchise in an interactive manner that readers will enjoy.

For these super fans, the churn rate is low. And there’s often a direct correlation between lower churn rate and an author who has embraced transmedia.

The Inverse Relationship:

I’m not suggesting the only way to lower your churn rate is to embrace transmedia. What I am saying is there is a direct relationship between the two. When transmedia increases, churn rate decreases.

Let’s look at an example.

An author (let’s call her Frannie) writes a cozy mystery series with a romance element. Something like Murder, She Wrote meets Hart of Dixie. Her main character owns a winery and a bed and breakfast, has a flirtatious relationship with the handyman that makes every reader wonder “will they or won’t they?” and for some reason, murders keep happening in and around her property. She Jessica Fletchers the crimes, solving them before the police do, and the handyman is always there to keep her safe.

Middle-aged women devour these stories, and Frannie sells enough to feel good about herself and keep her closet full of new shoes. Readers even email or post on Facebook (the only social media platform Frannie looks at) that they want more. They probably post on other social media platforms, too, but she has no idea.

As it happens, Frannie owns a bed and breakfast on a vineyard. It’s where she got the idea for her series. So, she runs a special during the Grape Festival and advertises online that one lucky reader who enters the contest can stay in the Merlot Room for a ridiculously low rate and will receive a gift basket full of her books.

What happens?

The contest is off the charts, which helps build her email list. Nice. A fan books the room, gets an autograph. Is delighted. Win-win, right?

Wrong.

As soon as the fan sees her room and talks with Frannie, she leaves the B&B and spends the day at the festival.

Sure, she might enjoy the gift basket of autographed books and maybe posts a picture online with her and Frannie in front of the sign that says “Merlot Room,” but that’s it. Frannie doesn’t see any uptick in sales. The fan doesn’t even spend time at the B&B, so she isn’t buying anything there. Frannie actually loses money on the deal because she rented the room at a very low rate and she gave away ten autographed hardcover books.

That, my friends, is marketing. Often good for good will, but profit is another story. (No, I’m not saying marketing won’t sell books. But just because you market doesn’t mean you will sell anything.)

So, what could Frannie have done differently? Let’s look at a different example.

This time, Frannie rents multiple rooms at the B&B. Each of them is filled with a basket of food the B&B is known for, including recipe cards for her guests to take home. She also gives them her vineyard’s best sellers—a bottle of white and a bottle of red. (Anyone else singing Billy Joel right now?) Empty spots in the basket are stuffed with candles and soaps referenced in the books as signature scents at the B&B.

Now guests/readers/fans have something to interact with. They have snacks, they have wine, they have candles and soaps. Better than the first example. But is it enough? Does it continue the cozy mystery story that Frannie writes and that they love?

No. Not yet. We’re not quite there. So, what more can Frannie do?

She dramatically encourages her guests to explore the room and the B&B. Her words are cryptic, almost ominous. So, her fans’ curiosities get piqued. And they look around. They find a magazine with letters cut out of it. Then they notice the Bible (every room always has a Bible, right?) has a letter “hidden” in it from the killer. It’s only partially complete, made of the cut-out letters from the chopped-up magazine. Because it’s not finished, the guests don’t know who the victim is or why that person’s a target. Maybe they find a journal the killer wrote stuffed under the mattress. Behind a painting on the wall is a “murder board” of the next hit the killer plans. There could even be clues in the common areas of the B&B. Enough that the guests immerse themselves in the game and don’t leave for the Grape Festival. They spend the weekend buying food at the B&B and searching for clues in room after room, talking to the staff and LIVING the murder mystery game.

Is that marketing? No. That’s transmedia come to life. It’s an interactive experience that takes readers on a real-world journey based on the fictional world they love.

Our Application:

I’m willing to bet none of you owns a B&B on a winery. If you do, try out this strategy and let us know how it goes.

But for the rest of us, what can we do? We likely don’t have J.K. Rowling’s funds and connections, so we’re not getting video games made and full sections of Universal Studios devoted to our brand. How can we, on limited funds and time, use transmedia to our advantage? How can we extend our story experience between novel releases?

Some ideas:

  • Post short stories in our series world free on our websites. Just a little something to keep readers engaged with the characters and settings until the next novel drops.
  • Include character interviews in our newsletters. Let fans know some of the interesting backstory that never quite makes it into the books.
  • Write about a musician? Or even reference music in your stories? Compile a playlist and share it with fans.
  • Are you artistic? Draw scenes from your books and share them with fans.
  • Have your work set somewhere beautiful or fanciful? Post pictures or sketches of the setting, maybe even format a few of them like travel guides and sell them as a compendium. Make it gorgeous; something true fans would want to collect.
  • Understand computer stuff? (And how’s that for a technical term? Clearly, I don’t understand “computer stuff.”) Consider creating a companion web series or a digital graphic novel.
  • Have a Facebook Live event (or a different platform) and give away swag as you talk with your super fans.

Summary:

Millions of options and a glut of media makes churn rate faster than ever. To slow (or ideally stop) a reader from putting your work down in favor of another, you want to

  • hook them fast
  • hook them well
  • write tight
  • create an innovative, unpredictable story
  • continue to offer engaging content between releases

The goal is to offer as many VALUABLE interactions as possible. Think beyond marketing. Transmedia promotion is all about STORY, as that’s why your readers came to you in the first place.

What about you? Have you ever tried to elevate your marketing to story-based transmedia? Or can you think of ways to do it now? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

 

57 thoughts on “Churn Rate and Transmedia Storytelling

  1. Pingback: Churn Rate and Transmedia Storytelling — Story Empire | Festival for Drama in Film, Screenplays, Novels

  2. Pingback: A Deeper Look at Reader Guides | Story Empire

    • Thanks, Teri. I’m glad you learned something (I like to learn something new everyday, though I can’t say I always do), so I’m glad to have shared some knowledge. I hope you try some of your new ideas. If you do, let us know how you fare.

      You aren’t the first person who mentioned Frannie. Maybe I do need to write that story… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Probably 99.99% of the authors can’t have a Harry Potter village. I’ve learned a lot from your post, Staci. Some are doable for me such as create YouTube video and post background stories of my book. I’ll see if I can try a small bite at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh. A girl can dream. Maybe someday Universal or Disney will give me a call. 🙂

      I hope you do try some of these suggestions. And if you do, let us know how it goes. Wishing you much success!

      Like

  4. These are new terms to me, Staci, but they make a lot of sense. This is still an area that makes me want to hide but that murder hunt actually sounds like fun. Thanks, Staci!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Ever heard the terms “Churn Rate” or “Transmedia Marketing?” (Me neither). Well, do yourself a big favor and head over to Story Empire today to check out Staci Troilo’s wonderful post. Her examples will explain these concepts very clearly, and you might find out these are things you should be considering for your books/career, instead of more traditional marketing techniques. Don’t forget to share the post far and wide, too, so others can learn more about this approach. Thanks, and thanks to Staci for a super job on this! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Whoa. So much to think about here! I’ve never heard either of these terms, Staci, but your examples with Frannie’s efforts made them very clear. And I can see how this approach beats what we writers tend to think of as traditional marketing all to heck and back! I’m going to have to ponder a bit, and figure out what I can take from this that I can actually put into practical use. I figure I probably only have another 5 years or so of writing time left to me, so I’ve been far more focused on my stories than on anything else. But perhaps it’s time to switch it up a bit.

    Thanks for a well thought out post and all this new information. Sharing this for sure! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a thought-provoking post. I love your winery mystery idea! I’ve tried FB video posts where I’ve read from my books, but I’m definitely not a public talker, lol. I’ve had trailers and post excerpts regularly. I have Pinterest boards for most of my books (now, that’s fun!) and enjoy creating memes for promotional purposes. I send out a newsletter monthly and a seperate one to a review team with free books for them to read.
    I have audiobooks, paperbacks, and of course e-books and have thought about starting a podcast, but again, PUBLIC SPEAKING!
    The reading/listening world is changing at a dizzying pace, I’m not sure we can do anything other than keep churning out the books and praying for the one that creates a tsunami effect with readers. I’ve watched big writers like Kristan Higgins who have super fans and envy the seeming ease she has with getting news of a new book out to thousands with a simple tease. One day…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve accepted that I suck at marketing. Lol! I keep telling myself that one day I will get better at it and find news ways of reaching readers. Your ideas are great. I just don’t have the money or the time to dedicated to it. So, I just focus on writing for now. It’s what I enjoy. Those who stumble across my books enjoy them, and that brings me happiness. I definitely don’t write for the money. 😉 I’m sure there will come a time when I take the time to reach my desirable audience (or pay someone to do it for me). That time just isn’t now, and I’m okay with that. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m no marketing expert, either. But this concept appealed to me. I’d much rather tell a story to market than figure out algorithms and advertising. Hopefully I find the time and money to try some of this. And soon!

      Thanks, Yvette.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Marketing is undoubtedly the hardest part of our jobs as authors. Very few authors have degrees in marketing, and in fact, know very little about how to engage an audience. You laid out some awesome ideas here, Staci. Thank you for educating and encouraging us “older” folks to throw some skin into the game!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This was so AWESOME. I’ve tried quite a few different things with my books: free stories on my webpage, writing a novel chapter by chapter to post, audiobooks, character interviews, snippets, blogging, advertising,…. I think none of it works like I’d like it to, but it all adds up somehow to make me reach more readers. I don’t know that I have any super fans, but I’ve heard that newsletters and swag help with that, and I haven’t tried that yet. But I’ve never used the word “transmedia,” and boy, has that made me think. My wheels are spinning. I loved your approach to reaching out to readers. I don’t like to think of it as marketing. I like to think of it sharing my joy of characters and stories with other people–readers and fellow writers alike. It’s just sharing because I’m passionate about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Love the ideas, Staci. Since I am new to this (no I haven’t been writing for years like most writers), I am reading, absorbing, and taking notes on everything. The remodel on the house is scheduled for completion in 3 weeks’ time. I am excited to set up my new, big office and I have plans for a recording booth. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to record with I had the thought, but you have added to my idea list. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I may have stumbled across some of this on accident. I have my paper dolls on my site. Lisa Burton Radio did character interviews for other authors, but it’s kind of run its course. I always try to have some promotional posters to use for my books, and people are welcome to use and share them. Beyond that, I’m down to giving away rats from Grinders or trying to buy a pirate ship. I posted a music video with a Lisa Burton poster as lead up for a few weeks for the last book about The Hat. Maybe I can do something with a playlist.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. First, I have to say I think you should take the idea of Frannie, her B &B, and the mystery game with her guests, and make it into a book. That sounded delightful!
    I know….like you have the time, right?

    Like most everyone else, I’ve done character interviews and playlists. I created a book trailer for my first release, but I’ve gotten away from them. I’m not really a fan. I’ve also shared photos of actual locations where my Point Pleasant series takes place. And I’ve considered doing short one minute videos but haven’t gotten around to them yet (back to that time thing). I am pretty tech savvy and think I could cobble together some pretty cool graphic presentations if I had the–you guessed it—time.

    Despite my appalling lack of free time, I think the ideas you presented are wonderful. I’d love to add a few such goodies to my website. Thanks for the inspiration. I’m tucking away a few of these ideas for future reference.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah. Time. The bane of my existence. And yours. And probably most of us.

      I know you’re more tech-savvy than I am, and I know you could come up with some cool things if only you had the … time. Sigh. If you attempt any of this, though, I know you’ll be a great success. And I’ll be cheering you on.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I learned something new today. I hate marketing (as many authors do). Without realizing it, I have done a couple of these. I have playlists for each of my Driscoll Lake books on my website and I’ve done character interviews in the past. Some good ideas here.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think buzzwords come and go, but sound ideas last. I saw these terms on a writing video recently, and what the speaker said made sense. We’re storytellers, not marketers. And our audience consumes stories, albeit from many different media. Might as well combine the two and tell stories in our marketing efforts. Thanks, Joan.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve tried with free days and giveaways, but they never really worked. I don’t have a lot of resources both financially and time-wise, so this has always been a problem. Doesn’t help that most people I talk to a lot my genre (fantasy) believe you can’t have a successful book series until you get a tv show or movie. People don’t visualize books as often as they used to it seems.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Resources (budget and time) are my biggest problems, too, Charles. While I don’t write fantasy (or even read much of it), I have to believe there are people out there who are happy to read good work in the genre even if there’s no television or film to accompany it. But that does speak to the popularity of transmedia. I hope you can find a balance and give your fans a story-based marketing alternative between releases, something that makes you stand out and them crave more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. Fantasy has always had odd rules. There’s a belief that it’s only for kids or nerds, so it’s seen as an outlier genre. The popular series tend to dominate and force others to follow suit until over-saturation. For example, when GoT was popular, people only wanted dark, political, high death stories. This was a pull from the adventure stories that LOTR made popular. My release schedule isn’t very consistent due to life being a mess. I’ve been told that blogging doesn’t help either and that’s all I’ve got.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Well, I don’t have time to blog or visit blogs as often as I’d like, but there are some authors who do a great job with nothing but their blog. Don’t let it discourage you. I’m sure you’ll find the right balance with time.

        Like

  16. Lots of info and ideas in here. I can’t ever see myself writing a digital graphic novel. That just isn’t my thing. Nevermind not knowing where to start. After reading all this, I feel way too old for this game, lol. I’m a writer, not great at marketing, not an artist or a gamer, and I’m not brilliant at “computer stuff” either. I don’t see that I can compete with those marketing/transmedia teams that can do all this for their authors. I keep reading this comment and wanting to make it upbeat, but the truth is this stuff just depresses me. Sorry! I can live in hope that there are some readers out there who, like me, love a good book. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Staci 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’ll never (maybe I shouldn’t say NEVER because that’s just begging for a contradiction) write a digital graphic novel or anything like that, either. Most days, I feel too old for my house let alone our industry. But I do want to try new things. I just have to figure out how to try them affordably and in my comfort zone. I’ve actually been thinking about recording myself reading passages of my novels for a YouTube channel. Or deleted scenes. Or maybe even having an audio voiceover for blog posts. Something for me to dip in my toe and test the waters.

      I know this. What I’ve done to this point hasn’t gotten me as far as I’d like to go, so it’s time I try something else. The industry is changing. I either change with it or get left behind.

      And for the record, I didn’t find your comment depressing. No need to apologize or try to make it more upbeat. It came from a place of honesty. And that’s all I need from a friend. More to the point, I related to every word you said. I think many of us do. But I’m not ready to give up just yet.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I think it sounds more complicated than it actually is. I mean, I’d love if Disney added a section of their theme parks devoted to my work, but I think we all know that’s not going to happen. It’s out of my control and out of my abilities. But I can manage to add something story-based to my blog or newsletter. I’m glad I gave you an idea for yours.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, Trish. I’m humbled. That’s so kind of you to say. I hope you try one of the suggestions above and let us know how it goes. So far, I’ve noticed people talk about the playlist and the character interview. Maybe something will appeal to you, too. Wishing you much luck and success!

      Liked by 2 people

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