Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Angry Birds

This is, apparently, all it takes.

Write an addictive smartphone game. Say, Angry Birds. Sell that baby for, say a cheap 99 cents. Then watch your publisher get snapped up by gaming giant Electronic Arts for a rumored $20 million, while you retain the copyrights to your game and begin exploring things such as television shows, a movie, and other associated and ancillary media.


And, if you’re lucky, repeat.

That has come to pass.

I play the game. The free version. I have not added a red cent to revenue earned by RovioMobile, the Finnish company that wrote the game, or Chillingo, the American company that published it and was bought by Electronic Arts. Not that it matters. It seems they can afford to give me a free version in the hopes that, once addicted, I’ll buy the 99 cent version – as I said earlier, cheap; cheaper than a terrapin, Mr. Bean. More importantly, I’d pass on that addiction.

Bravo to them. Just another example of making the pie higher: Producing a good a lot of people want, not charging much for it, but then beating the spread when it becomes popular.

Of course, thousands try to replicate this success, and thousands fail. Thus is the nature of any kind of ‘ism you’d care to bring up. People buy what they want. They don’t buy what they don’t want. Finding what they want, that’s the key.

The key for anything, really. Is the novel – you knew that was going to come up – that I’ve written something people want? I don’t know. Nobody seems to be reading it. That’s my fault; I’m not marketing it well enough.

Should I sell it for 99 cents a pop in the hopes that it’ll become a sensation? I don’t know. I can’t seem to give it away at the moment. And forget appealing to the gods of Google for help on ebook publishing. Just entering that search term into Google brought 38.2 million hits from a buncha different companies, each shadier than the last. And marketing is a full-time job. I’m not up to that.

I wonder, when the printing press was developed, followed by the folio, were there scam artists there just waiting for some na├»ve author to come along and ask the question: I’ve got a book. Who wants to publish it? I’m sure there were as many as there were questionable bits of movable type stolen from the more legitimate publishing houses.

So what to do, what to do, while waiting for my Angry Birds moment? I can make the book better, for one. And continue writing, for another. And find an agent, who knows this business better than I.

PS: Story behind the story. RoxioMobile had to go into a flurry of Twittering because a lot of folks thought they'd been bought out by EA, and not their publisher. This is probably due to journalistic shorthand, which goes like this: Obscure Company A has been bought by Prominent Company B. Nobody knows A, not even as publisher of Company C's Product X, but since Company C's Product X is very hot at the moment, the quickest way to provide context is to say that the publishers of  Product X. The public, in reading the story, aren't into the nuances of publisher versus owner, so they automatically assume that Company C has been bought out, since they're the ones with the hot product and they've never heard of Company B. Easy for the journalist, harder for the public and for Company C.

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