Blogger: Rachel Kent
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
“I wish there was a company that offered instant movie streaming AND discs by mail. Netflix should merge with Qwikster.” –Quote by a clever friend of mine.
I’m sure you’ve seen the Netflix news by now, but just in case here is the article:
In brief, starting September 1, Netflix raised its prices splitting the services offered into 3 plans, wireless movie streaming, DVD by mail, or both. The price hike was extreme, and many subscribers left. Last week, the Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, sent a note to all subscribers starting with “I messed up. I owe you an explanation.” He goes on to say that he should have given more detail about why they were raising prices, and then he launches into announcing another huge change. The company has split into two companies. One that offers streaming (Netflix) and another that offers the DVD service (Qwikster).
Unfortunately, as a Netflix subscriber myself, I think he just made another mistake. Now I’m paying two companies instead of one, so I might as well find two companies with better deals like Amazon Prime for streaming (comes with free shipping on all Amazon.com orders) and Blockbuster Total Access for DVD-by-mail (able to trade disks in at the local rental store as well as by mail).
So how does this all affect you as a writer? Well, let’s talk about branding and your audience.
Your audience has or will grow to expect something from you as a writer. If your readers have read a book of yours and enjoyed it, they anticipate they will like the next one, so they essentially become a subscriber to you as an author. The more books you write that the reader enjoys, the more trust the reader puts in you as a favorite author. With that growing trust, expectations are also being set.
Imagine now that you decide to change something about who you are as a writer. Maybe you start to write children’s books, or you write historicals instead of the contemporaries you were popular for. Perhaps you decide to change your name, or you for the general market instead of CBA. Somehow you are changing how you’ve been branded by your readership. Those expectations of you are squashed. This is where it gets tricky, and like the Netflix/Qwikster upset, you are going to have some angry “subscribers.”
When you decide to change your brand, you are putting an expectation on your readership to change too, but generally, people don’t like change. If a person is happy with the way something is, he or she is going to be reluctant to try something new. And when forced to try something new, that person will go elsewhere to find what he or she wants. If you make a change, this significant; you’re going to be starting over again with building your audience.
Could Netflix have made this branding change and kept customers happy? Yes, I believe they could have.
Could an author change his or her brand and keep most of his or her readership? Yes, I believe so.
Neither situation is easy. Transitions in both of these cases need to be made gradually. (Such as writing both for the general market and CBA.) To keep the subscriber happy, you must offer the subscriber some benefit for changing with you.
But I suggest you think about if the change is really necessary before you make a move. Netflix made these changes in an attempt to keep the company afloat in the long run, but they might have just ruined their chances of staying in business in the short run. Subscribers are leaving in droves, and the company’s stock is way down.
If you, as an author, make a change without it’s being necessary to reboot your career in one way or another, watch out! You must think about your audience first because they are what keep you in business.
If things are going well for you as a writer, I suggest not making a change.
Have you looked at writing as a business before?
Does seeing your audience as if they were Netflix subscribers help you?
How do you feel about the Netflix split? In what ways does that help you to make future writing career decisions?