Binge Reading

It’s made the viral rounds, been shared on Facebook and Twitter, yet Kevin Spacey’s observations during his keynote address at the Edinburgh Television Festival still fill me with awe. In a nut shell:

  • TV networks would be better off to decide what viewers want based on data rather than the scattershot approach of making 150 TV pilots at a cost of roughly $300 million, especially since most of these pilots will never go to series due to poor ratings.
  • A good story arc needs time to develop and can’t be crushed into an artificial hour-long pilot. I’d add that the same goes for a novel series. If it’s well planned and executed, book one of a series will introduce plot threads and characters that will not be relevant or needed until book two or three.
  • The audience should be allowed to binge watch. I like this so much that it totally changes how I would launch another book series. Traditionally, you publish one book at a time, trying to build market share as the series progresses. Next time, I think I would try something crazy by writing the four or five books in the series and releasing them all at once so that people could binge read. That’s how I read the Harry Potter series, back-to-back every evening until I completed the whole series (and finally got the pop culture references.) This has the added advantage of allowing all your promotion dollars and efforts to have the maximum bang.
  • Piracy is undermined by giving people what they want at a reasonable price. The Harry Potter series is one of the most pirated series of novels in history, mostly because it took years for it to be available as an electronic download. E-pirates had a successful market because they had no competition from the legitimate publisher for an e-version at any price. This still stuns me. Technology moves quickly. The lawyers and the publishing industry are slow.
  • images-1BEST: “the device and length are irrelevant. The labels are useless.” Spacey’s referring to the fact that you can watch movies on i-pads, a TV series on a phone, etc. This is one the publishing industry really needs to learn. It’s not about the delivery system, it’s about the product. The publishing industry clings to paper books, even though most of them would describe themselves as environmentalists, even though they’re making a huge mark-up (and good profits) from e-books.
  • People love stories. They’re dying for good stories. Couldn’t agree more. Enough said.

It’s the binge reading that really got my attention. It’s how I read Lord of the Rings when I was a kid. It’s how I’ll read Game of Thrones this year. I’ll just dive right in. It’s my choice.

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Mike is the author of the 1000 Souls series that includes: Sacrifice the Living, Generation Apocalypse, and Heretics Fall. Warning: they contain violence, adventure, fast-paced action and hopeless love.