Wednesday, July 23, 2014


May’s post already talked about the product, but: The HOOTS! have gone live! 

Quick recap: Around the end of March, my friend from business school contacted me about creating a series of “stickers” for the online messaging app, LINE. As he explained to me, LINE is a powerful communication tool which works like What’s App meets Facebook Messaging meets Skype. The app was hugely popular globally, with almost 500 million users.

And I’d never heard of it.

See, most of those half a billion users are in Asia. Great! I thought – I’m huge in Asia, according to my website’s Google stats. (P.S. That’s a joke. I’m also due to inherit the estate of a Nigerian prince, right?)

Anyway, the folks at LINE were opening up the market for freelance illustrators to augment the shop’s selections. It’s an interesting pricing model: premium prices for “namebrand” stickers (trademarked), a second tier for those offered by LINE, and then discounted pricing for the audience-created product. It reminds me of self-publishing, too, as very quickly it becomes clear that you need a platform to really move any of your product before it gets buried by the competition.

So at the end of the second day the stickers were available, after my partner and I informed the social media world of our appearance on the scene, my HOOTS! sticker set was rated #23 most popular out of almost 5,000 (at the time) audience created sticker sets. I had convinced my closest friends to download the LINE app so I could at least send the stickers to them, and they, of course, nice as they are, bought the set themselves (it was only 99 cents!) But that only accounted for 8 or so sales! Number 23?!?

 I thought I was an international sensation.

But after my meteoric rise to the Top 25, I plummeted hard, disappearing into obscurity within a week. Moral of the story? I guess when you’re no longer on the “new” page, you fade into the masses. And though I’d spent a month working on the things, I definitely wasn’t going to get a good return on my investment.

The good news is, this was like a beta run of what would happen if I self-published a book. I’d get a bunch of my friends to buy it, and it would artificially inflate the rankings enough to show up on stranger’s radars, they’d buy it, and then it would fade away as soon as the rankings slipped. I've always asserted that self-publishing isn't the route for me, and this experiment confirmed that.

But then again...

I only pimped it out that very first day, and haven’t mentioned it since. I feel like it would be annoying if I did, since no one I know had even heard of the app before I started talking about it, (Ah, the hipster life, amirite?), so I’d have to convince them to download the app first. And I don’t want to become a shill for an app that’s not mine! I gave my one pitch, and I feel like that should be it.

Now, if it were something like What’s App, I’m sure I would pimp it a whole lot more, since people in my extended social circle already use it. But still, people besides me would have to start talking it up, no matter was “it” is, in order for there to be sustained sales. There would have to be something new to say about it to merit blasting to my entire network again.

It’s not like I could post reviews or do a blog tour to sell my stickers on an app, so maybe the experiences are not as similar as I originally thought. And maybe I would have a better result with something I self-published. Maybe. But what it does boil down to is visibility. It seems obvious, but this was a good reminder. I need eyeballs to see my product if I want those eyeballs’ wallets to open. :)

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