It's Always Sunny in Scranton: A lesson for writers about Influencer Marketing
Last week, the actor Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) posted a video on Instagram calling out Steve Carrell and The Office right outside of the Dunder Mifflin set. Everything was lighthearted, it was just him saying, "Hey, we're still on the air, and you guys aren't."
Steve Carrell responded via Twitter:
Rob McElhenney was all for this idea and started calling out FX, NBC, Netflix, and Hulu; encouraging a bidding war of epic proportions to create this crossover episode.
The original Instagram video now has 475k views. Steve Carrell's Tweet has 42,000 likes and about 5,000 re-tweets. And there are hundreds of articles (like this one) breaking down the possibility of this actually happening.
So, first off, could this happen? AJ Caulfield does a good job breaking the possibilities in an article on Looper. Caulfield's theory:
"Some may think the two shows converging is implausible, but it could work. FXX (the sister channel to FX) houses It's Always Sunny, and the Walt Disney Company owns FX. The Mouse House also controls the majority of Hulu, with Comcast's NBCUniversal being an equity stakeholder. The Office originally aired on NBC, and is now being taken off Netflix to stream on NBCUniversal. As The Big Bang Theory and Sons of Anarchy actor Chris Reed concluded, 'Always Sunny in The Office coming to Hulu in Fall 2020.'"
But that comes down to all of the logistics and legal questions. All the boring stuff. What I'm interested in is this concept of two actors creating buzz for a project that doesn't exist yet, an audience building around the idea, and then the studios either saying yes or no based off the created hype.
I want to break this down to see if there's anything we can learn as writers and maybe use this influencer marketing concept for our own projects.
Generating Buzz for your Idea via Influencers
Whether it is just an idea (hey, they should make an Always Sunny in Scranton episode) or you have an entire rough draft complete, the traditional publishing route looks something like this:
1. Send it out to an agent or find a way to send directly to NBC, Netflix, Hulu, FX
3. Wait some more...
4. Hope to hear back
5. Send a follow-up email
There's something to be said for following the rules and aligning with the existing processes in place. It's like at work how you have to pitch your idea to your boss, they pitch to theirs, continues up the ladder until it reaches the CEO.
But then you'll have a colleague who just got approval for their project and you're like, "How'd you do that?" and they reply, "Oh, I just bumped into the CEO at the coffee machine and shared the idea. She was totally on board."
The percent chance of an idea climbing all the way up the ladder in the traditional format is pretty low.
The percent chance of bumping into the CEO at the coffee machine, having the courage to make a pitch in that moment, and them saying yes might actually be a higher percent chance of working, but it requires more risk and a little bit of luck.
Apply this idea to the publishing world, what if you're writing an action thriller and you Tweet or Instgram @ Jennifer Lawrence and say, "Just finished writing my book! It's about (enter description) and I totally see Jennifer Lawrence playing the main character. @Jennifer, I can't pay a whole lot right now, but hoping the studio helps with that!"
Bold move. Friends might think you're a little nuts for doing it. Same thing they'd think of you pitching the CEO at the coffee machine.
Luck. The chances of Jennifer Lawrence seeing your post and responding, probably pretty slim. But are the odds that much lower than a cold email to Netflix's Director of New Content?
And think of the tremendous upside! If Jennifer Lawrence posts, "Done. I'm in. When do we start?" Mission accomplished. A publisher is totally buying that book, sending you a contract immediately.
You could do this with a horror book to Stephen King. A young adult fantasy fiction book to JK Rowling. Or post a link to your Always Sunny in Scranton script in reply to Carrell or McElhenney's posts.
They don't have to be a huge household name
Another idea is to find someone with between 5,000 and 15,000 followers. They may not be a huge national name like Jennifer Lawrence or Steve Carrell, but they could be really well-known within your specific niche.
For example, say you're writing a book of poetry and you find someone on Instagram who always posts poetry quotes and has 12,000 followers. Why not reach out? Same thing with being a guest author on a popular poetry blog.
Influencers built their audience without any help from agents, meaning you don't need to get an agent to have access to an influencer to have access to their audience. Just go direct to the source. See what happens. Again, why not. It's worth a shot.
Build your audience directly
When someone tells a group of aspiring fashion models, "Go out there, start taking photos, build your Instagram following," that feels natural.
But writers are way more shy. This idea of building a personal brand, getting a ton of Instagram and Twitter followers, most writers would rather swim with a pack of piranhas.
Writers don't need to rush to social media. In 2019, the #1 way for writers to build an audience is still through a blog. I don't see that changing any time soon. You're building a list of subscribers who you have a direct connection with. You don't have to pay to get in front of them.
Another option is Wattpad. We'll have more posts on this company because 1) they're awesome and 2) I don't want to add another 2,000 words to this post. But this is a great way to get your work out there and create direct hype for your project.
You can go with either road
You can go the self-publishing route, email the 100 subscribers of the blog and say, "Hey, my new book is out, here's how to buy on Amazon. I've also got some signed hardcover ones that I can mail to you."
Or you can go the traditional route. Along with your query letter, sample chapter, etc., you can show the agent, "I have 250 subscribers on my blog. This influencer in the poetry space published one of my poems and it got 500 likes. Here's a screenshot of Jennifer Lawrence saying she's on board playing the main character."
An agent tries to prove to a publisher that your book can sell. That it has a potential audience. Sending those examples helps build the case for them.