Start ups

Tim Ferris and BitTorrent: Treating your Non-Fiction or Fiction Project as a Start Up


Photo via: CBC News Art & Entertainment

The way we publish our media projects is changing everyday with the advent of digital distribution and publishing technologies. Amazon seems to be leading the way with it's e-publishing platforms and Kindle technology.

Tim Ferris is most known for his book, 4-Hour Work Week. Matt Mason is the marketing guy at the peer to peer sharing engine - BitTorrent. When Tim choose the new Amazon e-publsihinbg model for his new book he was snubbed by some of the traditional brick and mortar retail book stores such as Barnes and Noble. This forced him to seek alternatives to market his book. On the advice of a wise friend he teamed up with BitTorrent to get his book out there. Shortly afterwards his book went from being boycotted by Barnes and Noble to becoming the first BitTorrent bestseller. In this video Matt and Tim talk about the approach behind Tim's successful strategies including his BitTorrent Bundle.

Tim says you could look at his latest book, the Four Hour Chef perfectly through the start up lens. You could view the advance as your first round of funding to get the team off the ground working and collaborating remotely from all over the world. He says, even the tools he used such as Basecamp, Dropbox, Evernote are all basically the tools you would associate with start up culture or business ops - very much modeled after the successful companies that he is working with already.

Why is Tim's approach significant for filmmakers?

Even though they are speaking about the book publishing space most of the lessons apply to filmmakers as well. Matt says Tim's approach may be fine for non-fiction projects but asks what if you are in narrative or storyteller? (14:30)

If you are in fiction there are many analogues to what successful authors do in nonfiction and in fact if you look at the genres that do best on whether is Amazon or at retail the books that really move heaven and earth when they hit are almost all fiction. Look at last year 2012 I believe it was something like 20% to 25% of all books sold in US at retail were Fifty Shades of Grey an astronomical number. There's no nonfiction book that will match that.

What that provides from the standpoint of storytelling is the ability to include all the stuff that didn't make it in because there are just as many excerpts, just as many things that were cut, just as many characters that didn't make it as there are the outtakes of bonuses that I provided in the non-fiction bundle. The benefit that I think fiction has is that it is intrinsically focused on story arc so you can whether you use imporved distribution through BitTorrent or other types of promotion to rally, you can push into other types of adaption for uses of that material where non-fiction is much more constrained. Very few movies are made from non-fiction books, very few.

I think the same approach to focusing on niche populations for specific aspects of the book applies. You not going to approach LifeHakcer, but you might approach any number of a hundred other sites that are focused on whether it is entertainment or even specific context within book. So, I can't wait to see an accomplished fiction writer take their tools and bring them into a world that I am already very comfortable with including BitTorrent because I think it could really outshine and outpace everything that I have done quite easily if it is positioned the right way. So, I will be watching very closely to see when that happens...

As filmmakers maybe we need to be investing more time in our approach and collaborative methods such as the recently announced Adobe Anywhere Tool or similar type ideas.

What do you think of approaching your non-fiction or fiction project as a start up?

Posted via: BitTorrent Written by David Stephen Simpson / I am filmmaker from Canada now currently based in Osaka, Japan. I spent the last several years lecturing English in Japan at a foreign language university, experimenting with label design, organizing events, and teaching myself filmmaking on the side.