What CEOs Can Learn from Stephen King’s “Guns”

Every CEO should pay attention to the success of Stephen King’s Kindle Single, Guns. It points the way to a new form of communication with the public for brands, companies and thought-leaders.

Kindle Singles have quickly turned into an interesting platform — unlike any before it. Amazon.com launched Kindle Singles two years ago, in January 2011, just as electronic book reading was really taking hold. (In its latest earnings report, Amazon said that e-book sales have become a multi-billion dollar business for the company.)

Singles generally range from about 10,000 to 20,000 words — no more than 50 pages, equal to a brisk read on a flight from Denver to New York. Most cost from 99 cents to $2.99 and exist only in electronic form, to be read on Kindles, iPads, laptops or smart phones. All in all, the friction between a Single and someone who wants to read it is almost non-existent. 

A Single is also easier to create than a traditional book. Writing a 10,000-word, well-crafted and researched Single might take a couple of months. Writing the 100,000 words in a 250-page book can take a couple of years. Distribution can be lightning quick. Amazon says that King finished Guns on Friday, Jan. 18, and it was published globally by the next Friday, Jan. 25. It is now No. 1 on the Kindle Singles bestseller list.


Of course, King is a popular writer, and his fans will help push anything he writes up the charts. But he also wrote about a hot subject, and the combination proved electric. 

So what can CEOs and brands glean from this? 

First — short e-books are a new and interesting opportunity. They don’t have the restrictions of trying to place an op-ed piece. They are lengthy enough to explore a topic in a rich way. If written with integrity and authenticity, they can be content that people want to read — as opposed to marketing material, which people feel is pushed at them.

Second — King’s book shows the power of timeliness in this new medium. And the medium allows for timeliness. A smart communications team could look for news or a hot issue that lands right in their CEO’s strike zone. For instance, is there a well-known CEO who might have something truly enlightening to say about immigration in the U.S.? Probably. Especially if that CEO could eloquently express how immigration reform would benefit his or her company or the industry or the U.S. economy.

But then the point is: Write those 10,000 words while the topic is hot, and get it published almost instantly through an electronic channel like Kindle Singles.

One last thing to hammer home: A Kindle Single is content that people to buy. The content isn’t being pushed at them in ads, or arriving packaged in a newspaper or magazine they already subscribe to. It sits out there naked, and will only be read if a person actively pays money to download it. Which means that the content has to be good or it’s not even worth doing. It has to be well-written, credible, honest, and have something unique and helpful to say. If a CEO can do that, the company might find it can win some dedicated fans.


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