Warrior Writer: Business Plans & Stretchy Pants—One Size DOES NOT Fit All
In the past two blogs, I discussed the inherent contradiction we writers face being part of the entertainment business. This issue is so daunting that it is a wonder anyone succeeds in this business at all. Too often a writer is left to sink or swim on her own, relying on tenacity, trial and error, or plain damn luck in order to enjoy the fruits of her hard work and sacrifice. There has to be a better way, right?
There is, but before we get to that, let us take a tour of other common writer business models…
How many of you out there think that buying lottery tickets is a good investment portfolio for your retirement? Maybe diversify with some scratch-offs? Bingo anyone? And I know you laugh, but too many of us approach the publishing industry with roughly the same mentality…which brings us to our first writer business model.
The Instant Blind Luck Fame Plan
We just KNOW our idea has never been done before, so why write other books when THIS ONE is going to be the key to our success? And our book is really meant to be part of a series anyway. Oh, and we don’t want to give away the ending, because, well, the real ending is in Book Fourteen of this long and lucrative series we have mapped out in our mind. We can’t tell you who the antagonist is until Book Three, because this villain is the villain behind the villain behind the villain—and there is the merchandising to consider.
Most of us made excellent grades in English, so we don’t bother going to the craft workshops at conferences. We are there to pitch to an agent. We just need an agent. Why? Because with this one manuscript, we just know we will be instantly catapulted into a life of fame and fortune. We have endless enthusiasm, and are known for our daring. Speaking of which…did you hear about that guy who sent his query letter in a pizza box? Genius!
The Spaghetti Noodle Plan
Some of us are more realistic in our approach to publishing. We aren’t fools. We know there are instant successes, but they are few and far between. We know it will take years of hard work and sacrifice to get to the top…but we still don’t have a real business plan. Why spoil all the creativity? We became writers so we could delete Excel and free up some space on our hard drive, right?
We have a nice Social Media Network. We are on Facebook and Myspace and Twitter…oh, but our sites are either 1) a collage of family photos or 2) are locked down tighter than Fort Knox as Private. You have to know the secret handshake to see our pages. Self-promotion is so gauche. Twitter is about happy inspirational quotes. Facebook is a good way to keep up with high school pals, and MySpace a neat place to post cute pictures of our kids and dogs.
And we are a gentle, polite sort who would never dream of sliding our query letter under the stall to an agent trying to pee. We go to all the craft workshops, attend writers’ groups religiously, and write and write and write. We don’t like business plans, because they cramp our free spirits. We know, deep inside, that “Persistence prevails when all else fails.” We don’t know who said that. We saw it on a Successories poster at the office of our real job, so we posted it for all our writer friends on Twitter. We are hard workers and know if we toss enough noodles (manuscripts) against the wall, eventually one will stick.
And, lastly there is the…
Bug the Crap out of People Long Enough and They Will Buy It Plan.
This plan is frequently a course taken by the overzealous non-fiction writer. Often we were salespeople or marketers in a former life. Most of us figure, “Heck, if I can sell a million dollars worth of software, rubber dog poo, whatever, books will be EASY!” We are charming and confident, great at advertising and promoting…but learning how to actually write? We’ll get to it later once we hit the NY Times Best-Seller List.
Adherents of this plan are easy to spot. The back of our cars tend to ride a little low due to the added weight of boxes of books in the trunk. Many of us are very tech-savvy and can tell you all about how to print CD labels for your e-books while simultaneously giving you the skinny on the latest PayPal applications for your iPhone. And while most people are content to fritter their lives away, we eager beavers Twitter ours away with endless self-promotion.
Some people call it a family reunion, a wedding or a funeral. Not us. We call those chances to market and sell lots of books. We figure that if we hit enough Lions Club meetings, Bar-Mitzvahs, and flea markets that Random House will come knocking with that million dollar book deal.
If only Oprah would return our call.
Okay, so this is a bit of a parody, but you have to admit one of those made you laugh because it hit home with some of your own thinking. I think I saw a little of myself in all three :).
What makes the Warrior Writer approach so radically different is that, when it comes to a business plan? To be good, it must be as unique as the individual. Personality has to be the primary consideration.
Warrior Writer focuses on the author. Why? Because everything stems from us—the product (book), the marketing, the business savvy, etc. That is why Bob’s first question is WHO? We have to understand who we are before anything else.
Each of us are going to gravitate to a different genre, topic, style of writing because of who we are. The same goes for how we will approach (or not approach) the business side of publishing.
While we all had a good laugh at the poor souls above, all three of those types of writers had notable strengths. The first group? Enthusiasm and confidence. These authors laugh in the face of adversity. They aren’t afraid of anything, and that is a tremendous asset. The second group? Persistence and hard work. Talent will only take one so far. We have to be willing to do the work and never give up. The third group? They understand writing is a business, and they are passionate and willing to work harder and longer than their competition.
This is the key to being a Warrior Writer. We all have weaknesses and blind spots. But the good news is we also have talents and strengths. Face it. We aren’t going to win a marathon wearing One Size Fits All shoes. Why would we expect to achieve our greatest writing goals with a One Size Fits All business model? Until now, many of us have been relegated to piecing together a patchwork business plan from on-line articles and inspirational stories mixed with snippets from “Marketing for Dummies”—that is, if we bothered to make a plan at all.
Editors and agents, being overworked and spread far too thinly just aren’t going to sit down and help us formulate our strategy for success. Meanwhile, the publishing industry remains content to play the odds. The question is, are we content to remain playing the numbers as well? Warrior Writer is a holistic understanding that incorporates all of who we are for maximum advantage that is tailored to fit. Bob teaches us not only about the industry (no sending queries in a pizza box), but more importantly, he helps us learn about ourselves. This translates into better writing, a better writer, and better business. So while we are waiting on Leno’s people to get back with us, we can learn how to tackle the publishing industry in true warrior fashion.
Go to www.bobmayer.org for a copy of “Who Dares Wins” and, while you are there, sign up for a Warrior Writer Workshop near you.