Friday, December 10, 2010

Smart Investors Require a Business Plan

PART 5 IN A SERIES on the business of writing

Anne McDermid & Associates is partnering with One Writer’s Voice to issue a series of posts on the business of writing based on the premise that writing, like publishing, is undergoing profound change. The series will post weekly, alternating between the McDermid blog and One Writer’s Voice.

Smart Investors Require a Business Plan is the fifth post in our series and is up now at One Writer's Voice.

We look forward to questions and comments.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Apologies and an Update

And we're back!

Sorry, it's been a few months. I've done exactly what we always advise against when talking about blogging -- I've let it go for far too long. So I'm back to apologize and get things rolling again (I could make excuses about being busy etc., but who wants to hear it).

Luckily blogging friend Mary Tod has kept things rolling at One Writer's Voice where she has posted the outline for our continuing series (image above left).
Mary will be posting the next piece in the series this week and we will be linking to it.
And we'll be posting regularly from now on (pinkie swear).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No Writer is an Island

PART 4 IN A SERIES on the business of writing

Anne McDermid & Associates is partnering with One Writer’s Voice to issue a series of posts on the business of writing based on the premise that writing, like publishing, is undergoing profound change. The series will post weekly, alternating between the McDermid blog and One Writer’s Voice.

No Writer is an Island is the fourth post in our series and is up now at One Writer's Voice.

We look forward to questions and comments.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nine Questions to Test Your Entrepreneurship

PART 3 IN A SERIES on the business of writing

In the first post of this series – The Business of Writing – we stated that good writing isn’t enough, that writers must act like entrepreneurs who are business, market and technology savvy. Typically entrepreneurs are willing to take risks, seek independence and are both decisive and adaptable. They are driven by an idea – a service or product that will capture the market – and are disciplined self-starters who juggle multiple tasks. A daunting list of attributes.

Throughout the series we will delve into these concepts and describe how they apply to writers. In this post we outline nine questions a writer-entrepreneur should consider.

1. Do you think of yourself as an owner-operator? An owner-operator is a small business owned by the same person who is running day-to-day operations. In addition to the day-to-day business of writing, as an entrepreneur-writer you should be planning the business, managing its financial aspects, and determining your marketing strategy.

2. Do you think of your work as a collection of products and services? Entrepreneurs may begin with one product but most evolve to sell a complementary set of products and services in order to more fully satisfy their customers. The cost of acquiring customers is high; it is much easier to sell additional products (books are a product as are freelance writing, short stories, speaking engagements and blog posts) to existing customers than acquire another set of customers. Have you thought of your writing this way?

3. Do you understand your product development cycle? Every entrepreneur seeks to offer excellent products and services in a cost-effective manner. As market conditions change they adapt with new products, improved services and innovative marketing and promotion. How long do you take to write a new book? New freelance article or blog post? What is your process and why? Do you know your product development cost?

4. Do you know your readers (customers) and the value you offer them? Before launching a business or a new product, entrepreneurs determine the size of the market, test market their products and find creative ways to interact with customers. Entrepreneurs remain alert to changing market conditions and adapt by creating new products and services. Who are your readers? Why do they purchase your works? How will you reach them?

5. Do you know your competitors? Entrepreneurs know their competitors and how they operate. They know when changes have occurred in their slice of the industry. Both fiction and non-fiction writers should be equally savvy.

6. Do you understand your selling role? Entrepreneurs are passionate about selling their products and if they aren’t born salesmen they hire one. Publishers have limited advertising and promotion budgets. As the owner-operator of your writing business, building an audience and selling to them is one of your critical responsibilities. Are you comfortable selling?

7. Do you know how your business will make money? At a very simplistic level, revenue minus cost equals profit. Successful entrepreneurs develop good financial controls, know the cost of doing business, seek ways to be more efficient. They also look for ways to enhance revenue generation; for example, some authors enhance revenue through freelance articles, workshops or speaking engagements.

8. Do you have the traits that foster success? In addition to the traits listed in the first paragraph, we would add the ability to anticipate and handle change, the willingness to hustle for clients (see point 6), and good organization and planning skills.

9. Do you have the financial resources to start your business? Entrepreneurs put personal funds into their business and also seek investment dollars. They must satisfy themselves, their families and their investors that the risk-reward equation is worthwhile. Writers put personal time into their business, time that often reduces their income from other sources. Writers too have to ensure that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Our series is intended to help writers think like small business owners in the context of a changing industry. The questions posed above may sound intimidating, but we believe they are vital to understanding the environment facing today’s writers and helping you plan your way forward.

Here is how we see the first part of the series fitting together.

Good Writing Isn’t Enough: read this to set the stage for the series
Old World – New World: understand the changing world of writing and publishing
Nine Questions to Test Your Entrepreneurship: consider the implications of each question for your career as an entrepreneur-writer
No Writer is an Island: explore the external factors affecting writers and consider how you will adapt (planned for the week of August 9)
Smart Investors Require a Business Plan: have a look at the contents of a business plan, start thinking about what you will put in your business plan (planned for the week of August 16)
It’s Not Just Ebooks, It’s Technology: technology used well can enable your writing business, your job is to choose the mix that works for you (planned for the week of August 23)

We look forward to your questions, comments and challenges.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Old World - New World

Anne McDermid & Associates is partnering with One Writer’s Voice to issue a series of posts on the business of writing based on the premise that writing, like publishing, is undergoing profound change. The series will post weekly alternating between the McDermid blog and One Writer’s Voice.

Old World - New World is the second post in our series.

We look forward to dialogue on this topic amongst the community of writers, agents and publishers.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Good Writing isn’t Enough


Anyone who has read about the life of writers knows that it takes more than literary talent to become a published author. Luck, passion, discipline, persistence, and connections are some of the attributes required. Today however, when publishing and book retailing are under siege, when technology is turning the traditional system upside down, and when authors are self-publishing in astonishing numbers, writers who want to be successful need to do more.

In this brave, new world, writers must also be business and technology savvy, know how to promote themselves, how to connect with customers, how to analyze their competition, how to determine and develop their brand and how to make money. In essence, they need to be entrepreneurs.

Chris Bucci, a literary agent with Anne McDermid & Associates Ltd. and a seasoned industry professional, along with Mary Tod, a writer of historical fiction and former management consultant, are beginning a series on the business of writing. Based on the premise that writing, like publishing, is undergoing profound change, this series will look at writing not from the perspective of craft but from the perspective of entrepreneurship.

Chris and Mary will consider the factors affecting writers, new writer-reader relationships, how to develop a business plan, the dynamics of profitability, the democratization of influencers and a host of other topics related to writers as entrepreneurs. The series will post weekly alternating between the McDermid blog and Mary’s personal blog.

We hope these articles will inform, spark dialogue and facilitate new thinking amongst writers, literary agents, publishers and retailers.

Mary Tod blogs about writing at One Writer’s Voice and is currently at work revising her first two novels, Lies Told in Silence and While the Secret Sits.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Books by Those Who don't Like Books

By guest-blogger Laura Penny

When I was pitching my second book, More Money Than Brains, I thought I had a pretty good line for the marketing types. I kept saying it was a book for readers, a book for people who really like books. Sounds totally sensible, right? You have doubtless heard countless commercials touting steak for steak-lovers and booze for real boozers. I was just trying to do what capitalism said on the teevee!

This is one of the many reasons why I have an agent.

The bizarro market of publishing functions differently. There is actually plenty of money these days, it seems, in catering to the tepid/sporadic reader or the people who despise bookish elitists and their snooty tomes.

I leave it to others to debate whether or not big hits, like Twilight and Dan Brown's oeuvre, eventually convert book-a-year folks to reading on the regular. I'm more interested in the latter phenomenon. Two of the biggest recent publishing success stories, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, are stellar examples of people who write books for people who hate book people.

Beck has managed to move millions and millions of units of his own merch, which includes sentimental slop (The Christmas Sweater), pseudo-history (Glenn Beck's Common Sense), and bloviation (Arguing with Idiots). His latest bestseller is an ostensible thriller called The Overton Window. This sounds Ludlummy, but it is actually a think tank term for the acceptable spectrum of policy ideas. Anything too wacky is “outside the window”, so to speak.

The function of many think tanks and lobbies and clowns like Glenn Beck is to open that window, and encourage America to jump through it, into free-market free-fall. Which is precisely why the plot of Beck's book is that the left---the liberal, progressive elites who really run the government and big corporations---are forcibly defenestrating a once-great nation.

Beck has also become like unto the Oprah of the wingnuts; to bum a comparison from USA Today. His say-so has propelled all sorts of crazy stuff up the bestseller lists. Perhaps the best example of a Beck favourite is Cleon Skousen's The 5000 Year Leap, which he has described as “divinely inspired”. Now there's a blurb to set the marketing department all a-flutter!

Alas, Skousen was far more inspired by the John Birch Society than that hippie from Nazareth. Skousen was an anti-commie zealot, too right-wing for the Mormon establishment, and precisely the sort of conspiracy crank old-school cons like William F. Buckley snubbed and marginalized in order to develop an electable conservative movement.

The titular leap is the miraculous birth of the Constitution, issue of the holy union of the Bible and the Founding Fathers. Hundreds of 5 star Amazon reviews from Beck's faithful insist that the book should be taught in schools. It's important for kids to know that the Thomases Jefferson and Paine loved Jesus more than reason. A special American Jesus that wants to abolish welfare and taxes!

If the common man actually spoke in the style of Sarah Palin's smash hit, Going Rogue, I woulda superglued my Sonys to my ears quite some time ago. One of the most scathing reviews of the book, by conservative journalist Claire Berlinski, argues that the problem is not that the book itself is cliched, intellectually lazy, vulgar, and phony as Tiger Woods' apologies.

That's bad, but what is worse is that millions of North Americans believe this cheesy ghost-written, committee-cobbled blend of pap and polemics is “real” or “authentic”. Berlinski contends that this is evidence of something much more dire than bad literary taste: it is a “communism of the soul” to pretend the doggedly ordinary are Presidential material.

Palin's next book involves even less pesky authoring. America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, scheduled for release in November, is a mixtape of texts that have inspired her. It should not cost much, or take interns much time, to collate quotes from her dad, the John Birch Society newsletter, jock bios, Reagan speeches and the Taco Bell menu.

The fact that Palin and Beck cannot be bothered to write their own badly-written books might give book people the vapours. But the kind of people who buy Beck and Palin in bulk sneer at the suggestion that writing is a valuable skill or job, or. that publishing is an actual industry. Publishing is just a way for coastal elitists to get money for nothing and chicks for free.

This is simply to say that these recent publishing successes are actually based on venerable American marketing traditions best described by P.T. Barnum and H.L. Mencken. And while ghostwritten pap or paranoid crap are certainly not new, it is a bummer to see publishers underwriting and promoting products that insist the product—writing—is immaterial or inherently elitist and antique.

Laura Penny is the author of Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit and More Money Than Brains: Why School Sucks, College is Crap, and Idiots Think They're Right. She teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University and the University of King's College, in lovely Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.