Semester Introspective – Part 3 – The “Write” Business

Imagining for a moment that I had a business writing novels, then what are the processes & systems involved in the production of a novel?  Novel writing is a complex process, by itself.  In the fantasy and sci-fi genres, it often requires such sub-processes as creating an internally consistent world, developing interesting and unique ideas to form the “hook”, and writing studies of interesting and complex characters set with natural conflicts between them (a necessary process for most novels, regardless of genre).  The actual writing is a multi-stage, iterative process of several drafts before completion.  And then there are production issues, channels of distribution (who the publisher is, etc.), and so on.

All of that gives me few new insights, but what if I consider this from the point-of-view of a business with an existing, profitable line of products and services (financial analysis, for instance, we’ll call it “Budgets-R-Us”) that wants to develop a brand new product line (novels) for a completely different target demographic?

The question that comes immediately to mind is: “Why would Budgets-R-Us, Inc. want to diversify into Novels in the first place?  Doesn’t that run counter to their core competency?”  The answer, of course is: “The CEO of Budget-R-Us has a real passion for Novels.  Originally, that was the business he wanted to go into, but during initial start-up, market research revealed that it would be easier to develop and market a Business Forecasting & Budgeting service, and that the return-on-investment in that line of business would be greater more quickly after the product was launched.  With that business doing fairly well in the marketplace – it’s not stellar but it’s a decent cash cow – the CEO has decided to milk some of those profits (free time) to invest in this newer, riskier venture that has a lot of positive potential and follows the CEO’s real passion.”  Of course, the CEO can’t lose sight of the shareholders of Budgets-R-Us, Inc. (my family, in this painfully extended metaphor) in making these investment decisions. 

Basically, it’s not an easy business decision to make.  For the foreseeable future, most of my available resources (time) have to go into the businessy business, because that’s the one that’s returning dividends to my shareholders (family), and their interests are the ones I have to represent, as CEO of “Budgets-R-Us” – I have a moral and ethical responsibility to them.  The other business model, novels, is a highly risky proposition.  Sure, there’s huge up-side potential (i.e. J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, et al.).  But for every blockbuster brand in the novel business, there’s countless other no-names and generics (novelists whose names we don’t even know, and I don’t mean that to denigrate them; I am, after all, the “undiscovered author”) that are barely scraping by.  They are the writing-world equivalent of the four-out-of-five new small businesses that fail in their first five years (a commonly cited statistic in business).  And that’s not a future that’s acceptable to me. As a husband and father-to-be, I have responsibilities for the care and welfare of my family, and this kind of risk is incongruous with that responsibility.  In other words, if I can’t be a successful writer, then it’s not a real career option.

But let’s say I really believe I’ve got what it takes to be successful.  Let’s say I make a few small investments, in the form of a little free time, in a little “R&D”, so-to-speak.  Writing would basically take the place of “having a hobby”, but I would continue to treat it like a business, mentally.  That’s when I have to start thinking about Brand Management, if I’m going to make it successful.

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