Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Success in Failure

I have this weird relationship with my writing. It's one of the reasons I disdain MFA programs—they are full of people who believe they are artists.[1] I am not an artist, and that statement is not true. Writing is an art form, and I have to own that, but I also want to sell my art so I can eat and pay bills, and that makes my writing a business. The question becomes, how one balances those two very disparate pursuits: one of art and one of business. I will be the first to tell you that I am not very good at the latter.
Years back, I attempted opening a pizza shop. The restaurant never opened,[2] but I did come out of the experience with a very thorough business plan. I had pepperoni priced out to the ounce, and I knew who my competition was. I knew what the restaurant's mission was, and yeah the restaurant did have a mission. The last few days I've been thinking about the pizza shop—not about what went wrong, but about what went right. I had, for example, catering contracts in place before I was even anywhere near opening—before I even had the pizza oven. And speaking of the pizza oven, I managed to get a local company to move a PS360 Middleby Marshall conveyor belt oven weighing over a thousand pounds with a 90-inch width through a 32-inch wide door for free. And oh, yeah. I didn't have to pay rent on the restaurant until six months after opening. I knew how many deliveries Domino's down the street made a night because I sat in my car across the street and counted how many times their delivery drivers left.
There was a lot of success hidden away in the failure.
Now, here I am today with two novels sitting on Amazon that in the three years the books have been for sale, I have to account for their effort several very nice reviews and a twenty-five dollar royalty check. I have a web page that I pay twenty dollars per year on, and I have maintained that web page for three years. I have made negative thirty-five dollars. By all accounts, this is a much worse business venture than the pizza shop. But, you know: my writing is an art and if you write a good book people on their own will find that good book and that's all you have to do.
Because it's writing, and because I've been told by so many people that writing is just a hobby and you can't count on income from writing because it's art and no one can make money at art, and I have even heard myself utter these words to myself…. because it's writing, I don't take what I do seriously enough for my writing to make money. This attitude must change. I have to look at that 32-inch door and stand beside my 90-inch oven and say, "This is not a problem."
What was successful about my pizza shop was the business plan. What isn't successful about my writing business is I have no plan.  I need to do some back-tracking. That doesn't mean removing my novels from Amazon, but that does mean putting together an author business plan, and following the plan. Business plans are normally a private ordeal—something very few people see: the CEO, the banker, your landlord. One of the things I believe though, being an author means giving. Over the next several weeks, I'll draft my author business plan together. I'm going to share the plan and its writing process right here on this blog.
My pizza shop plan had seven chapters: the executive summary, the business description, market strategies, competitive analysis, design and development plan, the operations and management plan, and financial factors. Those seven chapters are pretty typical in a business plan. I'm not sure at this point whether I need all of those chapters or if I need different chapters or exactly what I'm getting myself into. I've done some initial research and have discovered that business plans for authors are not unheard of. The following are links I've so far found useful:


What I'm going to do next over the next few days is to study the above links a bit more in depth. I am not going to comment on them outright. I'll leave it for you to decide whether they were useful articles or not. My next post will be on vision casting, and we'll see where that takes us.

[1]I say this with jealousy. I chose to do a MA. My wife was recently accepted to the University of New Hampshire's MFA program. I spent a semester in the Iowa Writer's Workshop as an undergraduate. I have dreams of applying to the low residency program at Fairleigh Dickinson University after I attain a PhD.
[2]Let's just say I didn't do my due diligence. The landlord went through a bankruptcy and the repossessing bank decided I was one of the landlord's assets. It was a painful moment.

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