Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Writing as a Business.

Is writing an art or is it a business? It’s both. If you plan on making money and eating off your art, you need to see it as both. As writers, until we’re especially famous, we’re the start and stop of the business. We’re the worker bees, the managers, customer relations, marketing and all of it.

In that light, I try to keep an eye on business related blogs and a few other things to help keep my finger on the pulse of skills that I don’t really have. Do you know how to do business accounting? I don’t. When I have to do my taxes with royalty checks, I’m gonna go bald. I just know it.

However, if you listen to those who are a bit wiser and more experienced in the areas of your deficiencies, you might learn something and keep a few strands of hair.

This particular blog caught my eye: Strategic Planning Thoughts

Let me quote a bit here…

When companies set out to innovate strategically, they often rush off in the same direction as everyone else. In many industries — especially high-tech industries — this causes markets to mature very quickly as unique specialty items that took tremendous R&D investment become "me-too" commodities.

How many times have we seen that with writing? Harry Potter explodes across the world and all sorts of magical boy stories show up. Broke Back Mountain revived a whole genre in erotic romance stories (cowboy) and Pirates of the Caribbean sparked interest in pirate stories. I can only imagine what life was like when Interview with a Vampire first hit.

By all means if you have a pirate plotbunny, write it, but do you really want to follow the crowd? How many pirate stories or cowboy stories can a submission coordinator read before they get sick at the thought of another one? Timing with business can be critical. If you’re at the beginning of the wave, you’re probably safe. If you’re at the middle or end you may want to sit on it for a little bit.

I encourage you to read Mr.Bradford’s blog from time to time, but here’s some of his advice.

First — and this is one of the best — competitors sometimes are simply unable to copy a new product or service. The reason this is a very good situation should be clear — if you do something valuable for your customers that your competition cannot copy, you have created something that looks an awful lot like a strategic competency, which we all know is practically a license to print money.

As writers how can we do this? Yes, we have copyright protection, but we cannot (nor should we be able to) copyright an idea. What we do is make sure our style and voice is honed properly and that we offer a unique spin to whatever it is that we write. We make our pirate story bigger, badder and buffer than any others. We add a twist to our universe that can only come from our hands and minds. That’s a major part of author branding.

Some more advice from Mr. Bradford…

The second reason why competitors may not copy us is that they choose not to copy.

In a way this is impossible for writers to control and in a way we have built-in protection. Face it, most people never finish their novels. If they don’t finish it, then they can’t publish it. If they can’t publish it, then they’re not competition.

What do we do if someone does copy our ideas? (I don’t mean copyright infringement.) There’s not much we can do legally. However, if we’re as good as we think we are, the readers will recognize a hack when they see one.

The third reason why competitors may not copy us is that they are prevented from copying by someone else. Usually, this is a legal situation (as in the case of a technology covered by patents), but it may be driven by other forces as well.

For writers this means register your copyrights. Pay the 45 bucks and register them. Yes, we own the copyright the moment we type it in the safety and comfort of our own homes. But, when it comes to proving copyright ownership you must register it and don’t fall for that “poor man’s copyright” bogus crap. Register with the US Copyright office (or whatever office you have to in whatever country you live.) Also, no one will be able to copy you exactly. They may strive to emulate you, but if you’ve settled into your style and voice, you’ll still be unique.

The key to this? Be the best writer you can be. Be the best business manager you can be. Wear all those hats with confidence and read the words of those who specialize in your weakest areas.

If anyone else has any good business blogs, drop me a line. I’d love to check them out.

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