Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Silliness

I can't believe it's Friday already. Where did the week go? Looking at my to-do list, I see that I accomplished a lot, but it doesn't much feel like it.

The Harry Potter symposium is in town this weekend, and I've been toying with the idea of going just for the day on Saturday. But it is pretty expensive, and I'm not sure of the benefit. True, that's a key target audience of people who might be inclined to like my books, but since I never got around to submitting anything for participating in programming, any contacts I make would have to involve direct conversations, and I'm afraid I'm in a big introvert phase right now, which means that I would turn invisible in the crowd.

It's also occurred to me that I currently have a real marketing dilemma. Because the majority of the population has never heard of my books, most marketing activities I do primarily sell the first book in the series. That book is already considered a success. The issue right now is the ratio of sales of subsequent books to that first one, so the more the first book sells, unless all those people very quickly go on to buy the rest of the books, the worse things look for the later books in any snapshot of sales figures. Since the publisher doesn't seem to have any interest in capitalizing on the steady ongoing sales of that first book by doing something big to promote the whole series, hooking new people at this point actually works against me in a weird sort of way. What I need to figure out how to do is reach people who read the first book or the first couple of books and get them to buy the rest of the series, and that's a real challenge. Anyone who's interested enough to write to me, to read my blog or sign up for my e-mail list is also probably interested enough to have already bought the whole series. Anyone who bought the books via Amazon likely got a reminder of the release of the others. I don't know if the drop-off is because of people not knowing about the rest of the books or not wanting to read the rest. I have run into people at conventions who've asked me if a third book (or in a few cases, a second book) is available, so there may be some awareness issues. I suppose people who buy the first book when they hear me speak at a convention may not know about the rest because they aren't in the section of the bookstore where these people would be shopping. I will have to ponder this further.

But enough serious stuff. I've had something supremely silly running around in my head for a few weeks, and I think I should inflict it on everyone else. I've been watching the BBC Robin Hood series (though not the latest episode, since TimeWarner never got around to posting it to OnDemand here. Grrr.) and, for some odd reason, I've lately marathoned the first three seasons of the US version of The Office. And then I found that the two of them started merging in my head until I realized that in many respects, they're the same show. It's not a perfect one-to-one correlation, but there are definite patterns.

Spoiler warning for what's shown of Robin Hood on BBCAmerica and on seasons one through four of the US version of The Office. Also, extreme silliness warning. And apologies in advance if this totally ruins both shows for you.

Basically, the Sheriff and Guy on Robin Hood are Michael Scott and Dwight on The Office. We've got the extremely self-centered, egotistical, volatile, drama-queeny boss and his sycophantic, extremely ambitious sidekick who believes firmly in might making right and who thinks that his devotion to his boss will ultimately get him what he wants out of life -- namely power and money. I guess you could say that Guy is Assistant (to the) Sheriff. In both cases, the boss is perfectly willing to use his sidekick when it suits him, but he actually holds him in contempt and would willingly sacrifice him if necessary. And the sidekick bases a lot of his self worth on his "estate" (Dwight's beet farm, Guy's estate that used to be Robin's).

I wonder if one day Guy will try to usurp the Sheriff's position, so that Prince Jan -- er, John -- will have to step in and put a stop to it. And then Guy will be stuck doing the Sheriff's laundry.

That was the first parallel I noticed. Then I realized that as our "hero," in both cases we have a cheeky, charming man of the people who likes to pull pranks on the boss and his sidekick and who is the main focus of the sidekick's hatred and jealousy. He also has the loyalty of almost everyone around besides the boss and his sidekick, and the boss's boss's boss considers him a valuable asset (King Richard on Robin Hood, David Wallace the CFO on The Office).

The romantic relationships don't track perfectly, as Dwight hasn't really shown any interest in Pam, but both of our cheeky heroes have a romantic relationship with a woman who's been a longtime friend, and both relationships have gone through a sort of love triangle phase where the other guy was entirely unsuitable for her and potentially abusive. And both of the sidekicks have gone through some fairly creepy emotional tailspins over the women they're interested in.

Then we have the disloyal underling who switches sides. On The Office, Ryan the Temp seemed to mostly be on Jim's side (not that he declared any loyalty, but he was definitely against Dwight and Michael). Dwight tried to groom Ryan into his lackey, but Michael was the one utterly enamored of Ryan, which made Dwight feel insecure and threatened. And then Ryan switched sides and became an enemy when he got the job at corporate, actually betraying Jim. Meanwhile, Allan on Robin Hood started out as a member of Robin's gang, then betrayed Robin, switched sides, was originally being groomed by Guy to be his lackey, but then the Sheriff discovered him and was impressed enough to make Guy feel insecure and threatened.

I'm sure there are more parallels if I let myself think more about it, but I've already disturbed myself with this much.

We'll see if I can make myself leave the cave this weekend. I want to do some housework, as I had two separate nightmares last night where my messy house was an issue. Sci Fi Friday is back tonight, with Doctor Who and Stargate Atlantis. And then new Foyle's War on PBS Sunday.

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