Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Ongoing Plan for World Domination

I've been doing some work on the Ongoing Plan for World Domination. And, yes, it really does exist, even in writing. I suppose you could call it a "business plan," but that sounds boring. I'm not too motivated to carry out a "business plan," but an "Ongoing Plan for World Domination" sounds like fun. Businesses would probably be more successful if they were carrying out a Plan for World Domination instead of a business plan, but they might want to change the title when using it to get a business loan or venture capital funding (then again, the venture capitalists might be impressed by the boldness). I dare you to have a "plan for world domination" instead of a "business plan" if you have to prove to the IRS that your writing is a business rather than a hobby.

I think I've referred to it at various times as a "grand" plan, but what's written on the actual plan is "ongoing," and I think that's a good thing to keep at the forefront because, really, does one ever truly achieve world domination? Even when you get there, you have to stay there. Maybe if I ever achieve JK Rowling levels of success where I've made enough money to live more than comfortably for the rest of my life while building a few hospitals, my existing books are bringing in enough money in royalties to constitute a healthy salary, and publishers beg to publish anything I want to write, then maybe I can quit strategizing and just do what I want to do. Until then, the plan is ongoing and constantly updated.

I started the plan with a focus on the things I can control, so it was all about putting in the time to write so I could produce books, as well as working on improving my craft so I can write better books. There's also some market research to help me focus my efforts on projects that stand a better chance of selling and some marketing/promotion ideas so I can do my part to make my published books sell better, though that part has taken a backseat while I work on the writing. It may not look like I've done much in a while because I haven't had a book out, but I've been steadily writing. When something breaks through, I'll be ready with a flood of books. That's one of the things I noticed in my research. While it is possible to hit it big with one very successful book a year, it does seem like a lot of authors get their big breakout moment when they manage to get a fair number of releases in a shorter amount of time. That seems to generate the snowball rolling downhill effect. So, even while I'm waiting for something to happen, I'm still plugging away.

But then there's the problem that most of this business is totally out of my control. I can do my part by writing good books, but even the best book ever can get a response like, "I was hoping for something more like Enchanted, Inc., but we don't want to continue that series." Or there might be nothing else on the market like it, so since they have no comparisons no one is willing to take the risk to publish it. Or it may be a case of "there was already a book about a half-breed fey enchantress who uses ballet moves to fight evil fairies, but it tanked, so obviously there's no market for that kind of book." It seems weird to not plan for such a huge portion of my career, even if it is outside my control. So, I decided to plan hypothetically by writing out what I want to happen, specifically, with each project and in a bigger picture sense (since what happens with one project could affect other projects). Not just "have it be published" (duh), but which publishers I think are the best fit for this project or which editors I'd like to work with, advance range, what kind of publication (hardcover/trade/mass market), even ideal release timing. I must say, it was a little scary writing all that out, like I was somehow daring the universe to come and get me. My heart even beat a little faster while I wrote it. I'm not into that woo-woo The Secret stuff where I think that writing it down makes it more likely to happen, but it does seem to help my motivation to have in mind why I'm spending hours at the keyboard and going days without leaving the house. Plus, having that step in the plan means that I can also make hypothetical plans for best and worst-case scenarios, along with the most likely scenario, and then I can also develop ideas for publicity and promotion based on these possibilities.

And then I took an even bigger step to look at what would happen to my life if these various scenarios happened. For instance, selling the project currently on submission would be mostly a sigh of relief thing, because it would mean actual income (yay!). With that sale and knowing there would be money coming in, I might take care of a few repairs/replacements around the house and buy a toy or two. If the Enchanted, Inc. movie goes into production, that would be bigger money, but not really life-changing. I'd probably do a little more stuff around the house to upgrade it (because even if I were in a position to sell and buy something new, the house probably couldn't sell as it is now, especially not in this market). I might allow myself something of a splurge, like flying first class to WorldCon and maybe taking a real vacation. The real benefit from the movie would be in what it could do to book sales -- a re-release in conjunction with the movie would mean more royalties, boost the sales of the other books and maybe mean the publication of more books in the series, and then that success makes it easier to sell other books. But there's no guarantee. I can think of authors who've had movies made from their books who didn't become bestsellers and who have seemingly fallen off the face of the earth. I suppose it depends on whether the the movie is any good, how successful the movie is, whether they change the title, how the publisher deals with it, etc.

I even tried to imagine my life when I reach the level of success I want, and I was surprised to find that it's not too different from my life now. I would like to get a larger house with a real yard, a guest room, a bigger kitchen, more closet space and more book storage space. I might upgrade my electronics and maybe even have a good media room. But I like my car, so I doubt I'd be going for a BMW. I don't really want a mansion and would likely stay in my middle-class neighborhood because I like my neighborhood. I might travel a little more and do it a little more luxuriously. I might even get a housekeeping service. Now, that's at the level of success I think I can achieve. We're not talking JK Rowling or Stephen King money, but I can't imagine that much money, and I can't think of how it would change the way I live. I think it would mostly make me feel a little less worried about my old age and being able to afford to pay people to take care of me when I get to that point.

If I ever reach the JK Rowling level where money essentially becomes meaningless and I'm writing because I want to and because I want to provide books to my fans, I might be seriously tempted to come up with creative ways to make publishers compete for my books. Forget auctions and bids. I'd make them do something like shopping cart races through Central Park, with the executives pushing the sales people in carts. Or maybe a talent show, bake-off, "beauty pageant" type thing or a charity fundraising competition. Winner gets to publish my next sure-fire mega bestseller. That sounds like a lot more fun than having a crazy fit on Amazon reviews or demanding that my work not be edited, which is what a lot of authors do when they reach mad levels of success.

It was strange how doing this affected my attitude toward my work. It was a nice reminder of what I'm working for. I'm not spending hours at the keyboard for nothing. I'm building my future guest room.

Now I have to take care of one or two things, and then I'm going to start dealing with the new computer.

No comments: