Author – Pankaj Mohanta | Download PDF: BUILDING CAPABILITIES & RESILIENCE IN THE WORLD OF PUBLISHING – Pankaj Mohanta
“Winning isn’t everything, its’ the only thing”
– Vince Lombardi
You thought professional writing is ALL about your desire & passion for writing? I will tell you what? Since quite some time, it has changed quite a bit. Apart from your articulation in your content deliveries that are [apparently] so skillfully weaved into pieces which seem like breeze kissing the readers’ minds as they flip pages over pages; actually involve scores of well executed intricate strategies over time that contribute to this stage for reaching out to this level in the first place. Here, in this blog post I will try putting all the pieces for all the viewers who aspire to be professional writers in the times to come & I will try scaling across as much details to it as possible right from the start to the end stretching on an episodic sequence.
Much agreed though, the readers are the ones that happen to be the epicenter of all the synthesis for aspiring authors’ thought processes & quite possibly one of the reasons for them to decide to quit their day job & step into full time professional writing. But however before getting serious about any of this, they have to see it from a delta perspective which has three major paradigms to it that allows this business to exist & function, the way it is existing & functioning today. The three major paradigms that I have just mentioned are the following & this is as basic as it gets:
- The Author
- The Readers
- The Platform[s]
I will have a systematic drill down to each of these paradigms from the ground up starting from #1 – The Author.
Today is the current phase of an on-going|never-ending competition & in the wake of which, things are to be decided from the same viewpoint. For any author who is starting out, what lies ahead are things like, demanding readers, scare & slow growth opportunities, rapidly changing market dynamics & the likes that will force them to augment content creation approaches which will give direction paving way for reliance over better judgment & intuition that will enable them to start & continue effectively with a fact-based decision making. Before pulling their act together, they ought to need some time to figure out with all the whats & hows which would eventually shape the kind of author they will go onto become sometime down the lane which demands a vision quest. Speaking of which, ideally there could be these questions down below from a portfolio perspective:
- What would be the type? [Fiction, Creative Non Fiction, Poetry…]
- What would be the genre? [Thriller, Satire, Romantic, Adventure…]
- Who will constitute your target segment? [Individuals, Institutes, Presses, Literary Platforms, Publication Houses…]; if you are sure about it then what specifics within it/them would you further narrow down your focus on? [For instance, if it’s the individuals then any specific age group, lingo, location etc. that you intend your creation to be actually targeted at?]
- Will you commercialize your work? If you do, regardless of media, how are you going about the supply chain?
- What “value” does your target segment seek & what is that perceived “value” to them?
- Will you have multiple offerings? [Apart from novels/books or alike productions, would you extend yourself as a Columnist, Contributor, Editor, mentoring-leadership & similar service roll outs as a part of your portfolio?]
- Any geographic or demographic scoping?
- In how many or what ways is your content really different from the rest of the Authors in the relevant segment[s]?
- Do you have any skills gap that needs to be addressed now which could be a necessity in whatsoever case ahead in time to build capabilities?
- What opportunities could be well exploited that’s immediately within the plain sight?
- Is/are there any risk[s]?
Obviously, the aforementioned 11 questions aren’t the length & breadth of the analysis that the upcoming Authors are supposed to brainstorm but certainly those are few of the many which holds most of the critical mass. The reason is simple, as could be fairly noticed by some of you readers, it addresses two base elements those that are the essential parts of a business model. Every legit business has an accompanying business model of its own without which they could be anything but business. The two base elements that were just mentioned were used in the organizational context that lets them perform, function & exist with a profit orientation & value creation for shareholders, with those two base elements being the value proposition & the operating model. Much like an organization, there is a pressing need for the upcoming Authors to view themselves analogous to it as the artistic or creative manifestation they have, has much of the similar attributes to the product & service the organizations offer in a transactional scenario. Plus, however the Authors set it up for spiking up their visibility for their literary creations has most of the similar operational attributes which the organizations have in an industry scenario. Since building a successful portfolio requires a sound understanding of the both, near & remote, personal & industrial environment, so it needs relayed views of readers-customers, the publishing industry & the self abilities to pull it off at a scale & velocity much like how one would do utilizing the core competencies in their chosen field. So, for the first paradigm, it needs to be thought out over a landscape of desired outcomes; to which some amount of premeditated thinking will support your decision making rationale. While it is still being brainstormed, here’s a general layout of a model onto which the literary venture could rely:
- Segmentation Planning: Acquaintance > Strangers | Informed > Unaware. Know the general profiling who your readers & to-be customers are. This is important because it lets you have an insight so that it helps you generate literary contents that is more of aimed towards them & less of generalized which may not be as appealing to your target segment as intended [if the latter occurs].
- Multiple Offerings: Do not put all of your eggs into one basket. While being great at something is really appreciated but you might not want to end up in a drag race to the ends of the Earth with just the novels in the pipeline. To improve your own branding & easing out the transition phase of introduction to mass acceptance which usually requires more activity variants that adds up to the Author credibility actually improves the sales conversion for the main offering.
- PR & Campaign Management: Because nobody wants a burnout. Keeping yourself busy online for your upcoming novel promotion or while you are offline, getting your work catching up all the speed for a promo at a nearby book store leads to direct connections & potential contacts that could open up to entirely different opportunities. This could also get you in sync with the right literary agents or reps, who can very well represent you to the editors from the publishing companies. But this needs to be done rightly so, stunts or controversies of any kind right over your launch pad may put you in the limelight for wrong reasons & with this, your chances of someday being the NY Times bestseller, talk show appearances, radio guest at morning breakfast show airings & outtakes will most definitely go up in smokes.
- Channel Operations: Because reaping the benefits starts from sowing the right actions. Here, I mean channels as those digital-physical pathways through which the readers-customers can reach the Author or the Authors’ releases & vice versa. This needs a constant working around your themes and approaches through various media to undertake creative measures to keep that excitement going & bring a “life & taste” to it. This could include all or any tool[s] that helps you execute your strategies through any given media for making a compelling relevance to not only your readers but also the editors & publishers that are possibly in your wish list. This is very important thing to manage your brand messaging as the right amplification will increase your followers over time & usually the publishers do look out for a history of sales or at least some measure of success that quantifies or establishes a track record of the same. So, the earlier, the better. Not to mention, as you go commercial, it gets more of managing various variable & opportunity costs that you are going to incur. Well, through your channels, you could have a steady revenue generation if done with superiorly marketable content positioning to your followers who are serious about your offerings [& you!].
- The Content: Quality [often] beats quantity. Good ideas are rare but you can cultivate a culture within your style & personal ecosystem that strives for coming up with as many ideas as you could think of & improvise on them until they seem, sound, look & feel good. Anything which sounds like a great storyline to you doesn’t necessarily mean I would feel the same about your storyline. The reception is going to be accepted with negative reviews & or criticisms. Even some of the blockbuster & charts topping releases have received thumbs down. There has been no book ever written in the history of anything with a bundle of acclaims for being absolutely perfect. Thus, pay attention to the it-could-have-been-better sayers. So, develop a bunch of ideas & roll out prologues, epilogues that would create a value for the readers by giving them your best ever, everytime. Therefore: Think. Write. Think. Edit. Loop.
The next paradigm is relatively more complicated for forging the success story associated with Authors & their careers because it involves people & that is where my next focus goes which is, #2 – The Readers.
I have already mentioned about the readers being demanding, well that was in the context of them as customers & for most part, it is true. True, if we were to look from their viewpoint & never ending crave for convenience & personalized services. Mostly true, if we were to feel it from their appetite for having everything they want in the right place, at the right time with the right product. This viewpoint right here makes it tough for the Authors to play it cool considering that the readers who generally exhibit buying behaviors of literally getting just about anything anytime, anywhere have a very low threshold for mediocrity. Most of you might be wondering by now why or how I sound like speaking within the brackets of product offerings but this is the new reality. The science of selling to a customer your creation or offering of any kind no longer remains a simple task. Editorially speaking, there is a tremendous amount of chaos in their lives constantly bothering them & might have a low tolerance towards anything that is not as much engaging. This could however vary with respect to age, location, lifestyle etc. which affects their cognition & thought processes differently. Thus, given this complexity, they have to get into telescopic & microscopic views for understanding them better. So, considering all of the turmoil, here are few of the best subjective bets for the Authors to improve their ROQ:
- The Value: What makes you the apple of their eyes? Answering this might be a little tedious job for you since you yourself cannot immediately differentiate among chunks of various write ups that were truly successful to create mental hooks & ensure a loyalty benefit in the longer run. So, have a value spectrum of quants that are the appealing factors which generates that loyalty by getting their preferences & general behavioral reaction towards a new release or even some post which would spread a set of things that they care to see in a literary work for which your work is never underappreciated by them.
- The Bonding: Personal connection can go a long way. Although slightly impractical but try creating visitors’/readers’ profiles & getting to know those initial few on an individual basis & developing a personal relationship will become a key differentiator since positive emotions run only when they care. Then thereafter, take your time to carefully observe any relevant choosing-buying patterns they personally favor while making a choice & arriving at a decision for choosing such.
- The Motivations: Our drives drive us. There is usually a combination of priorities they look out for in any literary production. It could be anything that is generally a quality attribute of the creation itself. Quality attributes could include your style, approach, theme orientations etc. that fits their taste & caters to their intention of buying or buying again. Figuring this bit may as well hit new highs of progressive performance gains & optimized approaches.
- The Experience Transformation Curve & Beyond: Exceeding expectations is better than meeting expectations. Traditionally speaking, you can only innovate so much but with a superior flexibility if you could get to “offer” them & make them feel “empowered” more than just important in the chain of experience cycle, nothing gets as rosy which isn’t a sophisticated thing anymore in this digital era. Being an influencer who rightly bonds, motivates & creates the right tone of value has a greater imperative to make their journey from deciding to choose to loyal soldiers in ways that tends or appear to be more reader-customer centric to strike the finely tuned balance of choice & empowerment. Make every element of your offering a uniquely pleasant ride, starting from the visuals you choose to the variants of merchandising. Have differentiated offerings that generates & develops positive attitudinal attributes that align with the most possible top notch service level dissemination & replicate what an enterprise would normally do. This most definitely ensures reader retention.
Professional writing is a tricky area. You not only have to think it out from a perspective of a content producer but the way the access alternatives of the buying mass is changing, you also have to think it out from the perspective of a content architecture & content engineer too. There are newly emerging disruptive ways to the traditional channels & the way once publishing houses used to do business with their still preferred channels within the national/international markets are no more relevant. New streams have altered the kinematics of the art of writing & publishing that is affecting pricing & marketing strategies of those houses for promotion & author visibility that are leading to eroded profits due to the rise of independent writers & freelancers which is pretty much the trend, much less of a fad which to an extent, is making those firms adopt lean methodologies to compete other e-commerce service providers with entirely new business models. Amazon, for instance has come up with its own alternative publishing strategies beamed towards independent authors for stoking readership & encouraging them [the Authors] to take everything into their own hands so they have no barriers to market entry for a direct interfacing with their books [the products] & the readers themselves. So, as a full timer at this thing or deciding to be one before making a living out of it, they should gauge the economics of this industry & find out the lucrative zones in most relevant ways where they see their chance to make a mark that has a better probability for surviving & thriving. And this brings me to #3 – The Platform[s] with down below having few bullet information as for how to do it in such platforms but not limited to thereof:
- The Branding: Who you are & what you do still counts but how you do it counts more. The objective right here should be to eliminate as many bottlenecks to your personal branding with optimization & maximization of your visibility. The chief driver for the motivation behind the purchase is the author herself/himself & the increasing number of tools & apps with enhanced capabilities for doing so is keeping the authors on the front seat rather the publicist. Effective usage of these online platforms explodes opportunities for the authors even the ones that are just starting off. So, the practice motto for an approach could very well be an agnostic marketing which increases the odds for prospects regardless of the channel.
- The Feedback Loop: Opinions are the cellular blocks for improvisations. A lot of successful & most celebrated authors are also one of those who are active round the clock & deliver snippets of updates often to measure the modalities across their string of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube etc. that are synced with their personal websites. Keeping yourself & your actions aligned towards what’s cooking is going to generate or trigger an alert that keeps the excitement fresh apart from giving you the much necessary public image for what you speak, create & stand for. Thanks to an incredibly rapid smart devices adoption, as activities keep on rising in the form of received comments, likes, tweets/retweets, re-blogs, views & opinions, it would not only help you structure the contents based on awareness of the behavioral exhibits but also helps build a reputation when responded back timely.
- The Money Matters: [Almost] Everything has a price tag. The expenditure heads are quite a few; some of which are really unavoidable for things like website developing, graphics designing etc. for all of your works that requires a practical & realistic budget allocation. Writing is more of an art than skill & starting off with ventures like self-publishing or POD is entrepreneurial. As an entrepreneur yourself, you need to have a very keen sense of various costs for the major expenditures associated with this. A fiscal assertiveness is an absolute necessity for having to crack the code on number crunchers for a more predictable initial scenario planning on those economic gates.
Clayton Christensen hypothesized about the technological changes in the innovation climate & agnostic marketing as an approach in the quest for identifying emerging markets for disruptive technologies which are changing the very fundamentals of how businesses operate that demands new ways to cope with it rather dodge, in his all-time classic, The Innovator’s Dilemma. This phenomenon has taken over almost every industry that involves any degree of value chain that product & service providers leverage to deliver their USPs. The publishing industry & the author’s class is certainly isn’t an exception. Therefore, above all & everything the authors do, it’s the sustainability led vision which lets them shape shift & eventually excel in their chosen profession that shall make them different.
Thank you loads for visiting & taking your time out for reading. Comments | Feedbacks | Queries | Add-ons are dearly welcome!
Cover Picture Credit: Huffington Post
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 ROQ [Expanded] – Returns Over Quality
 POD [Expanded] – Print-on-Demand
 USP [Expanded] – Unique Selling Proposition