Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Business of Writing.

I approach publishing in a very different way than I once would have.  I approach it as someone who has owned a small business for 30 years.  I can't help but see all the parallels.

There is not only the long term growth strategy of the store, but there is the growth strategy of individual elements in the store.

What I learned to do over the years, by trial and error, was to develop each product line in a systematic way.

First, I would do the research.  Often, I would have one person mention something, and my ears would perk up.  Then a second person would volunteer a request, and I'd start looking to fulfill the demand.  A third person clinches it.

So, for instance, I recently read an article about how the "Pop" vinyl toys are beginning to have some traction.  So I took notice.  Then yesterday, had a guy from Seattle come in (it's always someone from San Fransisco or Seattle or some place like that) who requested some "Pop" toys, and said a store he shops at had an entire wall of them.  That sent me to the ordering site to see how many were available...

Second, I make an initial order.  Usually enough to be noticed, but not enough to break the bank.  I test which of the individual items are most likely to sell.  I see what the response is.  With any encouragement at all, I start to order new toys as they come out, as well as go back and order backstock.

I move something moribund out of the way.  (I leave the moribund until there is a reason to move it, because it usually means any sale is profit.)

Third, I accept the fact that it may take months and possibly even years to make money on a product.  I plow most of the money back into the product, and thus risk that it will die on me before it becomes a profit center.  This happens occasionally, and it is the risk I take to create enduring, evergreen profit centers.  So, for instance, Magic cards are a solid month in and month out profit making venture.  But manga and anime really died before I was able to turn a real profit.  (I try very hard to at least not lose money.)

Fourth, I keep a consistent and engaging level of inventory and involvement in the product line.  The customer comes to expect that I will have it.  Eventually, some browsers become buyers.

So what did I learn from this? 

Take advantage of opportunities.

Take the time to develop the product, carry as much as can be afforded and fitted. 

Be consistent and steady over a long period of time. 

Invest in the venture, and not expect to make a profit right away.

Prepare the overall ground, and not expect specific success immediately.  

There are tons of other parallels, but suffice it to say for the moment that -- be patient and be consistent and be productive, and eventually people come around.

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