I’m a businessman. I don’t often think of myself in this way, but it’s true. I’m in the business of writing, publishing and selling books. And let me tell you, as a businessman, I make a really good writer. When it comes to the development of product, I’m doing fine. It’s all the other aspects related to treating this profession as a business where I’m not so strong.
Most times, I manage to put the business-y aspects of writing to the side while I focus on my stories. But every so often, something happens that makes me reflect on the business side of what I do. Recently, this occured while I was watching the television program Shark Tank.
Shark Tank is the Australian version of a show that I believe exists in a number of other countries. It’s not always called Shark Tank. In the UK (and possibly elsewhere) a similarly styled show is called Dragons’ Den.
If you’re familiar with either of these shows, you should know the format. A bunch of entrepreneurs present their business ideas to a group of seriously rich people (the sharks) in order to try to convince them to hand over a big wad of money (or to invest, as someone a little more polite might say). Much of the drama (and some unintended comedy) comes from different perceptions of the value of the business between the entrepreneurs and the sharks.
As I watch this show, I can’t help thinking how I would go if I tried to pitch my business to the sharks. After all, I am an entrepreneur. I’ve written these wonderful books, so how good would it be to have an investor give me lots of cash to help take them to market. I can imagine how it would go.
I reckon it would start off really great. I’d bring in some of my books and hand them around so the sharks could see how fun and colorful they are. I can almost hear the appreciative comments as they turned the pages. And then the questions would begin.
“So how many books have you written?” That’s an easy one. “Ten in total. Three novels, five novellas, and two picture books. With another picture book coming out soon.”
“How many books have you sold so far?” Not so easy. I have a rough idea but I’m not sure I want to share it with the sharks. I don’t want to scare them away too quickly.
“What are your projected sales over the next year?” What? How am I supposed to know that?
“What sort of plan do you have to develop this business?” Um, er, I’m supposed to have a plan? Nobody told me about that before.
By this point, I’d be stuttering and muttering and fluffing my answers completely. I’d probably be doing anything I could to distract the sharks. Maybe telling bad jokes or doing some kind of interpretive dance.
I can hear the responses from the sharks. “I’m out.” “I’m out.” “I’m out.”
I don’t think I’d last very long on Shark Tank. I think they’d see through my lack of business savvy in a second. But that’s not going to stop me continuing to do my best to get my books out there.
Who knows. Maybe some day I’ll just get lucky.
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