Sunday, October 10, 2010

What's the Plan?

I’m a big picture thinker.  But I realize that just thinking big isn’t enough to get my book published: I also need to organize, plan, and execute. 

Since my day job involves executive coaching and professional development, I’ve been trained and tested in all manner of personality instruments, and the latest one (the Hermann Brain Dominance Indicator or HBDI) confirmed what I’ve always known: I’m most comfortable in the space of thinking strategically, holistically, intuitively, integratively.  I’m less attracted to administrative, planning, and controlling activities. However, if I want to produce books, I realize I need to utilize both types of skills. (The premise of the HBDI is that we all have preferences--e.g., left brain, right brain--but to be most effective in life, we would develop our “whole brain” by actively cultivating the skills we’re less naturally inclined toward, or at least being aware of the pitfalls of not doing so, and coming up with some compensating strategies.)

I wonder if many writers (especially of fiction) aren’t similar, with a natural tendency toward imaginative thinking, and preferring activities like: looking at the big picture, taking initiative, challenging assumptions, visuals, metaphoric thinking, creative problem solving, and long term thinking. These seem to me to be absolutely essential skills for producing a good piece of writing. Now, enter the prospect of turning that (hopefully good) piece of writing into a product that can be marketed and sold effectively.  At least according to the HBDI, the skills required are on the other side of the brain. So, it might take active cultivating for many writers who are also aspiring publishers to do all of the steps associated with the production side of process. Or, to outsource to experts.

Here’s how I’ve approached the challenge of incorporating my whole brain into this process of strategizing, but also organizing and planning:

First, I want to be absolutely clear on my GOAL. Why am I pursuing this path, and can I define it clearly to myself and others?  What, precisely, am I trying to accomplish, and how will I know if I’ve succeeded?

Second, I think it’s essential to look at CONTEXT. How well do I understand the publishing world as it exists today? How well do I grasp the way that technology and other trends are changing it? What is happening with competition? Can I imagine the future well enough to create a compelling strategy for getting my own work into the world?

Next, I’ll determine my overall STRATEGY. What, specifically, will be my approach to focusing my time and resources so that I can achieve the goal? If the essence of strategy is choice, what will I do, versus not do?

Finally, I’ll zero in on the myriad aspects of MARKETING that require a disciplined blend of strategy and execution.  Marketing strategy is about really understanding my target market--who is my reader and how does he/she make decisions to buy and read a book?  Marketing tactics, or execution, are all about how to put a winning product into the market and get it into the hands of my target market.  For this, I’ll use the classic “marketing mix” as a checklist, including Product (the book itself), Pricing, Placement (distribution), and Promotion (publicity, etc.).   

More to come this week on these topics, starting with Goals!

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