June 14, 2016 marks a first for Acumen Learning: Senior Consultant Dave Butler’s novel The Kidnap Plot was released. You can find the book in a bookstore near you, or on Amazon here. In this post, we talk with Dave about The Kidnap Plot and about the business of being a novelist.
Acumen Learning: I guess you want to tell us what the book is about.
Dave Butler: Naturally! The Kidnap Plot is about a boy named Charlie, whose father is kidnapped. Charlie organizes a rescue party, including a troll lawyer, a kobold inventor, an outcast pixie, and two chimney sweeps. Over the course of the investigation and the rescue, Charlie becomes an adventurer and learns dark truths about his father and himself.
AL: That sounds like a fantasy novel for kids. Something like Harry Potter, maybe?
DB: Exactly. And like J.K. Rowling, hopefully I’ve written an adventure tale that can be enjoyed by adults as well as by children.
AL: I’ve heard you say you’re an advocate for writers being more business-savvy. Can you tell us what you mean? Better yet, can you tell us what you mean using the 5 Business Drivers™?
DB: You bet. Every writer begins not just as a business, but as a start-up. Your key drivers for a start-up in any industry are Cash and People [makes the dance moves]. You get investor money and watch your cash burn rate, or as veteran writers always tell the newbies, don’t quit your day job!
You as CEO of your writing business also make your key alliances: Will you have an agent? Will you contract an editor, an assistant, a publisher? Will you do all the marketing yourself, or will you engage help? Who will distribute books to readers? On what terms, and what roles with those people play in your business? Like any startup, you’re looking for a path to get your product to market in a way that generates positive, consistent, predictable cash flows . . . at which point, you’re not a start-up anymore.
AL: Tell me about Assets. You write with a laptop?
DB: Sure. And I have maps and notepads and books for research and a home office. But my key assets are the intellectual property I’m generating—the stories, protected by copyright. And my key questions are really all about those Assets and People: Are my stories protected from pirates? Will they appeal to the publishers who are my channels to readers? Will they appeal to readers, and to which readers? How are they positioned with respect to other stories in the market? How will they be viewed by bookstore owners and managers?
AL: So besides consistent cash flow, how will you measure Growth?
DB: Publications. Publishing contracts. Publishing milestones like foreign rights sales, performance rights sales, and so on. Social media followers. Bestseller lists. Repeat customers. Reviews. Profit, hopefully. So far my writing business makes losses. Ha!
AL: Well, I hope you’re working on that. I’ve heard it said that to be sustainable a business needs to generate positive Profit over time.
DB: Fortunately, I know what my levers are: keep costs down, differentiate my books, and above all, sell more copies!
AL: Good luck!
About Acumen Learning
Founded in 2002, Acumen Learning's highly customized business acumen and sales training programs have helped organizations develop employees who are more engaged, efficient, and effective in their work. To further support its mission, Acumen Learning published, Seeing the Big Picture – Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company, in 2012 which quickly became a #1 Wall Street Journal and a New York Times bestseller. More than 15 years later, Acumen Learning has been trusted by more than 200 organizations on six continents to help employees understand how their company makes money, and to take real steps towards improving that process.