Over at M&M Monsters, the marketing site where I collaborate with my bestie, we have spent the last year defining our business goals and product offerings. We have done a lot of soul searching and have picked three main areas to focus on; writing marketing books, speaking at events and consulting with companies about their marketing strategy.
Much in the manner of “ask and you shall receive”, as soon as we hit publish on our first real book on Amazon (we had done ebooks and giveaways prior to this) we got a really exciting offer. A BOOK DEAL from a genuine publisher! The cool thing was that it was not a book we would write spontaneously ourselves!
It had some seriously big upsides for us. The status of having a real book in bookstores, having book-books to hand out, the opportunity to work with a publisher and see the process behind the scenes and there was pay involved! So we have spent a couple of weeks submitting outlines, negotiating contracts, etc. and (as you can probably guess by the title of this post) turning them down!
For me, it was totally a time management and benefits analysis problem, with a little bit of woo-woo thrown in…as in the universe kept sending me messages that getting derailed off of our primary goals could be a bad thing. Here are my top reasons why a great opportunity should sometimes be turned down!
1. Does it fit with your current business goals?
Our goal this year is to write a non-fiction ebook a week and sell them on Amazon. We may branch out and start selling on other sites AFTER the year is up, but dividing our efforts and energies at this stage of the game seems silly. We are on published book number six this week and have the outline for book seven which will go out next week.
The first book was a nightmare of formatting and figuring out how to produce actual words on a page that Amazon would accept. But we sold some and continue to sell some of that one each week!
We now have a great process for publishing and our books are getting better and better each week. We have found a writing style that combines both of our voices and the review and editing is down pat at this point (want to follow along on our book writing journey?)
So YES! A book deal at this point seemed like a great opportunity! It did fit into our current business goals.
2. Does it fit with your current product offerings?
I have always called things outside the scope of what we do a “one off” from the manufacturing world. A one off is something that is outside the scope of what your usual product line is. For our marketing company, doing a ecommerce site like Amazon would be a one off. We don’t deal with shopping carts, SSL certificates or the like when we build a marketing blog for our clients so we would have to learn all about those technologies to do a good job.
The thing is, you cannot charge anyone else for your inexperience. If we were to take that job and it took us twice as long because we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, we could still only charge the customer the going rate. It is not their fault that this isn’t our expertise. (want more? read all about one-offs here)
So our book deal would definitely be a one-off. They were looking for a technical manual with a short paragraph about what to do and then bullet points about the steps to do it. Hmmmmm. As you can tell 600 words into a simple blog post, I am more writery. I like to explain the strategy and reasons why. We went back and forth a bunch with an outline, us adding juicy bits that would help explain the marketing strategy and them cutting them back out and saying that we needed more screen captures and bullet points.
3. Is it a zebra?
There is a great quote that I heard somewhere, “if you hear hoofbeats don’t think zebra it is probably a horse”. Now I know we have bastardized this a bit, but we are constantly looking for zebras in our business. Things that could cause problems down the line if we take them as opportunities.
Years ago we got a marketing client who was “special”. Early on in the process we found that she was unable to grasp even the simplest concepts about online marketing or email. She did not value them because she didn’t use them herself and so could not understand why anyone else would either. We had a six month contract and after six months of almost nightly emails criticizing every aspect of the work we did, we were finally able to let her go back into the wild. Whew.
Now, we sorta, kinda knew from our initial meetings that she would be a little “special”. The signs were there, we just chose to ignore them as it was a time when we needed to get another client on board.
The one thing this zebra and other “special” clients has shown me is that if they say they have worked with three or more marketing people before us and they have all been worthless A-Holes, the problem is probably not with the marketing people. Early in my career I thought I could fix everything and do everything better than anyone else on the planet. So when someone came to me and said that their previous marketing company was lame, I figured I could do better! Not so much…if the client values those marketing people so little they probably won’t get us copy on time, will balk at every idea we give them and will probably require round after round of graphic concepts. Being a little older and a whole lot wiser now, I tend to run from these “opportunities”.
This book writing opportunity felt a little bit like the Social Media Examiner zebra I had already seen.
If you haven’t had a chance to read that post yet, basically I applied to write for the Social Media Examiner and they accepted me! YAY! Then they proceeded to turn down about 20 titles I suggested that I would be good at writing about…BOO. Then they finally picked one! YAY! Then we commenced a month long back and forth of me submitting my writing and them rejecting it because it had words and strategy…are you seeing what I am seeing? I have seen this zebra before and it turned out that we parted ways with me doing a lot of work and getting no glory from it! This book “opportunity” was feeling like that…like we would submit revision after revision, us adding words and them removing them.
4. Do you have a funny feeling that it just isn’t right?
Lastly, is the “Oprah effect” as we like to call it. Oprah was a big talker about how the universe tries to tell you things like your boyfriend is a homicidal maniac who will spend the next 7 years stalking you if you go ahead and marry him. Oprah says it starts with a whisper in the back of your mind telling you that this is not right…then it goes to a murmuring and eventually the universe hits you upside the head with a brick.
I am enthralled with the process of self publishing and how to market books right now and am listening to podcasts about this voraciously. I listen mostly to the Self Publishing Podcast guys because they cuss and have a great time AND great info. So one of their biggest regrets from the last year of successfully publishing a metric shit-ton of books is that they took a book deal and it derailed their efforts because they didn’t have control and they had to keep to the timelines of their publisher.
Hmmm…that was the most blatant one, but there were other niggling things that said it was hard to go from loosey goosey writing whatever you want to writing what someone else thought that you should write and that many of the indie authors were turning down book deals from traditional New York City publishers because they could make more money in less time by doing it themselves.
Time Management Tips
So if you have gotten all the way down here and are still looking for time management tips, here are my top tips for this kind of thing!
- Have ROCK SOLID, TAKE NO PRISONER goals for your business and hold every opportunity up against them to see if it will be a good fit
- Be willing to take the time UP FRONT to find out everything you can and make sure there isn’t something hiding in there that will bite you in the ass later on
- Know your limitations…we COULD have written the book, but it would have taken up huge amounts of our work cycles weekly that might be better spent elsewhere
- Walk away if you get the willies…you are never going to be more excited about an opportunity then at the start, if you feel “weird” at the start, it will never get better
Last but not least, know that something better WILL come along! There is a saying that when God closes a door he opens a window. Today, having finally figured out it wasn’t a good fit and sending my amazing opportunity to two buddies who it would be better for it, it feels like there might not be other opportunities like this again. Having spent a few weeks spinning my wheels, I hope not!
But, I KNOW that the next one to come along will be a better fit and that because I am not doing this one I will have the time and open hand to receive it!