Turning complexity into clarity.

Where has this column / concept of the First $10,000 gone? It's been lost in the Hinterland of hard work. Try finding a SFW image to accompany a piece with 'orgy' in the title Some of it has been hard work to prep for my own first $10,000 (that's what this is-- not a "I did it, now you can too", it's a "This is my journey, enjoy the show"). I was so Hell bent to get my act down, that I forgot that I needed to have the core of it-- a product. A product in the broadest sense is something produced. It can be custom work. It can be a tangible item. It can be a book. It can be a website that people use. It can be a dog washing service. Like in elementary school, a product is the result of a multiplication. Raw material X Effort = Result. That doesn't always mean it can amplify. Done right, it's 5 X 5 = 25. Done wrong, it's 0.2 X 0.2 = 0.04-- a result much smaller than its contributions. Bad start-ups do that. They burn through cash and give you pretty buttons and FAQ pages; but no product.
So, I have some of my act down: marketing, planning, etc.. But the important part: the product is what I've been working on. I've always known that a product was key, but getting the time to do 20 minutes of marketing is easy. Getting the time to build the next Pinterest is trickier to come by. We launched, Pin It To Profit as an Amazon Kindle ebook at the start of May 2012. Another ebook (a fiction anthology) is coming in June. I am working on three sites in succession: Meatsplit, then Quaterfame, then turning back to that old chestnut CrowdPublishing.
I had a frustrating week that spurred me to get back on the train with this series. We all need money. We would all like to have enough money (the "enough" is subjective). I hate money and what it represents nowadays, but I still want it. Money solves many problems. Money is a product of your time, effort and smarts. I have a cautionary tale about a friend who has gone to the brink. Two of his tires are over the edge and pebbles are popping over into the abyss as foreshadowing. That's not where I like to drive. I like to have all four wheels on the asphalt and cruising down the highway. I would like to just hand him and all of my friends money. Really: if I win the lottery, a lot of it will just be handed to friends. I hate the idea of saying, "You made a bad financial decision and this is your wake-up call." I'd much rather say, "Let's go to the bank and get you that money, so that we can put this disagreeable topic behind us."
My friend has been working on a book. His work is excellent; so, as you would expect, his book is excellent. When you want to make money on a book, you publish it. You send it to a publisher; or you get an agent and ask them to do that on your behalf; or you open your wallet and fund it to be self-published. That is the only way you turn a salable book into cash. So in response, my friend builds a very polished slideshow with dramatic music and transitions timed to the music. Very breathtaking. But, publishers want a proposal, an outline and samples (chapters, photos, etc.). Making a publisher see a slideshow for a prospective book is like making your prospective boss watch you cook breakfast in lieu of a job interview: NOT WHAT THEY WANT. I urged him to prepare a proposal, or engage an agent, or use IndieGoGo to bootstrap it. Those suggestions were resisted.
So he has a slideshow for a book. Okay. (Breathe. Breathe.). What could one do with a slideshow? They could take it on tour, give presentations and talk about the slideshow. You're playing to an audience of 10 to 100 people, but you could have a donation jar with the suggested take of $5 per person and that could be worth one's while. That's a little labour intensive, but it does allow one to monetize the slideshow that is otherwise not worth money. That was resisted, too.
When we were looking at a way to output it to edit the slideshow, there was a big "DVD Movie" option. Bam! A DVD and case is $1.50 or less to produce. Shipping would always be an added part of the cost borne by the customer. So, if you want a 5:1 retail:manufacturing ratio, any price above $7.50 for this DVD of the slideshow would be gravy. Almost every computer comes with a DVD burner. And printers can make DVD labels. You could start churning out DVDs in 2 hours. Put up a bunch of ads about the Interwebs, start selling these, and produce them as the orders come in. That was also resisted.
All of the material for the book has been matched to a cross reference on a map. You have a this crazy amount of historically significant information stored in a logical fashion. Canada is comparatively generous with its government grants. That version of this project screams a need to be funded by the Canadian government. That suggestion was not well received.
The lessons here:
  • Finish what you start.
  • A mediocre product outsells an unpublished product.
  • If your product's intellectual property can be reworked into another product, do it (eg. Jar-Jar slippers, or Flinstones chewable vitamins)
  • Know when you've stumbled upon a product orgy-- a whole slough of products that can come from one idea.
  • When you are aiming to satisfy the demands of a product release, do that. In the game of rock-paper-scissors, the guy with the candy cane doesn't get to play.
  • Always look for the shortest path to completion. Life is journey, but product releases are about expediency.
  • Finish a product entirely and then move on. Or, dump the project, and move on. Sorry: it may be your baby, but it's not a real baby.