Wednesday, October 18, 2006

7. Going Corporate or Going Solo

So you’ve put together a product that you’re confident will sell. You believe in yourself and your work. Your peers think you have a shot. That level of belief that you have just spent critical months and/or years building up means almost nothing in the wide world of capitalism, if you approach it from the wrong direction. In fact, if you are not careful, all of your enthusiasm for your art will be squashed flat in no time, leaving you to sit alone in your room, bitter and disillusioned.

With that in mind, it’s time to make some cold, calculated business choices, the biggest of which is “How do you want to mass produce and/or sell your material?” The most important thing you can do is a large amount of research into your publication options. (You have no excuse for not doing this, by the way. Unless someone handed you a hard copy of this guide, you probably have access to Google, so use it.)

The big decision is whether to go corporate or to go solo. Both of these choices are ambitious, but each offers a different reward. If you are hell-bent on getting paid the big money, going corporate is probably your best choice. Another reason for going corporate is the deep-seated desire for professional validation. Before you head down that path, though, it’s good to know what the pitfalls are. The companies that produce and distribute most entertainment in the world tend to be highly risk-averse, conservative organizations. There are large rewards associated with letting someone else sell your work, but there are more failures than successes, in general.

On the other hand, going solo allows you to have complete creative freedom over your work. Large publishers are looking for work that fits within a narrow, “marketable” mold and if your writing does not, then you are likely to be stuck out in the cold, no matter how good the writing may actually be. However, going solo provides you with an opportunity to take a chance on yourself. The biggest pitfall here, however, is the fact that you will be stuck building a reputation, a brand and a market from scratch. You will not have the organization’s extensive experience or network of contacts to fall back on.

In either situation, it is important to remember that your chances of financial success are extremely slim. However, if you are ambitious and willing to work very hard at selling yourself and selling your product, it is possible to achieve your goals. Becoming a self-made (wo)man is the American dream, after all. There is no reason why you cannot make that dream come true, if you are willing to make the supreme effort.

In the end, I can’t tell you which path to take. Most of everything I’ve written to date leans towards self-publication because it requires that you sell yourself once – directly to the public. Anything corporate requires that you sell yourself to talent scouts first, then to the people who greenlight your production, then again to the public. If you are stubborn/determined enough to spend several years working through this process with little or no promise of an eventual reward, then knock yourself out. The rest of us are going to go out back and learn about setting the terms of our success.