Changing Revenue Model...#2: Risks
Here's the next follow-up to my earlier post about the 6 tactics that I recommend as a way of dealing with the changing revenue model in publishing. This post provides more depth on item #2 in that earlier list: Risk.
This one is pretty simple. Rather than putting all your chips on a small number of projects, I highly recommend that you place more bets, putting fewer chips on each. Some of these will undoubtedly show more promise than others, so you start to fund those more than the others, letting the weaker ones die off. Many organizations have a bad habit of identifying a small number of new initiatives and heavily investing in each. What happens when any one of them fails? More pressure falls on the even smaller number of remaining initiatives. This model also tends to suffer more from the "too many cooks in the kitchen" problem, probably because everyone tends to get overly focused on the handful of high-profile, A+ initiatives in the organization.
I'm an advocate of launching more experiments rather than less, even if, no, especially if that means we don't have a lot of funding for any given one. Critics will refer to this as a "let's throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" mentality. Far from it. I'm not saying you should mindlessly try every combination of new idea, topic, etc.; I'm just saying that more irons in the fire is better than fewer.
Isn't it interesting that many (most?) successful series in our business actually started life as single titles? On the other hand, lots of big, new exciting series where several books are published at launch often turn out to be disappointments if not outright failures. It's hard to manufacture a blockbuster series, at least right from the start; they tend to begin life as a great idea delivered as a "one-off" that eventually grows into a series. This is exactly what I'm talking about: Experimenting with one-off's and making additional investments where you see traction. It applies to the print world as well as the online one.
Let me revisit that funding issue I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago. I like it when there's very little money to throw at a new idea because it forces me to think of creative ways to get it off the ground. Why is that so important? Because more often than not I have to look at the opportunity wearing something other than my "book publisher" hat, and that's a good thing.