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Producer Stew?


Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock directing Family Plot (1975). Photo by Stan Osborne. Wikimedia Commons.

Once anyone decides to write a book, they are confronted with many decisions. Believe it or not, writing a book is easy (you can always get a ghost writer). However, everything else associated with it requires a lot of thought and planning. Why? Because the typical writer has limited resources and there are many ways he or she can spend their money (beyond the actual cost of publishing the book).

The big money its in publishing (and the most mysterious to self-publishing authors) are the distribution and marketing components (they go hand-in-hand). In other words, now that you have boxes of books in your garage (or even just an ePub version), how are you going to sell your book and make any money? Frankly, there are so many avenues an author can go down that it becomes overwhelming. It’s also one of those components of publishing a book where the author must push all their chips onto the table. So it becomes an exercise in determining where the greatest return-on-assets (ROI) will be achieved.

Out of the blue, I was asked by a local public television access channel to produce a 10-episode television series based on the first 4 walking tour books (French Revolution–two volumes, Medieval Paris, and the Nazi Occupation of Paris). At the same time, I’m confronted with doing ePub conversions of the books for Amazon Kindle, Apple’s iBooks, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Oh, and then there’s developing an app for the walking tours. What about hiring someone to get the books into the book catalogues that retailers use to purchase books for their shelves? What about the choice of different distribution channels such as big box retailers, small independent book stores, libraries, or even the bookstore at the airports that are gateways to Paris? So what does one choose to do when their stack of chips is only so high? I know what I’m going to do.

I’m going to move forward with the television series. Why? Because it’s sexy, glamorous, good for the resume, and it’s fun to tell people I’m a television producer? You bet. Well, that is if I can convince myself that there is an end game here for reaching or even developing an audience. Where would a finished television series end up? My demographic audience for buying the walking tour books has been defined but would they be the audience tuning in to the channel showing my series? I suppose it’s a crapshoot to a great extent (much like spending all that money to reach out to the French teachers in America—that was a bust but it sure made sense at the time). I guess it’s similar to the process a new author must go through before they write their book. They need to determine if there is an audience out there to buy the book. If there isn’t, why spend the time to write it and the money to publish it?

Eighteen months ago, I developed a 2-minute video to show on YouTube. It was 2 separate scenes of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The first scene had them sitting down in the Hall of Mirrors (Versailles Palace) talking to one another. In the second scene, they were standing and holding their heads while the heads talked to one another. The video experts asked me what I hope to accomplish. I said, “I want this to go on YouTube and go viral.” They laughed. But just before I wrote a check, I decided the ROI would be very small on this project. My demographic audience doesn’t watch YouTube. So I decided to use the money in a better way.

I’ve just finished my required courses in television production. I had to take classes on how to work a television camera, lighting, scenery, and other technical aspects of producing a show. Then came the classes on how to actually produce a show. In other words, I can now produce and direct the show from within a glass booth, much like the Wizard of Oz.

Stay tuned to this channel for more on my adventures as a television producer.

Do we have a lot of stories? Of course we do. I’m looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our newsletter and blog. Perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on the most recent newsletter and blog posts.

Thanks so much for following my newsletter and blogs as well as my little journey through this incredibly interesting process of writing a series of niche walking tour books based on European historical periods or events.

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Copyright © 2015 Stew Ross

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