Playing The Numbers

Friday, October 22, 2010

NOTE: The pics that backdrop some of my template have up and disappeared (!!!!!!:( ).  I will see if I can load them up before the day ends.

Wow!  This week totally flew by, and when I say flew, I mean in more than one way.  I was basically in the air almost every day this week--not a usual occurence, but one I do enjoy when it happens.  On Monday, I headed out to Naples and back, Tuesday brought some training, Wednesday we flew to Rota, Spain and then we flew the return leg Friday.  This morning, I'm in early again for a trip to Greece and then back to Naples.  In total, more than 25 hours airborne.  I feel like a world traveler, a vagabond of some sort.

As is the way with real life (RL we can call it for short), it gets in the way of some things--writing for example.  I do have some concern that I will have trouble maintaining the required pace to complete NaNoWriMo if I draw a busy flying week or two in November, but I am still committed to trying to pull if off.  If push comes to shove, I'll drag the laptop along and hole up in my room in the evenings to make sure I make my goals.

But I'm not overly concerned about it, because I'm in it for the long haul.  In fact, on one of the flights I got to talking with my co-pilot about the book I'm currently reading (Anita Shreve's The Pilot's Wife) and that lead to a discussion of NaNoWriMo, and all that writing a novel entails.

He was surprised (beyond simply finding out that I wrote or tried to write fiction--a very unpiloty occupation) that I had not one but three ideas for novels, all of which I expected to complete over the next two to three years.  Wouldn't it be better, he questioned, to put all my effort into one novel, send it out, see how it does, before I start into another project?

After sharing that some novelists never even "break out"--to steal a term from Donald Maass--until their third or fourth book, if ever, I explained that I was expecting to stick around for a few years.  I wasn't expecting quick success.  If I got it, so much the better, but based on an evaluation of my current writing skills and the market, I still have plenty of work to do.  Thus, I think it is unreasonable to expect to achieve overwhelming success on the first try, although I do understand that it happens from time to time.  It's a question of whether people are buying what you're selling.

A thousand years ago, in another life, when I sold life insurance and financial products door-to-door for a national insurance company, I had one of my sales managers explain the problem thusly:

1) Assume that for every ten doors you knock on, you get in three doors.  In other words, they want to hear your presentation, hear what you have to say.

2) Then assume that for every ten customers who hear your presentation, three say yes they are interested.

3)  Then assume that for every ten that say yes, seven are qualified (after seeing the doctor, etc.).

What that means is, if I wanted to sell ten policies a month (enough to make a living on), I would need to knock on 159 doors.

In the interest of showing my work:

159   x .3 =  47.7 let you in.

47.7  x .3 =  14.3 show interest.

14.3  x .7 =  10.01 are qualified and purchase a policy.

For me, the takeaway is that you can't predict what people will like.  You can't judge the market or time your submission to give you an advantage.  You might get lucky and market realities or some new buzz might help you out, but the opposite is just as likely to happen.  The only choice left then, IMHO, is to keep slogging away until some agent somewhere bites--and that means knocking on a lot of doors.  In my mind that means having more than one novel in the planning phase--and querying anyone and everyone with the one completed.

It's like when Isaac Asimov--who wrote more than 700 books in his lifetime--was asked what he would say if his doctor told him he had only six months left to live.  "Type faster," he said.  :D

What about you?  What is your approach to planning your next writing project?  Do you have subsequent projects in the works, even before you've completed the one you're working on?  How do you go about knocking on doors, or querying?

7 bolts from the blue:

Donna Hole said...

I have a couple projects I'm working on now - fantasy and sci-fi types. The womens fiction novels have pretty much been shelved.

Aa lot of research is going into the fantasy's though. Short stories are my new obsession.

Like you JP, I'm just hanging out. I'm enjoying writing whenever I can, but that other life gets in the way. The odds are better that I'll make money at my day life for a long time to come.

I write, I submit, and I hope one day . .

And I buy a lotto ticket too :) Gotta keep up the optimism.

What a week of flying you've had. Hope you got to see some country up close once in a while.

..........dhole

Liza said...

I do have a hard time focusing on more than one thing at a time...but when the current project finally gets into good shape...and that point is a long ways away, I'll start something new. I LOVE The Pilot's Wife.

Jon Paul said...

Donna, Liza--Thanks for stopping by and for the moral support. It's much appreciated!

Claire Dawn said...

I have ideas out the wazoo. Most of them are just seed right now, but they're there. Meaning I really need to live by Asimov's advice.

Jon Paul said...

Claire--I have a ton of ideas too, although most of my ideas fit better in a short story. But yeah, as I'm getting up in years, Asimov's advice becomes more and more pertinent.

Thanks for checking in! :)

G.G. said...

My advice:
1) Don't send your MS or proposal out to agents until five good critical and analytical people have read it first. Otherwise you might think it's more ready than it is.
2) Have three people vet your query letter to your agent.
3) Instead of randomly flipping through guides to agents, find the agent of a book similar to yours.
4) The agent should live in NYC or maybe San Francisco. Otherwise she/he will not be talking to editors at parties and too far away to get you in the door.

Jon Paul said...

Dude--Solid advice, that! Once I get my printer up and running, I'm gonna print that list and tack it up on my board.

Thanks for checking in!

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