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Karro
08-11-2009, 09:54 AM
So... I'm currently knee-deep in an evening MBA program, and right now I'm taking this entrepreneurship class. On Thursday I have to submit an assignment where I detail a few entrepreneurial ideas, and we were given a creativity-aid to help get us started.

In flipping through that aid, I came across an idea that suggested using your hobby as the basis for a business plan - but you can't just use your hobby, you have to come up with a unique angle, and think about the problems that exist in the way things are currently done in your hobby and propose a solution that would add value.

So... my favorite hobbies: writing and reading fantasy & science fiction, producing and appreciating art with a fantasy or sci-fi theme, and enjoying all other forms of media where I might find a fantasy or sci-fi theme. So, I've been pondering how that could translate this into a business, particularly on the "production" side is where my interest most specifically lies. So, I've been trying to get my head into this, and figure out what the problem is, currently, with the production and distribution of fantasy and sci-fi themed media.

The only idea I've come up with so far is something like IP/license management, based on the idea that (a) sometimes creatives in one medium have a great idea but lack the skills to fully express that idea across multiple media and (b) the traditional method of "licensing" popular IP in one medium to other media often produces lackluster results in the alternative media format, I suspect due to a lack of passion for the IP/project from the non-originating creatives in the other media to whom the license is given. Still... I'm not sure how to monetize this concept.

So... I thought I'd ask you guys, where there are many professional creatives/producers of fantasy and sci-fi themed media, and where there are many ardent consumers of the same. In your opinions, what are the major problems, currently, with the production and distribution of fantasy and sci-fi themed media - novels, short stories, games (Video/Computer, RPGs, Board games, etc.), art, films, music, etc?

Diamond
08-11-2009, 10:10 AM
I think one of the problems lies in the marketing. People have always seen scifi/fantasy as a brand of geekitude. Well, fair enough. I'll admit to being a part-time geek. :D But the problem with that is, it's not going to draw in a huge general audience. Things are starting to shift a little, with Peter Jackson's LotR movies and now the increasing popularity of superhero movies, drawing in folks who otherwise would've just sneered at actually reading LotR or a comic book. But it's still not enough to push the genre into full-spectrum acceptance.

So... maybe something with a marketing angle? Something designed to make scifi and fantasy appeal to a broader spectrum of folks?

Greason Wolfe
08-11-2009, 10:26 AM
In all honesty, I'd have to mimic what I've read in several of the writing workshop type books for sci-fi and fantasy in that there is a lot of stuff published in the genre that doesn't exactly fit. For me, it's become really bad as of late. Every time I walk into my local Borders or Barnes and Noble, half of what I see in the sci-fi/fantasy sections are pesudo-vampire/romance novels. Not that there's anything wrong with such novels, but, IMHO, they just don't fit in the sci-fi/fantasy category. I mean, seeing something like The Vampire Kama-Sutra on the shelf next to LoTR causes my eyes to bug out and such. So maybe something along the lines of an independent book store chain that has tighter categories . . . I dunno, maybe that wouldn't work. :|

GW

Karro
08-11-2009, 11:54 AM
I think one of the problems lies in the marketing. People have always seen scifi/fantasy as a brand of geekitude. Well, fair enough. I'll admit to being a part-time geek. :D But the problem with that is, it's not going to draw in a huge general audience. Things are starting to shift a little, with Peter Jackson's LotR movies and now the increasing popularity of superhero movies, drawing in folks who otherwise would've just sneered at actually reading LotR or a comic book. But it's still not enough to push the genre into full-spectrum acceptance.

So... maybe something with a marketing angle? Something designed to make scifi and fantasy appeal to a broader spectrum of folks?

Yeah, I agree fantasy & sci-fi have gotten short-shrift, culturally and in the marketing universe. But as you say, with the immense popularity on a global scale of the LotR movies, the Harry Potter books, and Superhero movies... the landscape is starting to shift on this one. Could do a marketing firm devoted exclusively to sci-fi and fantasy IP, though... Not a bad idea, and in the changing cultural context, might even be feasible.


In all honesty, I'd have to mimic what I've read in several of the writing workshop type books for sci-fi and fantasy in that there is a lot of stuff published in the genre that doesn't exactly fit. For me, it's become really bad as of late. Every time I walk into my local Borders or Barnes and Noble, half of what I see in the sci-fi/fantasy sections are pesudo-vampire/romance novels. Not that there's anything wrong with such novels, but, IMHO, they just don't fit in the sci-fi/fantasy category. I mean, seeing something like The Vampire Kama-Sutra on the shelf next to LoTR causes my eyes to bug out and such. So maybe something along the lines of an independent book store chain that has tighter categories . . . I dunno, maybe that wouldn't work. :|

GW

See... I kind of think of it the other way, where Vampire Romance serves as a kind of trojan horse for acceptance of "speculative fiction" as a whole. I see it as one more example of something from the fantasy/sci-fi world catching hold in the general public and making our stuff that much more credible.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, guys!

Koor
08-11-2009, 05:51 PM
I would have to go with quality of product when dealing with an off media, as being the biggest problem. We all know games based off movies have a history of being terrible, and movies based off books tend to leave the readers frustrated and annoyed.

The solution to this would be having all of this done in house, using the same creative minds in all aspects of production. Obviously you aren't going to have the writer of the series being forced to handle all aspects of game production and movie proofing, but if that writer had a team of the most die hard fans acting as a quality check on the different products, then that would probably result in far better products. Of course the downside of that could be that the QA people were too picky and the products took too long to release.

To some extent George Lucas did this with Lucas Films and LucasArts, which allowed him to retain control of the games based off his movies and IP instead of just signing over the rights to some 3rd party and having a crap game released.

ravells
08-11-2009, 06:24 PM
The people who made the 'Magic - the Gathering' Cardgame who went on to become 'Wizards of the Coast' did quite well for themsleves. a model to follow perhaps?

Ascension
08-11-2009, 06:31 PM
Hook the tweeners, hook the world...or at least make a lot of money.

Talroth
08-11-2009, 10:19 PM
One thing that has been bugging me is the whole idea of a Sci-fi/Fantasy section,... Those are two different sections, like a self help/home repair section.

waldronate
08-11-2009, 10:27 PM
Self Help and Home Repair are the same thing, aren't they?

Gamerprinter
08-11-2009, 11:00 PM
I've read where fiction writers trying to break in various genre is a tough life, unless you've got some great material, the timing is right and you have a good publisher to work with, however, once they start getting work writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror, these writers get "type cast" as sci-fi/fantasy writers only. Now if they had plans to expand upon wider literary horizons, its harder to do, since you're already known as a sci-fi/fantasy writer.

On the positive side, as already been hinted in this thread, sci-fi/fantasy covers a huge amount of material, scenarios, all real and imagined history to work with. You can write sci-fi/fantasy westerns, historic, comedy, romance, parody, high adventure, erotica, drama, the available material is endless.

While Vampire/Romance is not my cup of tea, I don't begrudge the genres from being able to support that fringe as well. Our favorite genres cover everything.

GP

Talroth
08-11-2009, 11:44 PM
Self Help and Home Repair are the same thing, aren't they?

Self help, as in, "You are NOT a worthless sack of scum that sits on your couch all day, you CAN do whatever you set your mind to if you buy this book that contains nothing more than pages telling you to get off your couch and actually try doing something",...

Not "self help" as in how to repair a roof.

waldronate
08-12-2009, 12:21 AM
That's completely different, then.

loongtim
08-12-2009, 03:43 AM
Start with a blog about writing fantasy and/or sci-fi - world creation, magic systems, starflight, blah, blah, blah. Offer a free email newsletter with *premium content* (this is how you build a list of potential customers). After building an audience via email/rss, launch an ebook about how to write fantasy fiction and pimp it out to your email list for $19. This will be easy to write, because you just rehash what you already wrote on your blog but add some more detail and organization. A few months later, launch a membership site where you charge a monthly fee to get online instruction, coaching and peer interaction. $47/month sounds good. Next year, you'll develop a software that facilitates your writing method and sell that for $89...wait, where's the profit in that? Make the software an online app with a freemium model so you can charge a monthly fee to upgraded services! All the while, continue to send emails to your list and promote other people's products where you get an affiliate commission. Rinse, repeat, etc. This is what all the Internet marketers who sell info-products do... Make a product a lot of people want (everyone wants to write a novel, right?), take advantage of their insecurities, promise them the moon, laugh all the way to the bank.

Karro
08-12-2009, 11:52 AM
I would have to go with quality of product when dealing with an off media, as being the biggest problem. We all know games based off movies have a history of being terrible, and movies based off books tend to leave the readers frustrated and annoyed.

The solution to this would be having all of this done in house, using the same creative minds in all aspects of production. Obviously you aren't going to have the writer of the series being forced to handle all aspects of game production and movie proofing, but if that writer had a team of the most die hard fans acting as a quality check on the different products, then that would probably result in far better products. Of course the downside of that could be that the QA people were too picky and the products took too long to release.

To some extent George Lucas did this with Lucas Films and LucasArts, which allowed him to retain control of the games based off his movies and IP instead of just signing over the rights to some 3rd party and having a crap game released.

See... that was the theory behind the business idea I originally posted about... only, rather than just doing my own stuff, I'd offer the service of managing the IPs to other folks who didn't have time to produce other takes on their own work, but wanted good quality takes on it. The problem is... (a) you have to earn a reputation for doing something like that and (b) I'm not really sure in that model who the customer is and how to monetize the transactions.


The people who made the 'Magic - the Gathering' Cardgame who went on to become 'Wizards of the Coast' did quite well for themsleves. a model to follow perhaps?

Good model for them... not sure how you start from scratch and compete against that behemoth. It kind of relies on coming up with a revolutionary and instantly-popular new product category that appeals to sci-fi/fantasy types. I'm trying to take existing ideas and find new ways of applying them in the marketplace, but if I could come up with a revolutionary new product, I would.


Hook the tweeners, hook the world...or at least make a lot of money.

Hmm. what do geeky tweeners like?


One thing that has been bugging me is the whole idea of a Sci-fi/Fantasy section,... Those are two different sections, like a self help/home repair section.

Well... quite honestly, once you start subdividing the super-genre of "Speculative Fiction", you can break it down into a lot more than just Sci-fi vs. Fantasy. And you're burdened by a huge gray area of overlap between even just those two genres. Fact is, this category of genres is all about genre-blending and genre-bending and trying to do something that hasn't been done before, which makes it hard to categorize individual works.

That being said, I see a lot of bookstores make a distinction between SF versus Fantasy, but the two still sit next to eachother. This bookshelf SF, this bookshelf Fantasy.


I've read where fiction writers trying to break in various genre is a tough life, unless you've got some great material, the timing is right and you have a good publisher to work with, however, once they start getting work writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror, these writers get "type cast" as sci-fi/fantasy writers only. Now if they had plans to expand upon wider literary horizons, its harder to do, since you're already known as a sci-fi/fantasy writer.

On the positive side, as already been hinted in this thread, sci-fi/fantasy covers a huge amount of material, scenarios, all real and imagined history to work with. You can write sci-fi/fantasy westerns, historic, comedy, romance, parody, high adventure, erotica, drama, the available material is endless.

While Vampire/Romance is not my cup of tea, I don't begrudge the genres from being able to support that fringe as well. Our favorite genres cover everything.

GP

Agreed. That's why I love it.


Start with a blog about writing fantasy and/or sci-fi - world creation, magic systems, starflight, blah, blah, blah. Offer a free email newsletter with *premium content* (this is how you build a list of potential customers). After building an audience via email/rss, launch an ebook about how to write fantasy fiction and pimp it out to your email list for $19. This will be easy to write, because you just rehash what you already wrote on your blog but add some more detail and organization. A few months later, launch a membership site where you charge a monthly fee to get online instruction, coaching and peer interaction. $47/month sounds good. Next year, you'll develop a software that facilitates your writing method and sell that for $89...wait, where's the profit in that? Make the software an online app with a freemium model so you can charge a monthly fee to upgraded services! All the while, continue to send emails to your list and promote other people's products where you get an affiliate commission. Rinse, repeat, etc. This is what all the Internet marketers who sell info-products do... Make a product a lot of people want (everyone wants to write a novel, right?), take advantage of their insecurities, promise them the moon, laugh all the way to the bank.

Hmm. Is there a way to do this without being evil? Also... I don't know how many people would care that much about a "how to publish your novel" self-help from some dude that's never published a novel.

loongtim
08-12-2009, 11:31 PM
Hmm. Is there a way to do this without being evil? Also... I don't know how many people would care that much about a "how to publish your novel" self-help from some dude that's never published a novel.

Absolutely, it could be done without being evil. But since I'm in Internet marketing, I'm justifiably jaded by all the hype and over-exaggeration that accompanies many such info-products.

To get around the "never published a novel," just partner with someone who has. You could ghost write most of the content and have them personalize it, or just have them introduce you as a trusted colleague. Their role isn't too intense so they get to enjoy easy profits at your expense and you get to use their name to lend credibility to your work.

Diamond
08-13-2009, 01:52 AM
To get around the "never published a novel," just partner with someone who has. You could ghost write most of the content and have them personalize it, or just have them introduce you as a trusted colleague. Their role isn't too intense so they get to enjoy easy profits at your expense and you get to use their name to lend credibility to your work.

That's so diabolical it just might work...