Last week’s post made the case for why, when it comes to selling (online especially), sometimes Timing is Everything. But, like any rule, there are always exceptions…
Let’s talk about Walt Disney for a minute. When he set out to build Disneyland, anyone with any business sense would have told him that it was a terrible idea. There was already a glut of amusement parks in the US at that time and they were seen in a mostly negative light. Amusement parks were dirty, dangerous, bad for families (because the fathers would go off and drink and leave the children unattended), only for the rabble and that’s just a few of the stereotypes that were widely held back then.
Amusement parks were over, done, passe. Why would he want to waste his money on making yet another one?
“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, “But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.” I told her that was just the point — mine wouldn’t be.”
What I like about that quote is that it just crystallizes the answer as to why someone would waste their time trying to do something that the rest of the world had already decided was over and done with. He wanted to do it because he knew that people were only sick of amusement parks because they hadn’t see HIS version of an amusement park. That if only people could see what an amusement park done right (aka done his way) could be like, they would change their minds. That all that talk of there being no more room in the market for another amusement park didn’t apply to him because his was going to be different.
And, of course, he was right. Disneyland and the subsequent Disney theme park empire completely changed the way we think of amusement parks today. He didn’t just buck the trend, he made a move that ensured that he’s considered one of the great business minds of all time and his company is still one of the biggest players today.
There’s absolutely room for delusion in thinking like this. I’m sure many a business person has sunk money into a dead trend thinking, just like Disney, that they’d be the one to revive it because their ideas were better than anyone else’s… only to completely fail. But there’s a hopeful lesson as well. Namely that no matter how much the market seems over for any product, there will always be room for that a new take as long as that take is innovative and high quality enough.
To use a personal example, I’ve been in various stages of selling some writing over the last year, some of which I can’t really talk about until contracts are signed, etc. which is why I never really blog about that process. But one thing I’ve noticed, whether I’m talking to an agent, publisher or editor is that they consider some genres dead. The most obvious of these is vampires with many publishers and agents going so far as to say they won’t even look at anything with a vampire in it and will reject it sight unseen. Vampires are publishing poison so don’t even waste your time with them, is what you’ll hear just about everywhere.
Except that one of the things I just sold is a play… about a vampire. He’s not a background character either, the whole play pretty much resolves around the fact that he’s an undead blood sucker. I didn’t just sell it, I sold it FAST, something we’ll cover in a future blog post.
If timing is everything, how was that even possible? If vampires are deader than dead, why would someone have even look at what I wrote, let alone buy it? (And what’s wrong with me that I intentionally wrote something in a dead genre in the first place?)
Because there is actually no such thing as too late and even the most passe trend still has room for a new take. Content and quality trump timing every time. If you’re sure you’ve got a quality product and you’re certain there’s going to be demand for it, it doesn’t matter what the trends say.
Have you had a time when you thought you’d missed your chance to sell something, only to be surprised when it still sold?