• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

SWOT Analysis

Karro

Registered User
Validated User
I found your abbreviation of "Seeing what's out there" to be particularly interesting in the context of this article.

As a business school graduate, I recogonize the acronym SWOT as "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats". In business, the purpose of a SWOT analysis is supposed to be an honest appraisal of a company's strengths and weaknesses, and an assessment of the opportunities and threats in the market that the company can take advantage of or should plan for. (Having said that, in real life, IME, SWOT analyses are rarely "honest", but are opportunities for trumpeting a company's self-perceived strengths while minimizing investor concerns.)

As a Freelancer, taking the opportunity to "See What's Out There" can be very like an honest SWOT Analysis. If a freelancer thinks of him/herself as the Business in question and does an honest analysis of his or her abilities and determines what he does well and where he needs to improve, what conditions in the market he faces, what publishers are currently buying and what they eschew, he would be better equipped to actually write something salable.

Then again, despite having spent four and a half years earning my BBA, whenever I put on my "writer" cap, I tend to forget these valuable lessons. I think I'm not alone among unpublished writers in allowing ourselves to ignore these insights, and I rather think that it is the published who have taken these ideas to heart, in one form or another. I ought to live by my own advice ;) I'll think I'll complete a SWOT analysis for myself this week.

[EDIT] It doesn't help that Writer's Guidelines are typically vague and qualitative; this makes a reasonable assessment of Opportunities and Threats difficult, since it is hard to determine what exactly a publisher or editor wants based on a few lines like "we like strong characters". Clearer guidelines like one I've seen on Analog [which declares flatly that they only publish Hard SF, where real science is integral to the plot] help considerably. Unfortunately, most editors publish what they like, and they know what they like when they see it, and that's about all they can really tell you... :(
 
Last edited:

LBrownIII

Registered User
Validated User
Karro said:
I found your abbreviation of "Seeing what's out there" to be particularly interesting in the context of this article.

As a business school graduate, I recogonize the acronym SWOT as "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats". In business, the purpose of a SWOT analysis is supposed to be an honest appraisal of a company's strengths and weaknesses, and an assessment of the opportunities and threats in the market that the company can take advantage of or should plan for. (
I write business plans for fun and profit, so I know exactly what you're talking about. I hadn't made that particular comparison myself (this SWOT was just an off-the-cuff way to reduce repetition in text), but you're right. It does compare. You judge how quick some markets are to return feedback or payment.

You learn which markets are "easy" to get into (that is, your first draft sells instead of having to re-write something over and over) and which take more work. You might even discover that some markets are beyond your skill. That's not a career-ending revelation; make a note of it and move on. Maybe you can try it again in a year or so.

You also learn about yourself--which types of material you write well or poorly. This would be your weakness exploration. Do you want to write fluff but find that your crunch sells more easily (that used to be me)? Do you just lack the discipline to sit down at the computer every day? Finding out while you're still exploring is better than finding out after you commit to several books simultaneously.

Let me address Writer's Guidelines separately in a new post.
 

LBrownIII

Registered User
Validated User
Karro said:
I It doesn't help that Writer's Guidelines are typically vague and qualitative;
Editors have a reason for that. Legitimate concern or not, editors are reluctant to place limits on what people send them because a writer might surprise them with something totally brilliant and totally unexpected. They don't want to miss out on that opportunity for untold riches that might come their way with every e-mail (okay, that's a little hyperbole, but you see their motivation).

Personally, I have a suspicion that this is NOT the way to go. I think publishers would be better off by saying "we don't want this, that, or the other thing" in their guidelines. Writers good enough to write exceptions are often good enough to recognize a rule-breaker when they see it and submit it anyway.

Look at some of the rule-breakers from Dungeon Magazine: they've used shapeshifting villains, orc invasions, and undead uprisings, even though their guidelines specifically say "don't send us these."

Again, my dream of every publisher posting a "wish list" like Steve Jackson Games would help people on both sides of the fence. The writer chooses an existing title, clicks on a link to find a rough outline, creates a proposal and submits it along with a writing sample. The publisher reads the outline, checks the writing sample, checks references, and either stamps it "approved" or "denied." Then the publisher updates his website so that that book reads "Assigned" instead of "Open."

Publisher and writer work out a deadline for a first draft, publisher's guidelines spell out the revision process, and the writer's off.
 

Karro

Registered User
Validated User
LBrownIII said:
Editors have a reason for that. Legitimate concern or not, editors are reluctant to place limits on what people send them because a writer might surprise them with something totally brilliant and totally unexpected. They don't want to miss out on that opportunity for untold riches that might come their way with every e-mail (okay, that's a little hyperbole, but you see their motivation).

Personally, I have a suspicion that this is NOT the way to go. I think publishers would be better off by saying "we don't want this, that, or the other thing" in their guidelines. Writers good enough to write exceptions are often good enough to recognize a rule-breaker when they see it and submit it anyway.

Look at some of the rule-breakers from Dungeon Magazine: they've used shapeshifting villains, orc invasions, and undead uprisings, even though their guidelines specifically say "don't send us these."

Again, my dream of every publisher posting a "wish list" like Steve Jackson Games would help people on both sides of the fence. The writer chooses an existing title, clicks on a link to find a rough outline, creates a proposal and submits it along with a writing sample. The publisher reads the outline, checks the writing sample, checks references, and either stamps it "approved" or "denied." Then the publisher updates his website so that that book reads "Assigned" instead of "Open."

Publisher and writer work out a deadline for a first draft, publisher's guidelines spell out the revision process, and the writer's off.
Yeah, I think I had an inkling of the reasons a publisher or editor might not have stricter guidelines, but, like you, I think it ultimately hurts both the editor and the writer--the editor for having to slosh through piles of submissions that have nothing to do with what he's looking for, and the writer for not having clearer guidelines that helps prevent him from wasting time writing and submitting an entry that's going to get rejected anyway, instead of writing a submission that has a fighting chance.

And those golden opportunities for a rule-breaker... well I'd imagine that editors are significantly less-likely to read through even a golden rule-breaker from a less-well-known author (or more specifically, one the editor hasn't previously worked with) to see that it is worth bending the rules. However, someone with a proven track record might be worth the time (and an experienced writer is one, as you point out, that is better equipped to recognize when to break the rules). So, I'd think that having better, clearer guidelines wouldn't prevent those opportunities for untold riches ;)
 

LBrownIII

Registered User
Validated User
Karro said:
And those golden opportunities for a rule-breaker... well I'd imagine that editors are significantly less-likely to read through even a golden rule-breaker from a less-well-known author (or more specifically, one the editor hasn't previously worked with) to see that it is worth bending the rules. However, someone with a proven track record might be worth the time (and an experienced writer is one, as you point out, that is better equipped to recognize when to break the rules). So, I'd think that having better, clearer guidelines wouldn't prevent those opportunities for untold riches ;)
I agree entirely. It is absolutely true that having an established relationship first helps get those rule-breaking pieces read and lends them more weight once they are read.
 

Karro

Registered User
Validated User
LBrownIII said:
I agree entirely. It is absolutely true that having an established relationship first helps get those rule-breaking pieces read and lends them more weight once they are read.
Now to get established!
 

smascrns

New member
Banned
Ah, good old SWOT analysis. It always takes me back to my MBA days. It's like college maths and sciences: You learn them and never use it in life (at least not to the level you are taught). Still, you need to pass through it. I'm a manager with an MBA and I never do SWOT analysis, the type of honest SWOT analysis you mention (I may do from time to time the retorical - I prefer this term to dishonest - variant you also mention, but that's another matter). There are two reasons for this:

Doing extensive and detailed SWOT analysis is consuming and hard. Of course, one can do it on the fly but them it only spells things I already have on my mind.

Extensive SWOT analysis is highly likely to lead nowhere and to provide almost nothing when compared with superficial SWAT analysis. As someone said, it is better to be aproximately correct than exactly wrong.

Honest SWOT analysis is failure prone because, as Rumsfeld famously said, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns (he was right but unfortunately he didn't listen to himself).

In the end SWOT is like GNS: An interesting model that provides a workable perspective on what's out there as long as one does not take it too seriously.

On the other hand, one can look at editors' guidelines as their upfront SWOT:
If they ask for material for a particular genre, game line, etc., this is where they see their strengths.
If they say they don't want a particular genre, game line, etc., this is where they see their weaknesses (that weakness may only be a question of taste: If the editor doesn't like fantasy, that cuts his chances to explore potentialy lucrative ventures).
The particular type of game product they are asking for is where they see an opportunity.
The things to avoid when designing such product point to where they see threads.

Now, this can be useful for the freelancer. Just ask yourself, is this editor correct in his SWOT? Look around for what knowleadgeable people think about it. Look for what publishers think about it (do they have guidelines with similar SWOTS, for instance?).
If you reach the conclusion that the editor is off mark with his SWOT you may be better dropping the idea of working for him. Or you may find the unkown unknowns to the editor (the opportunities that fit his strenghs and that he is not considering either positively or negatively) and make a proposal based on those with a better explanation to why he should consider it.

Just some thoughts.
 

Karro

Registered User
Validated User
smascrns said:
Rhetorical is a good way of putting it. I think I could tell when working on my BBA (I have yet to start work on the next level) that from a Business perspective, a SWOT would be rarely used by a company (except in the rhetorical fashion). I think it is much more useful for a business starting out, trying to find its niche and its market.

Also, I was thinking of the analysis more on the freelancer's level: taking an opportunity to assess one's self and the market opportunities available. In this sense, I see it as a goal-setting tool that helps the freelancer set realistic and achievable goals based on a good analysis of all the factors affecting the freelancer, including his own skill and the conditions in the market.

The way I see it, the editor's guidelines should play a role in such an analysis by helping to identify market conditions. I think you're right in suggesting that a good freelancer should be looking at what more than one editor and publisher is saying to get a more thorough view of the market. In the end, it is the freelancer's job to fulfill a publisher's needs, and the freelancer needs to be prepared to capitalize where publishers see opportunities and threats.

You know, I think I like talking about writing in a more business-like sense. When it's just art and expression and craft, there just isn't as much motivation to get started and actually work at it. But if you start looking at it as business, as work, then you realize that you're on the dime, and it's time to get cracking. Art, expression, and craft will then be the natural result of concientious effort.
 

LBrownIII

Registered User
Validated User
smascrns said:
If you reach the conclusion that the editor is off mark with his SWOT you may be better dropping the idea of working for him.
The key here is "may be". For example, in the case of a work-for-hire, I care less about sales. Naturally, I'd like for anything I write to sell 10,000 copies, but if I get paid the same for 1,500 sales as I do for 10k, well, I'm not upset if it only breaks even. As long as he pays me for the work I've done, I don't care (much) about the degree of success.

On the other hand, lackluster sales make the publisher not want to publish that type of product again. That's when I care. That's where an incorrect SWOT hurts the writer. I think the best way to address an incorrect SWOT is to correct it.

Let's say you write an elf book for Demihuman Publishing. DHP wants to release books in the format of the 2E Complete Handbook series. Initial sales are half projections and reorders are slow. They never break even on elf book. When you propose a dwarf book, they pass. It's probably too late to fix it.

You could have, however, during the development of the elf book, mentioned that WotC chose not to follow TSR's Complete Handbook format for a reason. They're selling hardbacks now, for one thing. Also, they're clumping old races with new. Maybe your elf book could have described dryads as a player class, or hybsils. Racial substitution levels are hot and sexy these days. Even if you don't use them in your own campaign, you could have added those for the players that want them. You're giving DHP feedback and improving one of their Strengths.
 
Top Bottom