Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A rationale for blockbusters

My weekly book post on s+b's blogs is about Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse's new book, in which she argues that putting all your muscle behind a few big gambles is a safer long-term strategy than making many small investments.

Make Big Bets

Pop quiz: You’re the CEO of a trade publishing house. Do you split your company’s acquisition
budget among as many promising authors as you can find and launch their books with minimal hoopla, or do you spend the lion’s share of your budget on huge advances for one or two authors who have already published bestsellers and then spend big bucks promoting and advertising their new books?

I lean toward the former strategy. I’d sign a lot of authors—limiting my downside on each and keeping my pipeline full of new product, while betting on my own ability to pick the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling out of the slush pile.

Unfortunately, however, I’d be wrong. Not just because I’m a snooty reader who would have chucked most of the mega-selling manuscripts of recent years into the trash can after reading a couple of pages, but also because Anita Elberse says so.

Elberse, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, is the author of Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment (Henry Holt, 2013). In it, she argues that the most successful media and entertainment companies are those that make big bets on big names and then concentrate all of their marketing might on selling them... read the rest here.

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