What is a Writer's MVP?

POSTED ON Sep 27, 2011

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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I first ran across the idea of a minimum viable product while listening to a podcast with blogger Chris Garrett. Chris tries to help people who have a problem getting a project finished and out the door, and he was explaining how people can try to find a minimum viable product (MVP).

I believe this idea comes originally from project management language, but I found the concept interesting. Here’s the way Wikipedia frames it:

A Minimum Viable Product has just those features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more.

Although an MVP can be used for marketing purposes, it’s also incredibly useful to think about if you are trying to create any kind of product of your own. Just by thinking about how small and cohesive you can make your product instead of thinking about how big you can make it—the usual way of thinking—you are liberated from having to create some impossibly big project you’ll likely never finish.

In other words, searching for an MVP that you can make is going to put you on the road to successful product launch much faster than otherwise. And that’s the part of the idea that really appealed to me.

Because I’m Always Thinking about e-Books

Where the idea of MVP is going to become really powerful for writers who understand its implications in the world of e-books.

But here, more from Wikipedia:

The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information.

e-Books, of course, have no fixed length. They don’t need 60,000 – 100,000 words, like a standard trade book. They don’t need 40 pages, like the smallest book you can usually get through a book bindery.

They don’t actually need anything at all except a cover image and some text.

So what exactly in the world of the e-book is the minimum viable product?

I don’t think we know yet.

We’ve often spoken here about the flexibility of e-books to give authors tools for experimenting that we’ve never had before. If I have some text, and suddenly flash on a great way to present it, I can upload a file today and be on sale tomorrow in the Kindle store.

For some time there have been creative authors and entrepreneurs selling articles, papers, and other short-form text in the Kindle store.

Writers as Marketers

But what can writers do to take advantage of this publishing flexibility? Back to Wikipedia one more time:

It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent.

Now this makes a lot of sense. The ability to do real-world market research is new to most writers. And the first rule of market research is listening—listening to your readers, listening to what people are talking about in your area of specialty, listening to complaints as well as accolades.

We know that indie publishing becomes more profitable as you issue more books. But what if you could publish one part of a book as an MVP? How about one chapter? With a low price point of $.99 it’s hard to see why you couldn’t do this.

As long as the information truly is viable—it has all the information you need to make use of it in some way—you now have a product. As long as buyers understand exactly what it is you’re selling, there’s no reason to not try this.

The enterprising e-book author/entrepreneur can produce an MVP to go out and test the market without having to experiment with an entire book that may have taken months or years to write. I think we’re going to see a lot of this experimentation and I’m fascinated with how it will evolve.

Can you see a way to use the idea of a minimum viable product in your own book marketing?

Photo by Hello Turkey Toe

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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