Monday 20 October 2014

A Store Offers You a Golden Chicken in Exchange for Exclusivity

Signs of a problem: visualising golden eggs.

The symptoms: excitement; ambition.

You’re selling books in a variety of stores – not vast numbers, but a few here and there. Along comes the biggest store and offers you the chance to win a golden chicken. All you have to do is remove your books from sale in every other book store.

You think it through – a golden chicken, hey? You talk to authors who have already taken the plunge. Some say they haven’t won a chicken yet but are hoping to soon. A sizeable number report that they’ve already received a big, fluffy golden chicken, and it’s laying golden eggs left, right and centre.

You peer inside your chicken coop at your existing feathered friends. You have six healthy birds, all producing a small but steady supply of eggs. However, none of them is golden. Imagine all the things you could buy with your golden eggs: line edits, illustrations, high-class call girls… Of course, to qualify for a golden chicken you will have to wring the necks of all your existing birds. You look at your chickens – they have served you well, but perhaps it’s time to move on.

People who decide to enter into an exclusivity contract with a major store often find that their sales and earnings improve. Some of the benefits include being able to run special promotions and having your books included in lending libraries. An increase in visibility from a large store can make up for loss of earnings from all the smaller stores put together. But is exclusivity helpful in the long run?

Chickens age. Even if your chicken is popping out golden eggs faster than you can cash them in, its yield will trail off as it gets older. If you’re lucky, the store might award you another golden chicken, but there’s no guarantee. Even golden eggs will decline in value the more chickens are on the market. The government might decide to start taxing golden eggs, having an impact on their value.

More importantly, if you lose your golden chicken, you’ll have no chickens left. The store might decide to hide your chicken because some robot mistakenly thought its name was rude. The store might bring in a new rule that repossesses chickens owned by authors who don’t agree to a fifty per cent drop in royalties. Nobody knows what the store will do, but if you agree to be exclusive, you’ll be at its mercy.

Once your exclusivity contract has expired, you might be able to go out and acquire new ordinary chickens like the ones you used to have. However, if the breeds have become extinct because everybody strangled theirs in a scramble to get golden birds, you’ll be up shit creek without a wattle.

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