I have had a lot of book ideas. Only one has been published by a relatively large commercial publisher.
The rest hang out on my hard drive. The most promising are listed on a white board next to my desk waiting for something to click. A few made it to the desks of editors as book proposals, and some of them were even greeted as good book ideas with excellent writing.
Alas, no contract, no book.
It’s quite hard to evaluate the merit of a book idea, but one thing that helps me weed them out before I bug my agent or an editor is the “better than good” standard. In other words, my book idea needs to be really exceptional if I’m going to invest the time and energy required for a book. I usually ask myself questions like these:
Am I passionate about it?
Does thinking about it keep me up at night?
Can I NOT write this book?
Those are tough questions that have killed about ten projects that were all the rage with me for a few months. When they fizzled and failed to re-fizzle themselves, I knew that I made the right call.
At this point I’m testing about two or three ideas for future books, seeking feedback from trusted friends, and experimenting with them. Once I have a better idea of what their main concepts will be, I’ll start asking the hard questions.
If I can’t answer with an unequivocal, “Yes!” then I know I won’t be able to invest the time and energy required to form the proposal, pitch the book, write it, edit it, and then market it until I drop.
This incredible expenditure of energy in publishing makes it all the more critical that authors are passionate about their book ideas. If not, then they have a long year ahead of them!
The next post in this series: In my next post I’ll talk about the ways I make sure my book ideas are unique. However, you’ll unfortunately need to wait until July 19th for that one! We’ll be away on vacation for a week, so hang in there. I promise to keep sharing the goods when I return.