Monthly Archives: July 2013

What Do You Do After You Say “I Have a Great Idea for a Book?”

First, Decide to Take the Plunge

Okay, so you have a book idea and you’re willing to take the plunge because you think it’s a great book idea. But is it? How do you know? How can you tell if your book idea is lousy or lovely? How do you know if it’s even viable?

Writers, Take The Leap! There's Always a Helping Hand. As Publishing Guru Dan Poynter Says, Don't Die with Your Book Still In You.    Photo: Sylvia Cary

Writers, take the plunge! Get published, even if you have to do it yourself. There will always be a helping hand along the way. Heed the words of publishing guru Dan Poynter: “Don’t die with your book still inside you.” Photo: Sylvia Cary

Do Your Basic Research — The Top Ten

I’m not talking about heavy-duty library research. I’m talking about the simplest kind of research that you can do on the Internet. It’s so basic that I’m always surprised when somebody comes to see me for a book consultation session and they haven’t done research  on their “great” book idea.  Do they think they can just sit down and start writing without knowing some things first?

So, let’s get to it. What should a wanna-be author do if they think they have a great book idea?

1. Write down what your book is about in twenty-five words or less? Fiction or non-fiction?

2. What’s your working title?

3. What’s your working sub-title?

4. Look up your book’s title on Amazon. Is it being used already? Is your subtitle being used?

5. Look up your book’s topic on Amazon. How many books are out there already on the same subject?

6. Sort books similar to your idea by date of publication. (Amazon gives you sorting options). How many were published in the last five years?

7. Of those that were published more than five years ago, were any of them best-sellers? Are any of them still classics in the field you want to write about?

8. Narrow down the list of books similar to your book idea and using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, read the Table of Contents, read a few pages, and look at the back cover. Is the book still similar to your book? How is it different? Read the reviews on the Amazon site.

9. Google your topic and read what others are saying about it in their blogs, articles, newsletter or in their videos.

10. Sign up for Google Alerts and use keywords related to your topic so you’ll get notices when somebody else is talking about it or there’s “new news” about it.

These are the basics  musts before you take the plunge. I discuss this subject with TV interviewer Jean-Noel Bassior ( in the video clip below from my appearance on BOOK BEAT (available on YouTube):

Twist and Tweak

Don’t be discouraged if you discover that there are many books on your subject and many with similar titles.  You can still write your book. If somebody has already “got” your title — even though you can’t copyright titles — pick something else. Find something even better. As Jean-Noel says in the video clip, you have to “take it to the next level.” You have to come up with a tweak, twist or create a niche that takes the book where it’s never been before.

No matter what subject you’re writing about, imagine it as a branch on a tree.  You don’t want to recreate the same old branch; you want to burst forth into a new, fresh, leafy branch. What will this new branch be about? What will you call it? Will it be about something unexpected and different? Will it fill a gap? Is there really a book in it — or more?

Book Ideas Branch Off Into New Book Ideas, Just as a Tree Springs Forth With Newer, Fresher Branches. Photo Taken at Vermont Bed & Bath Inn by Sylvia Cary

Old book ideas branch off into new book ideas, just as a tree blossoms forth with newer, better, fresher branches. Keep tweaking your idea until you get it right.
Photo by Sylvia Cary — taken at a Vermont Bed & Breakfast and the inspiration for the cover of my book, The Therapist Writer (cover design by Dotti Albertine).

Sometimes it may feel as though there’s nothing new under the sun, but when it comes to book ideas, just one more twist or tweak or shift in point of view can take your baby from an ordinary book idea to a great book idea.

Your assignment: Start writing it.

(c) The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press), Sylvia Cary, LMFT. YouTube video clip by Melody Jackson. Photos in this post by Sylvia Cary.


If You Could See Me Now

Fireworks-in-Green- Photo Credit Flickr Link: 1894019504_c37a88042a.jpg

Photo Credit Flickr Link: 1894019504_c37a88042a.jpg

This particular July 4th has a special meaning for me. Two days ago, July 2nd, was the sixth-month anniversary of the death of my lovely husband, Lance Wolstrup. Today, July 4th, is the second anniversary of this blog. Lance was always proud of me for starting a blog and whenever I’d get lazy about posting, he’d whisper in my ear: “How’s the blog coming along?” He would read what I ‘d written before I posted it and we’d talk about it. I miss those talks. He would also gently nag me about finishing my book, which I finally did, and it was published just a few months before he died.  We were married for 28 years, and he always wanted me to do well, to have success, to have my dream. He was like that. Whenever I spoke at an event for therapists or writers, or if I was on a radio or TV show, he’d want to know all about  it the minute I got home. He was interested in my world. I miss that, too.

So, Lance (can you believe I used to call you “Lancy-Pants!”), I’m dedicating this second anniversary blog post to you.  If you could see me now, I hope you’d be proud:  I  didn’t abandon the blog.  Though not prolific, I hung in there even when I had widow business, including moving, to attend to.  I’ve been marketing the book, too, and recently I was a “guest expert” on a Cable TV show called BOOK BEAT, which turned out to be great fun. If they have YouTube in heaven, perhaps you can catch the show there.  Knowing you, you’ll be interested — although I’d prefer it if I could just run home and talk with you about it face to face. And how about this, Lancy-Pants? In your honor, today’s post is the very first time I’ve ever inserted a video clip into my blog. Guess how I learned how to do that one? On YouTube! So gimme five!

Therapist Writers Tune In and Listen Up

Now on to my fellow tribe members — my colleagues who are both therapists and writers. I hope you will get something out of the video clip I’ve inserted below (I’ll be posting others later on). This first short segment from a 20-minute show is an overview of what The Therapist Writer is all about. The interviewer, Jean-Noel Bassior, asks questions such as why I felt it was necessary to write a book about writing aimed at mental health professionals; why therapists worry when they write about their patients; and how therapist writers can protect a client’s confidentiality (and avoid getting sued)  by using the “art of disguise.”

Interviewer Jean-Noel Bassior and Sylvia discussed why write a book just for therapist writers, why therapists worry about writing about patients, and how therapist writers can disguise who they are writing about to avoid getting sued

Sylvia Cary, LMFT, on BOOK BEAT  Photo by Susan Levin

Now, Lance, back to you. Your 28 years of encouragement have helped me carry on, so not to worry. All I have to do now is just think of your words, “How’s the blog coming?” or “When is that article due again?” and I scramble to my desk (or any of the other places I like to write) and I get to work, as that line from an old song wafts around in my brain: “If you could see me now…”  So if you’ve got your laptop up there with you, go to YouTube and type in “Sylvia Cary writer” and catch the rest of the BOOK BEAT clips — or if you prefer, you can wait until my next blog. I assume you’re following me, right?

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT