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 (TheBookMentor.com) 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.

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