How to know if your book idea stinks

by  Tim Grahl

Do you have a good idea for a book?  Maybe just a seed of a thought?  What should you do with this?

The typical model is to develop the idea over a long period of time, build a “platform” to sell the book and then convince a publisher to take a risk on it.  Then, once the contract is signed, work for approximately two years for the book to hit the shelves.

That’s quite the turn around time to see if your idea has mass appeal.  And if you think the publishers have an inside track to what has mass appeal, consider that over 80% of books lose money and you’ll see they are guessing just like everyone else.

But how can you see if your idea is any good before spending years of your life and lots of money (yours and other people’s) on the hope that it is?

Publish a manifesto.

Seth Godin released the complete manuscript of Unleashing the Ideavirus as a free PDF download in 2000.  It went on to become the most downloaded ebook of all time.  It was eventually picked up by the publisher Hyperion and continues to sell even though you can still get the entire book for free.

Max Barry had an idea for a novel and began releasing one page of the story every weekday for 9 months.  By doing it this way, he was able to take reader input and build an audience along the way.  Afterwards he went back and rewrote the entire story as a novel and Machine Man was published this month.

John Locke became the first ever self-published author to break 1,000,000 sales on Amazon.com.  All of his books costs $0.99.  Each of them could be considered a “manifesto” as the barrier for people to try out his stories is less than a dollar.

By publishing a manifesto, you give your idea a chance to spread and build a following before investing huge resources of time and money.

Here are two simple ideas to try out your manifesto:

1. Create a free PDF and give it away to everyone.  Write out the core to your idea or the first few chapters of your novel, turn it into a great looking PDF and then send it to everyone in your contact list.  Your colleagues, friends, family, college roommate, etc.

2. Write a Kindle Single.  Create 80 pages of content and sell it for $0.99.  This gives you a way to leverage the worlds biggest online retailer and see if your idea will spread.

From there, watch and cultivate.  As people respond, engage in dialogue.  Learn what they like and don’t like about it.  See where it takes you and be open to change.

In today’s world, the tools are at your finger tips to start small and grow something amazing.  You are no longer beholden to three year cycles and getting the right handful of people to like your work.  Put out your manifesto and see what happens.



Joseph HinsonJoseph Hinson is the president and owner of Out:think Group, a firm that helps authors build their platforms, connect with readers and sell more books.


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