.Do you have a great idea for a book?
Fantastic! You need to figure out your next steps.
A book takes a long time to write, and it's a lot of work. Perhaps your first thought might be to find a publisher who will buy the book before you start writing. Why invest lots of time without the guarantee that a publisher will be interested? Or, you may wonder if you would be better off finding someone else to write it for you.
Here's the tough news. Every book starts with a great idea. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Agents and editors are eager for them, but agents can't sell (and editors can't buy) books without a proposal for nonfiction or a full manuscript for fiction. It's the execution of the great idea into a well-written book that really gets publishing professionals excited.
If you've heard real estate agents say that the most important aspect of a house when going to sell it is "location, location, location," then the book equivalent is "execution, execution, execution."
A good idea might pique the interest of an agent or editor, but the request to read actual pages will follow quickly. If you don't have the pages to send soon after receiving the request, agents and editors will move on to the next project. Not that they aren't interested, but in their eyes, you aren't ready with what they need to move forward. This means that you need more than a good idea before you send a query.
You might be better off with someone else writing it if you are an expert in an area and don’t have time because you have a busy career already. This only works well, however, in a few scenarios. One is if you are willing to pay a ghost writer up front to complete a full manuscript before submitting. That's risky since there's no guarantee of publication. Another is if your book can be sold on proposal to a publisher for enough money to make it worth a writer's investment of time and effort before the whole book is written. These types of arrangements are viable almost exclusively for practical nonfiction (how-to, self-help books). For fiction, a good idea usually isn't enough to get a professional writer interested in joining your team.
Another aspect of understanding that a great idea alone is not enough is that no two people will tell a story the same way. Retellings of familiar stories can be fresh and exciting even when the reader knows the basics because a writer's individual interpretation provides new insight to the characters, situations, and challenges. The plot might differ in each version in important but nuanced ways. The setting in a different time or place will influence how the characters act. And of course, each writer's voice is distinct.
The artistic rendering is what elevates a great idea to a brilliant story. If the idea behind your story is the same or substantially similar to other books already published, then yours will be distinct because of all the parts of the story beyond the basic idea. The central idea gives the gist of what will happen in the story, but the parts that make it special can’t be conveyed in the idea. Since a writer's individual voice and presentation of characters and narrative arc are what make it unique, the idea alone cannot adequately convey a writer's individual artistry.
Once you have a great idea, your next step might involve asking yourself some questions. What makes your story different from others? Is this idea fresh enough to stand out from other books already available?
A great idea is the seed for every book, but alone it’s not enough to get a book deal. You’ll need to take the idea and craft it into your own, individual story.
If you've got a great idea, then it's time to start writing!