by Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam BarrySeptember 2009
What’s the big idea?
With more than 25 years of experience, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. Sam is the author of How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons; National Women’s Book Association Award winner Kathi is the author of And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You. Their book on publishing is scheduled for release in 2010. Email your questions (along with your name and hometown) to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their blog.
Dear Author Enablers,
I retired from the software industry in late 2007 and have been working on some ideas that never gained traction at the office. One of your recent replies was to a saw player who wondered if her blog readers were right [in suggesting she write a book]. I’m wondering if a blog for my topic is the way to start.
My problem is that I can see how this collection of ideas could evolve if I could just figure out how to share it with others. I’m wondering if I’m shooting myself in the foot if I publicize the idea with a blog and then someone else starts the business I want to create, after reading my postings.
Am I hurting my chances for a book deal later if I publish myself, using a service like lulu.com?
Springwater, New York
When it comes to blogging, there is no surefire answer that works for everyone, even musical saw players in the New York City subway. But there is a new view in the world that the Internet has made it less logical to try concealing information before getting paid for it. It’s an idea that’s really not that new—like the loss leader item in retail stores: free or very cheap stuff attracts the customers, and then the store or company makes money by offering other premium services.
As a businessman, it’s really up to you. We certainly don’t want you to shoot yourself in the foot; for one thing, it would hurt. Looking around the publishing world today, there is precedent for blogs attracting a platform that can lead to other success, including the publication of a book. And if your idea is a good one, the fact that you blogged about it shouldn’t prevent publication or hurt the book, since books sell to a different market. We think blogging might help you hone your idea, get some public reaction and maybe even gain some of that traction you were missing at the office.
The only way you could hurt yourself by self-publishing is if you saturate the market with your own publication—in other words, if there is no one left for the traditional publisher to sell to. That would be their worry. But this is an unlikely scenario—and it would mean that you’d already have made a lot of money, which you can use to repair your foot.
Dear Author Enablers,
My best friend said that movie studios are so desperate for ideas that they are making movies from old TV shows. I would like to know, is this true? Is Hollywood desperate for new ideas? Also, do the children’s film studios need new ideas?
Judging by shows like “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF” and movies like Battlefield Earth and Gigli, your friend has a point. However, we think the answer is a lot more complicated than it might appear. People in Hollywood and publishing are desperate for good ideas—that is, timely ideas, fully realized and well executed. There are not as many of these as one might think. Publishers are looking for good writers with good ideas who understand the process and are willing to do the work with reasonable expectations of the outcome; the same goes for the movie industry, the music industry, big business, small business, educational institutions, the medical community, entrepreneurs and Elvis impersonators.
A writer’s job begins with having an original idea that is of interest to enough people to warrant its publication or production, and this is no small feat in itself. Then it falls to the writer to compose an intriguing presentation that will pass muster with the toughest critics in the world: Elvis impersonators! No, actually we mean the people who work in publishing and the movie industry. Why are they tough? They have to be in order to stay competitive. Many writers don’t understand how to present their work properly. Some slam out half-baked ideas; others labor over their projects for years without getting objective feedback.
So yes, the publishers and movie industry are desperate for good material, but that’s because timely, fully realized, good ideas are not easy to come by.