What Makes a Great Nonfiction Book Idea | Jennifer Keishin Armstrong | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (51m)
    • 1. Introduction

      4:51
    • 2. 1: Where Do Great Book Ideas Come From?

      3:41
    • 3. 2: Concrete Lessons for Sparking New Book Ideas

      11:10
    • 4. 3: Help! I Have Too Many Ideas!

      12:14
    • 5. 4: Case Studies: How I Came Up with My Book Ideas (And You Can, Too!)

      8:32
    • 6. 5: The Idea Evaluation Checklist

      1:31
    • 7. 6: I Have a Great Idea ... What Now? (Plus, Your Project!)

      8:41
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About This Class

Led by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, the New York Times bestselling author of seven narrative nonfiction books, including Seinfeldia, When Women Invented Television, and Sex and the City and Us.


Where do great book ideas come from? Sometimes we wrack our brains for just the right big idea that will go the distance, and other times we find ourselves drowning in too many ideas, unsure which one to pursue. There are so many ways to go wrong: Maybe you’ll pick something only to find it’s a dead end in three months, barely enough to fill a few pages, much less a whole book. Maybe you’ll find something you love, only to be rejected by agents and publishers. Maybe you’ll choose a topic that’s impossible to market to the masses.


If you want help with conceiving your next nonfiction book idea, from finding that spark of inspiration to evaluating it for depth, breadth, industry appeal, and marketability, this is the class for you. We’ll talk through the process, with plenty of real-life examples and honest insider insights into the publishing business. Then we’ll get down to business with a step-by-step checklist for evaluating future ideas. We’ll also discuss next steps, like researching, writing proposals, and looking for agents or considering non-traditional publishing options.

 

Meet Your Teacher

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Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

New York Times bestselling author

Teacher

A New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of seven pop culture history books, including Seinfeldia; Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted; and Sex and the City and Us. Her forthcoming book When Women Invented Television will be published in March 2021. Her work appears in many publications, including BBC Culture, The New York Times Book Review, Vice, New York magazine, and Billboard.

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Welcome to what makes a great nonfiction book idea. I am Jennifer cation Armstrong. I am a New York Times bestselling author of seven non-fiction books, all from major publishers including Grand Central, Simon and Schuster and Harper books. My books include Seinfeld, DEA, Sex and the City and US pop-star goddesses. And when women invented television, I've spent more than a decade making a full-time living as a writer and author. And I have learned along the way how agents and editors think and crucially, how to balance my passions with market realities, which is what we will be talking about a lot in this class. Here is a selection of some of my books which you can check out. And these will also come up a lot as case studies throughout the class. Just because this is of course, what I know best, what I know from the inside. And I want to share with you what I have learned along the way in terms of how to get a book idea from an idea to a finished product that is published. Before we go on, it's important that we establish what we mean when we say a great book idea. Greatness is relative. You know, it's in the eye of the beholder. I've had a lot of great book ideas I think that have not become a reality or at least have not become a reality yet. So in this case, you know, great ideas are different for different authors of course. And it's really about what your priorities are, what you are trying to accomplish with this book idea, that is what's going to determine what makes it great. There might be something that's really, really worth a lot of money, but you wouldn't want to do it. You wouldn't be passionate about it. And so that isn't a great idea for you, even if it's a great idea for the market. So to break that down a little bit more. First you have an actually great idea by which I mean, in those case, the book that you want to read, the book that you are dying to write. I think that has to be your baseline that you start with. If you don't have that, It's not great for you. And as I mentioned, my agent even recently said to me, There are lots of great ideas that just don't sell. Beyond that, there are indeed, though, practical concerns. You might want to get an agent so that you can be published by a major publisher and your book idea does not get you that agent. It's not as great anymore. There's the book idea that actually gets you the book deal itself. There's the idea that readers will actually buy. And we will be talking about all of this and more throughout the class. And just, it's all about balancing all of these different factors to get to a point that you're happy with. So I'll tell you now briefly what we're going to go over in class so that you know what to expect and you want to click right on through to get started. We will talk about where great book ideas come from. We'll talk about concrete methods for sparking new book ideas. We'll talk about something that's, I think an extremely common problem for creative people, which is having too many ideas. And therefore how to narrow down and refine your ideas. We will walk through some case studies which as I mentioned, will be essentially my successful book ideas. And really with an eye toward how you can take the lessons that I learned there and apply those to your own life and ideas and work. Then I will give you a concrete idea evaluation checklist you can use over and over and over again throughout your writing life. We will briefly discuss what happens once you have narrowed down and refined and gotten to that great idea? What do you do with it next? There are certainly whole classes on various parts of the publication process, but I will give you a quick idea as to some next steps. And then you will do your project, which is essentially just your elevator pitch for your great book idea. So let's get started. First up, we will be talking about where do great book ideas come from? 2. 1: Where Do Great Book Ideas Come From?: Welcome to Lesson 1 of what makes a great nonfiction book idea. Where do great ideas come from? So for whom are you really writing? Who are you thinking about? When you're thinking about this great idea? The answer, or really answers may surprise you a little bit. Of course we care about the ultimate readers, the people who will come to your book events like this nice man did for me. And we'll ask you to sign your books and we'll take them home and give them as gifts and bio, lots and lots more copies and leave you nice reviews on GoodReads and all of that good stuff. We love those people. But your audience is not just those people. It is not only who you think it is. There are a lot of people essentially standing in your way between you and all of those readers who are going to love your idea. Your true audience if you are going the traditional publishing route is at first when you are conceiving this idea, an agent and then an editor who has to get their publisher on board and really in fact their whole team on board at the publisher. The agent is trying to figure out what will appeal to an editor. The editor is trying to figure out what will appeal to their publisher, to their publishing team. The publisher is trying to figure out what will sell to lots and lots of readers. So of course, the ultimate goal is to come up with an idea that lots of readers love and buy and read and tell others about. But in traditional publishing, your immediate concern while you are conceiving this idea is that agent, editor, publisher chain. Of course, your ultimate audience is in fact, those masses of people who will buy lots and lots of your books, who will love your idea and will be the key to your future power. As an author in the publishing business. At the stage of idea conception and selling, you will have to prove that your idea has a large and enthusiastic potential audience. And you will be thinking about them while developing the idea and writing the proposal. And surprisingly enough, you actually don't want a book for everybody. You don't want to just say like, everyone will love this book in your proposal. You want to book for a specific group that you and the publisher can identify and find and essentially target with your marketing. You want to think about this niche and then identify the book they will want. Might be a problem-solving book. If you're in the self-help or finance or business sections of the bookstore. But it might be something else. It might be the exact story that these people want to be told in narrative form, or a history of what they're interested in, or a story that inspires them, bolsters their sense of identity or argues a point that opens up a new world for them. So this is what you want to be thinking about as we go in to our next lesson, which will be concrete methods for sparking new ideas. 3. 2: Concrete Lessons for Sparking New Book Ideas: Welcome to Lesson 2 of what makes a great nonfiction book idea, concrete methods for sparking new book ideas. The first question that you can ask yourself in this brainstorming is, in your area of expertise. What is intriguing you most right now? Where have you run into big stories or what themes come up over and over. I will give you an example from my own life, which is my book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, which came out in 2013. I was conceiving in the 2011 ish era. And I had been working at Entertainment Weekly magazine for actually about 10 years at that point and interviewed a lot of female comedians, people like Tina Fey and Julia Louis Dreyfus and many, many more. And over and over again, they kept mentioning the Mary Tyler Moore Show as their inspiration. So that was my first spark of thinking. There's something here and there's something that's still pretty relevant right now in pop culture. And then I kind of looked into it enough to realize there was a bigger story there, which was, it was the first show with multiple female writers on staff who were mentored by the male co-creators of the show, James L. Brooks and Alan Burns. And so to me than a story really started to take shape. But the initial spark came from just knowing my subject area really well, doing a lot of work in that subject area and looking for themes and patterns and things that came up over and over again. And that intrigued me. Another question you can ask yourself is just in your area of expertise, what is the big story? Is there just something totally obvious that might sound silly? X that's like, oh, if it was totally obvious, someone would have done it already. But your brain works different maybe from anyone else in your area of expertise. And you might be able to see things a little bit differently. So, look around, think about in your subject area, what is the big maybe untold story? What is the big story that for some reason nobody's done a book on it. And it's always exciting when you find that when you have this big idea and you go to Amazon and look up whether there have been books on the topic and somehow there haven't bed and you think, My God, this is it. That is really exciting. So this happened to be with my book, Seinfeld. Yeah. You know, once I had done the book on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I sort of just looked around and said, Okay, great, This worked to do what I call a biography of a television show. You how to do a cultural history of a Shao. Is there a show now that I can think of That's just like so big that it obviously has to be covered in book form and there is enough story to be told. And I just felt like Seinfeld is definitely one of the biggest stories of modern comedy, of really TV comedy history period. And it hadn't been done. So I decided I was gonna do it and it worked out and it was a bestseller. And it's always great when you can find those. Another question you can ask yourself is just what have you always wanted to write a book about? And this was the case for me with my third in this kind of series of books about big popular television shows that I did, which is called Sex and the City in us. And I just thought after doing Seinfeld dose, I said that felt to me like the biggest story you could do in that subject area. So then the question is kind of, what can kind of equal that? And also what just would excite me. What have I thought about before? And really back when I was still writing the Mary Tyler Moore Show book. And back as far as when I was on staff at Entertainment Weekly, I always thought that Sex and the City would make a great book. I had interviewed several of the writers of the show and they had really fun stories to tell. And I just thought this was also a show that was so formative in my own life that this felt like a great place to go next. And really came out of me thinking about, what do I really want to write a book about in this area? Another question you can ask yourself is when have you run into stories that surprised you in your area of expertise? And that was the case for my most recent book, when women invented television. This actually went all the way back to when I was researching the Mary Tyler Moore Show book, a couple of things had come up in my research. That was a show in the 1970s. And when I was kinda looking back at the predecessors to that show the inspirations for some of the characters, for some of the people who worked on the show. It went all the way back to the beginning of television to the late forties and early fifties. And they had mentioned a couple of things that I truly did not know that much about. One of which was that there was a woman named Gertrude Berg, who was a huge, huge early television star, kind of one of the actual first. And she produced, created, starting and wrote the first successful family sitcom, The Goldberg's. And I just thought, it's crazy to me that I didn't know who this woman was. I fancied myself pretty up on television history, and of course, she's not completely unknown. There are definitely people who have known her work. There are still people alive who watched the show. But this was something that I felt like had been really lost in television history. Two names like Ed Sullivan or even Lucille Ball instead. And it was really shocking to me that there was this woman running her own showed before Lucy even. I thought Lucy was an outlier, but the more I dug into it, the more I realized there were lots and lots of women doing stuff in early television that would surprise you. Women in front of the camera, behind the camera, in the creative positions, all of that who were really pioneering the actual forms of television that we can still recognize today. So then I also learned about how Betty White was another woman who had her own sitcom that she creates, she co-created start in. And she also was one of the first talk show hosts ever in daytime history. The she actually had a daytime talk show where she was on the air for 5.5 hours a day, six days a week. And I thought again, I nobody white, but I had no idea that she had this specific history. And so the more I dug into it, the more I realized there were many interesting stories to tell. I did not know about and not a lot of other people who love television didn't know about. And that is something that again, it feels like it's hard, of course, like, of course let me look in my box of untold stories. But if you sort of are really immersed in your area of expertise and you know what you're talking about. You're going to know when those things come up, you're going to have enough knowledge to realize like this is really an untold story. And of course you'll do research to back that up and we can talk about that later. But this is something that you're sort of always scanning for and want to make sure to note and look into as a potential book idea when it happens. Other questions you can ask yourself to generate ideas. What book do you want to read? This is a classic. If you notice that there's a book that you've been looking for and you can't find it, might be time to write it. Another exercise you can do is actually go to a bookstore and peruse your subject area. And just pick out books that look intriguing. And think about if you could do something that is essentially the same but different, which is what we're always looking for it. We're always looking for ways we can sort of, I don't want to say imitate, but you know, use as a model books that have been successful and do that, but do obviously something a little bit different, different subjects, same, same approach, those sorts of things. Same subject, different approach is another way to think about it. But that can really help to kind of spark ideas. I'll just go to the cultural history section and look at other books and think like them. Is there something kind of equivalent in my own little niches that I can think about. One great example is that part of the inspiration for the Mary Tyler Moore Show book also came from a book called Fifth Avenue five AM, which is about the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's and about how it helped to shape our ideas of modern American womanhood. And I thought like, what could I do with that? But in television and the Mary Tyler Moore Show was the answer to that as well. And I really used that book as a model and it was a very successful book. So that's what you want to be looking for. You can also peruse the bestseller list because of course those books have been market, why is quite successful? And you can think about similarly, what books in your subject area have done particularly well in the last year or two. How could you play on that with your own ideas? Because if you can work those in to your proposal, it will be very appealing to that chain we mentioned of the agent, editor and publisher. Can also think about who your target audiences and what they most want to or need to read. As we've discussed before, if they are the ultimate goal and if you can please them, and if you can prove that you're going to please them, that is what we're looking for. So next up, we are going to talk about kind of the opposite from what we've just been talking about. Which is, what if you do all this and you come up with way too many ideas and you're not sure how to call them down. 4. 3: Help! I Have Too Many Ideas!: Welcome to lesson 3 of what makes a great nonfiction book idea, the help, I have too many ideas addition. So now we have tons of ideas and that can be at least as much of a problem. Well, it's not quite as much of a problem as no ideas at all, right, let's face it, we're ahead of the game, but it can feel really overwhelming. You're scared of getting rid of the right idea or choosing the wrong idea. And it really can be a lot. Here are some of the ways you're probably thinking you could choose wrong. Maybe you'll pick something only to find, it's a dead end and three months, it's not even going to fill a few pages. It's definitely not a whole book. Maybe you'll find something you love and you put all of your effort into it. And then months, years later, you are rejected over and over again by agents and publishers. Maybe you'll choose a topic that is just impossible to market to the masses and is huge dud. Maybe this is a sliding doors moment when you'll choose the entirely wrong life timeline for yourself by choosing the wrong book idea. We're just giving voice to all of these spheres now to kind of deflate them of their power. I'm not saying that these things can't happen. I'm not saying these things haven't happened to me, but I can tell you that, you know, you will get through it. You will live, it will be okay. You'll learn something along the way no matter what. You cannot tell the future. But I am going to give you some ways you can evaluate your ideas before moving forward with them. But first, I want to mention a few important caveats. Many successful writers, very much including me, have lists and lists and lists of rejected book ideas. I have lots of half written proposals, couple of fully written proposals, fully written proposals that have been rewritten a few times in my computer that have not yet become bucks. The thing about successful published writers is that they tend to just keep going until they find the one that sticks no matter what. Also, as I may have hinted several times, ideas are never really dead. Unless like, the only way you can get close to killing and ideas of someone else does your exact same book idea before you get to it. But the exact, exact, exact same thing with the exact angle, your unique perspective, all of that stuff is mostly unlikely. And sometimes subject areas are covered enough that you're done. But I have resurrected many of my ideas that I thought were left for dead. When women invented television was one of them. It was on a list that was in idea purgatory for six years before I made it into a full proposal and sold it. With that, we can look at some ways that you can evaluate those lists of ideas that you do have and see what comes out on top for you. Now, don't throw those idealists away. They might come back later. So the first thing you can do is research the market. Seems obvious, but please do this quickly because there is really nothing more disappointing than thinking you've got it and then realizing someone else's doing essentially what you had planned to do. First thing you need to check is whether someone has published a book that is too close to your idea. If they have, you need to pivot now, you need to find a significantly different angle. Or maybe you'll just decide I've done this before. I've seen somebody doing not even exactly the same thing I was planning to do, but something so close that I just decided, I don't feel like being in a super competitive situation. I don't want to have to vie for interviews or, you know, press when these things eventually come out with this other person. I'm just going let them have it they got there first. I haven't put that much into it yet. Let's move on. On the other hand, maybe confusingly, you actually want there to be some similar ish books in the world. We've hinted at this already. Having other books in the world that is, that are in the subject area that you are interested in, indicates that people are interested in those people want to buy books about this, you really buy books is key here. You want those similar issue, but not the same books to have sold. Well, otherwise you want to stay far away from them and not mention them because that will only make people wonder whether this is a bad idea if it hasn't worked for other people before. So research the market, know what's out there. Figure out how you can contribute something unique to this area, or maybe it's time to eliminate that particular idea. If you have so many that maybe can almost be fun to sometimes eliminate some great, don't have to worry about that one. Moving on to the next one. The second thing to think about is how you'd research the book. I think a lot about how books are about 300 pages. When they're printed out and bound and put in the bookstore. You are probably familiar with books. I hope you've been reading a lot of them said she wanted to make one. And so you have a general sense of how big that is. A topic has to be pretty big. You have to have a lot of information, a lot of new information, or unique information or a unique take in order to fill those 300 pages. So I think a lot about this at this very early stage, you don't have to actually go out and do a ton. You just have to kind of get a sense of what is possible. One way to do that is if this is a book that requires interviews, make an interview target list. You know, Google around a bit to see whether those people have tended to give interviews before. I mean, this depends, of course, if they're an unknown person or something, of course they haven't done interviews, but for people who are maybe more prominent, you can, you can suss out whether they tended to give interviews, whether they tend to give interviews on the subject, how you might be able to get in touch with them, those sorts of things. If you really can't find anybody on your interview list to even talk to you. You might be in trouble. Can also make a list of any archival sources that exist. And this again depends on your subject area, but if it's the kind of subject that that lends itself to looking at people's old records, letters, all of those sorts of things. When I did when women invented television because it's about the late 1940s and early 1950s. And three of my four main subjects are dead. I had to look at archival resources and there were a ton, in this case, the women had archives. There were archives from networks to TV networks from that time. These are the sorts of things you're looking at for your own subject area to see what's out there. What might be fruitful. And archives, especially if they're run by libertarians, they're well-documented. That's the whole point of them. So there's lots of information available online in terms of just at least seeing what exists. Can make a list of book and periodical sources as well. This is more common like, you know, high school and college type research stuff, but still really important and still really helpful. So There's lots of books that might provide the information that you need. Of course you want them to be different books from your own, but you're packaging it in your new and unique way. Periodical sources, any kinds of databases of newspapers, magazines, that kind of thing. You try to just make an honest assessment from this. Does it feel like there might be enough to work with? Are there any potential major roadblocks that could be devastating to this effort? Don't talk yourself out of things too much, of course, on any of this, but you want to be realistic about everything. Next, you want to consider how you would mark it, the book. And by you, I really mean you don't be thinking, well, the way this should be marketed is that my publisher should tell Reese whether spoon to select this as her book club pick. That is not what we're talking about here. They know about the Today Show. They know what they do. You want to consider how you can help get the word out about this specific book and whether you are in a good position to do that. Again, I don't want to scare you. I don't want to talk you out of it, but these are things you're going to need to consider when you read a book proposal. So do you have a platform, some kind of established presence as a go-to source in this topic area are ready. And again, the answer, if the answer test some of these questions is no, that's okay. But you need to think about all of this ahead of time in terms of if you're weighing one idea versus another, you might have a stronger platform, for instance, in one idea area rather than another, and that might be the one to pursue right now. So think about whether you have platform at all. And that could just be, you know, you're on Twitter talking about this a lot or that sort of thing. That's okay, That's enough. Or it's at least something. So just think about that. Do you happen to have any media connections, particularly in the subject area? Might you have a speaking career in the subject area? These or any other reasons that you can come up with that you are the perfect person to write this and you can help get the word out to the right people. That's what you're looking for. If you have nothing, like I said, Do not panic. But do consider starting to build some kind of platform there. And this is much more possible now than it was 10 and certainly 20 or more years ago. Can you start a social media account or a podcast where you share your knowledge and passion about the subject. Can you pitch stories to publications about this subject to kind of establish yourself as a voice out there talking about it. Just start to work on that. If you don't have anything and if this is definitely the idea that you want to pursue. With that, next up, we are going to walk through some case studies from my own life to look at really how these ideas started to come together and work and move toward actual publication. 5. 4: Case Studies: How I Came Up with My Book Ideas (And You Can, Too!): Welcome to lesson 4 of what makes a great nonfiction book idea. Here we'll be talking about some case studies. How I came up with my successful book ideas. And you can too. My first book which I have not mentioned yet, because it was kind of a fluke. But I think it is important to note how it came to be. Just to show you how the publishing process can work. Sometimes. This was before my Mary Tyler Moore Show book. This is a book called Why? Because we still like you, which is a history of the 1950s Mickey Mouse Club. I did not really know anything beyond the basics about the 1950s Mickey Mouse Club. I was not born in the 1950s, but a publisher had the idea and was looking for someone to do it. At about the same time, I had been approached by an agent because she liked an essay I wrote in an anthology. She heard about this project, the Mickey Mouse Club project, and she put me up for it because I did have expertise in writing about television and even about current Disney Channel stars at that time, which was like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, people like that. So it wasn't totally crazy, but it was not something I would have come up with myself. And I really did want to write a book. And this was the opportunity that finally presented itself to me. And I thought, I'm just going to figure this out. I'm going to learn about it. I'm going to do it. And it was a great learning experience. It was a great way to have a first book to get in there. And, you know, just sort of established myself and learn what this thing was all about. And it really did directly lead to my next book, which We've talked about was Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. I basically thought, what if I could write the same kind of book, which is like a biography of a television show, but about a show I actually love and care about. And as I mentioned before, I had been, as I was on the lookout for this, I was interviewing current female comedy stars and they mentioned the Mary Tyler Moore Show lot and just thought these two things kinda came together and I realized there might be something here. And then I went through the checklist that we are talking about. I didn't have that checklist them, but this is one of the ways that came to be and did the research part of the checklist and realized there really was that story to be told over 300 pages. When I realized there were many women who wrote for this show, it was the first to have this many women writing for it using their own experiences in the scripts they wrote and being mentored by the men who created the show. I just thought, oh, there's a lot to talk about here for those 300 pages, there's a lot of people to interview. You can see the checklist early in action here. And that's when I knew I was going to pursue this and write a full proposal. From that. Really. Next came Seinfeld DEA. Things are getting a little bit simpler here you start to develop a nation that becomes a blessing and a curse because this is what people expect of you. But it also narrows your focus a lot. And so the idea here was simple. What if I did the same kind of book again, but looked for just a huge story, a huge hit that people still watching reruns today. And I have to say that even though I really believed this was a great idea and that people were going to be excited about it and that it had a chance to sell well, it did well beyond my expectations. I did not understand the power of Seinfeld and the amount of enthusiasms still out there for the show until I published this book and really felt it. And I'm very grateful for that. This was an instant bestseller. It was on the list for many, many weeks. It continues to sell well, particularly at holiday seasons, even for festival. This is a, it's a genuine thing that happens if you know your Seinfeld's, you know, what festivals cases. And it really just has exceeded all expectations. And that's what we're looking for, but you can never totally tell one that's going to happen. The next evolution was once again a direct one. This was really the answer to what show had as big an impact as Seinfeld and I came up with Sex and the City in us. And it also did some other things that I mentioned before. It played on my spirits specific expertise as someone who writes a lot about women in television and really had a deep sort of personal connection to me as well. It was just a show I was watching when I moved to New York City myself. And so all of these things came together and as I mentioned, I had always wanted to write a book about it. So this was a, this was the time. And it all came together here. The next book that I wrote was the most recent book that I published, which is called when women invented television. And yet as you can see, the others are such a direct evolution. This is a little bit of a turn to me for me. But I said before this went back to you when I was working on Marion Lu and wrote in Ted and had uncovered some intriguing faxed in my research then that made me realize that there were a lot of women doing a lot of stuff in early television from 1948 to 1955. And I sort of thought of this as a hidden figures for early television. Easy elevator pitch there. And I put it on the list. You know, it had been on the list. But through all the other times that I was picking book ideas that had been sitting there on this list. And I revisited it for this round, which was about eight years later. And for various reasons other times I just hadn't found exactly the right research and stories or hadn't put as much effort into it or, you know, that sort of thing. My agent was like, I'm not sure and I didn't really have much research to back it up, so I abandoned it. And then I really took some time in this round if I just felt like it was it was a good time, that was the right time and really put effort into researching this and figuring out exactly how it would work. And it worked this time. And I turned it into a proposal and eventually book some important notes. I know I've said this before, but I feel like it's really important to keep saying it so that, you know, the discouragement doesn't overwhelm the encouragement. I and many successful authors like me have had plenty of Mrs. along the way, I have pitched so many ideas that had been vetoed by my agent, by editors. I think a lot of them are good obviously, but, you know, this is just the way it goes. You have to keep going. You have to keep at it until you find a winner. Or the other option is that you can move on to something like nontraditional publishing if you feel really strongly about an idea and it's not as important to you to be with a big publisher. You can try other options too. That's always available to you. You can always put everything you have behind a passion project if that's what you wanna do and make it, make it happen yourself. Lots of people do this these days. With that, we are going to move on to our Idea Evaluation Checklist, which will be sort of a comprehensive list of things that you can go back to you over and over again as you evaluate ideas throughout your, I hope, long and fruitful authoring career. 6. 5: The Idea Evaluation Checklist: Welcome to lesson five of what makes a great nonfiction book idea, the idea evaluation checklist. So here we're just going to breeze right on through the big questions you need to be asking yourself every time you've got an idea when you need to figure out whether it is great or not. First, are you passionate about this topic? Next? Are other people passionate about it? Do you have demonstrable authority to write about this topic? Have there been other books written about this topic? What special things can you do to market this book? What will you do to research this topic? Is there enough to say to fill 300 pages or so? If your idea stands up to all of these questions, Congratulations, It is time to move forward. And for that, we can go to our next lesson, which is what to do once you have your great idea, a few ideas for some next steps. 7. 6: I Have a Great Idea ... What Now? (Plus, Your Project!): Welcome to lesson 6 of what makes a great nonfiction book idea. You have a great idea. What do you do now? Now that we have put all of this work into refining and conceptualizing and narrowing down our ideas. I wanted to give you some thoughts about what you can do text so that all of that work can actually be put directly into action. So some thoughts about how you can move forward. From here. We can't possibly begin to cover how to navigate the publishing business in the scope of this class, there are tons of classes and resources out there about that. But I do want to give you a few next steps to consider. First, you have to decide whether to pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing. I'm gonna give you a very quick primer here just so you can kind of at least move off in the right direction and start Googling things. Traditional publishing is more competitive, an arduous, but there are a bunch of advantages. That includes getting an advance for your work. So you'll actually get some money having traditional publishing resources like marketing, publicity, professional cover design, and distribution. They know how to get those books in the right hands. They know how to get them in places, in all of those typical book type places like the New York Times book review. They know how to get books into key places like actual bookstores. So that is great. Self-publishing. It gives you more freedom, obviously, infinite freedom really, but involves a lot more risk. You will likely have to invest your own money upfront and definitely time. And you will not be getting money the way that you would from an advanced, from a publisher. And of course, it requires you to handle everything. Of course you can hire people for that, but again, money. So you really have to somehow handle everything from getting a cover designed to getting your book out in the world and getting the word out, getting people to buy it. If you've decided you want to at least try the traditional route first, you will need to get an agent. To get an agent for a non-fiction book, you will need to write a proposal for your idea. I'm going to tell you just so you know, if you have never seen a proposal, what you're getting into, this is kind of like a business plan for a book. That's the best way I can explain it. And the sections include an overview section about audience and competition. So you'll be kind of, you know, looking at what else is out there, which of course you've already done. But you will put that into your proposal itself and About the Author section. So that's where you'll tell them all the reasons why you are the best person to write this book and market this book. A publicity and marketing section where you will have to come up with some actual ways that you would help with publicity and marketing. Chapter summaries, of course. So that's like kind of your outline and sampling materials. So you'll usually have at least one if not a few sample chapters that you will really have to put a lot of work into and write thoroughly as if you are really doing the thing so that they can see what they're getting into and hopefully give you a lot of money for it. There are many resources for this, including a Skillshare class that I taught. And I also offer one-on-one coaching packages to help you through the process. If you opt for self-publishing, you will have to dig in and just start its time because you're going to publish yourself, dig in and start researching and writing. If you want some help with this, I put together a guide to how I write my books. And it includes outlining, researching, writing, and editing. And that is called the bright that nonfiction book already. And by the way, I will let you know my website where you can get to a lot of these things. Before we end here today. You will also have to learn about many facets of publishing. As I mentioned, you'll have to do it all yourself. There are tons of resources available for this, including a good overview. It reads either where I can provide the link for that in the notes for this class. Many people opt for Kindle Direct Publishing. Chai can also provide a link to you. But there are other options as well and you will have to kind of look into that on your own and figure it out. There's lots of exciting options out there these days. Good luck and stay tuned for your class assignment. Here are some guidelines for doing your project for the class. You're going to write an elevator pitch. Pretty short. You want to focus your idea down to a one to two sentence pitch. Something clear and concise. You would tell someone in an elevator if they asked, what's your book about which by the way, happens a lot. You want to tell us not only your broad topic area, but also your approach and your unique angle on the subject. It will really, really come in handy throughout the process of selling and writing the book. You will be able to tell everyone from agents and editors to readers what your book is about and why it matters. You will also be able to keep yourself focused Azure writing. Here are some examples that you can model your own elevator pitches off of. These are for two of my books that I have mentioned. Here's the first, Sex and the City and us as a narrative history of the origins making and lasting cultural impact of Sex and the City. The documents, how the show changed the ways we think about single women, sex, dating, fashion, New York City, brunch, shoes and even cupcakes. Here's the second one. When women invented television tells the story of how women ruled the days of early TV from 1948, 1955, before patriarchy and big business took over. It focuses on four pioneers in particular, Gertrude Berg, who created road, produced and start in the first successful family sitcom, The Goldberg's a Phillips, who invented the daytime soap opera, Hazel Scott, a jazz superstar in the first black person to host a primetime national Show. And Betty White, one of D times first talk show hosts. So that is it. With that you can go make great ideas and please do share one of them as your class project, you can get some feedback from me and other classmates. And I hope that this process serves you as many times as you need it throughout your writing career. Please remember that a rejection from an agent or editor does not mean an idea is bad. It just means it's not right for them at that time or they don't get it. That's it. Someone else might feel differently. Everyone might love it at a different time. Nothing is foolproof and the idea game. So you just have to keep at it and follow your passions. Please visit me anytime online at Jennifer K. Armstrong.com. There you'll learn how to get in touch with me. My social media stuff, that book that I mentioned about how to write a book, is there information about joining me for one-on-one coaching? Is there? All that good stuff? Thank you so much for taking this class. Don't forget to do your elevator pitch project to get feedback, like I said, and also rate and review this class. It really helps for other people to be able to find this class. Thank you so much.