Every product is an idea at some point. But most products go from idea to something tangible. Goods and services become concrete. You can drive your car, drink your coke, eat your hot dog, go to the doctor’s office, stay at a hotel. These materials and services are the execution and fruition of the idea.
But what is a book? Sure it is tangible. It has pages and a cover. It appears on your kindle screen or iPad. But unlike other products, the quality of the book has almost nothing to do with the material used to produce it. The ingredients that make books great are the ideas themselves.
What does this mean for a writer? It means you are idea developer. It means the idea you are writing must be honed and polished to be a great product. Your idea must be thought through, dwelt with, left for a while, returned to, and wrestled into a shape that is good.
It also means you have a greater challenge than an inventor or engineer, or at least an entirely different kind. You have to make your idea work in the hearts and minds of a reader. The only objective standard for an idea is the standard of truth. But while a great idea must be true, a true idea is not necessarily great.
It means that you are probably the worst judge of whether your idea works. You can’t run a test to determine its capabilities. You can’t taste it yourself to see if the flavors mix well. Because a book doesn’t come from outside you, it comes from you.
To assess an idea you need an abundance of counselors. Most people can give feedback one aspect or another. One might tell you your writing style doesn’t fit the idea (too abrasive, too conversational, etc.), another might point out a flaw in your reasoning, and a third might tell you he read the same subject matter elsewhere. A writer needs all these people and more. These people are the litmus tests, the test pilots, the taste-testers, and the market research of your idea.
Writers, idea people, if you don’t have these folks find some. You need to. From a publishing perspective, I beg you to find them. It’s hard enough to sell a proven product or a helpful service in an overloaded market place. To sell an idea without it being as proven as possible is nearly impossible.