Those three words are always rattling around my head, no matter what I am working on at the moment. My next book. What will it be? Ideas come to me day and night, sometimes when I am half awake in the wee hours, sometimes in my dreams. Sometimes a friend or random person mentions something that sparks an idea. And plenty of people have tossed some actual full-formed (or half-baked) ideas my way too. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me "Why don't you do a book on…" then I'd have about 49 dollars.
But seriously, there is no idea that's bad. I love hearing what others think, even if I wind up doing the opposite of what they suggest, they've still sparked the idea. I have covered so many topics in my writing career, some of them rather far flung and random, and often times those books are the ones I have the most fun writing. So nothing is too strange, off-beat, or random for me.
And I say "writing" career but most of my books are very heavy on images too, so for my books the writing process is always a visual one, a marriage of photos with words. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a picture with an insightful caption is worth ten times that.
Anyway, back to what I was getting at before I interrupted myself. Which happens a lot and is part of why so many ideas come to me, because that's my brain. Very random and always thinking of a million things at once. You don';t come to write 47 books by having a boring and normal brain!
I guess how I think of new book topics is really by paying attention to the details, to all the things I see and places I go and the people I meet. There are potential books everywhere and sometimes all it takes is a single thought or detail I see to take me there. Sometimes it's in that moment and sometimes it's hours or days or months later.
Sometimes a past book was so fun or exciting that I want to do another book like it, or in the same series. This happened with my Abandoned Long Island book; it led me to do an Abandoned Queens book and then an Abandoned Long Island II book.
Once an idea forms, I give it some serious thought. Will this be an interesting book? Will I have fun doing it? Is there enough material to work with? Has this idea been covered already? Do I have the time to go to the place and take photos?
If I can answer all those questions favorably then I will probably forge ahead and turn the idea into a book. That said, I should not make it sound like choosing book topics is entirely up to me. I've had topics rejected by publishers for a variety of reasons, but especially if they think the topic might be too narrow or obscure. If I get a "no" I don't dwell on that, I go back to the pool of ideas and pick another!
Do I choose ideas based on how popular I think they will be, how well I think they will sell? I try not to, because there is simply no way to tell in advance. Sometimes the books I think will do really well, don't. And vice versa. It's hard to predict. All I can do is find a topic that I love, and throw myself into it full force, and ultimately, have a book that I am super proud of. In the end, it's nice if a book sells well, but usually that's the icing on the cake if the book turns out great.
If any of you have potential topics in mind, I am always open to suggestions. Drop me a line and drop your idea into the waiting bucket of book topics that is my brain!