Today, the most remarkable thing happened. A client sent me an idea for a non-fiction book. I liked it, but had that same old sinking feeling that it wasn’t “big” enough. What does that even mean. We know what it means when we are talking penis size, portfolio size, your number of Twitter followers, and yes I’m looking at you Ashton Kutcher who apparently has all three. But what the fuck does it mean to have a big book, to conceive of one, to put a proposal together that feels…big. Well, it can be idea driven (Tipping Point), story driven (Sea Biscuit), personality driven (Keith Richards). It can be new age driven (the Secret), it can be high concept (The Seven Habits of Highly Defective People). It can be real-estate driven (The Fuckin’ South Beach Diet.) Oh, canine-driven (Marly and Me). Goopy-driven (Morrie and Me). Or find a little known story set against an exciting moment in history (Devil in the White City). Or you can just be an exception to all that (Just Kids).
What happened today was that after a few exchanges, it turned out that there was a much “bigger” story in the backdrop. In fact, the more my client told me about it, the more I realized he was on to something that had never been done. The most important history books had completely left this out. If I were a miner, I would have thought: gold. It was also exciting to me because we made the discovery together. And in so doing, I was reminded why I love working with writers, how exciting it is to see an idea come alive, and to know that over the next months that idea will find its expression on the page, and if we are right and lucky, that a number of publishers will read it and be astonished, too, that they didn’t know about this story. And that it has reach, and power, and depth. And they will pay a lot for it because they think they can sell a lot. i.e. it has the potential to be a big motherfucking book.
Of course, some big books started small. What’s your favorite big book and small book? Wildly popular or a small gem?
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