I must look like some sort of Idea Man, because strangers keep coming up to me and asking where I get my ideas. (On the other hand, people who know me or have read my work tend to back away slowly when they see me. Except for my children, but only because I keep them on leashes.)
But back to the question: Where do I get my ideas?
I used to buy them, but now I steal them.
It’s a dirty little secret in the book world that all ideas these days are bought and sold. Idea futures (seems dumb now, but might have merit later), idea derivatives (this is where sequels and cheap Chinese knock-offs of Harry Potter come from), idea mutual funds (a well-balanced mix of good and great ideas, with minimal exposure risk to stupid ideas), and idea investment trusts (don’t ask me, even my lawyer can’t explain those to me).
It’s complicated. And, it turns out, expensive.
The problem is pricing. You can get ideas really cheap, but those are the crappy ideas. The lame rehashes. The eye-rolling clichés. Or the just plain dumb. The better the idea, the higher the price. Yes, that’s right, ideas have a price scale.
Best Seller grade ideas are at the top, often commanding six or seven figures (the Harry Potter idea, I’ve heard from someone who failed to put in the top bid, was into eight figures and, with hindsight, worth every cent). There are various levels of Career Sustaining ideas found in the middle of the scale, the sort of concepts that will cost you the equivalent of a new car, and keep your career, while not exactly thriving, humming along well enough to pay the bills. Of course, at the bottom of the scale is the Airport grade, for those who can’t afford anything else (named Airport grade because these ideas are for books only people trapped on the secure side of an airport terminal would be desperate enough to buy).
Like most things in life, this means only the rich can afford to get the ideas that will make them richer. It’s not about what you can do, or even who you know, for that matter. It’s about how much idea you can buy. That said, who you know can help get a loan approved, increasing the amount of idea you can obtain.
I poured tens and tens of dollars down the drain buying used (yes, there is a used market) Airport grade ideas, because that was all I could afford. What did it get me? A stack of form rejection letters and my car repossessed.
Then one day, my once modest bank account drained completely dry by the Big Idea Industrial Complex, I couldn’t take it any more. Still a complete unknown, now I couldn’t buy any ideas, brilliant or crap. I found myself in that most untenable of situations: forced to think for myself. This was an exceedingly uncomfortable period of my life, but I soldiered on until I had my very own, moderately brilliant idea.
Why pay for ideas when you can steal them?
You’ll be amazed by the lack of security savvy you’ll find amongst the larger, Fortune Five Hundred idea repositories. It’s like they’ve never heard of the internet and its tubes, script-kiddies, or Anonymous. I didn’t even have to try very hard to hack into them. A little ftp’ing here, some social engineering there, and boom, I was in. The sheer scale of idea storage is breathtaking, and let me tell you, based on the volume of Best Seller grade ideas I found, prices should be a lot lower. There is definitely some market manipulation going on here.
So I grabbed them all. Every single idea at Career Sustaining Level III and above (including the idea for this article). The best part of all? I’m untouchable. These giant idea brokers can’t afford the negative publicity that acknowledging a break-in would generate. Sellers would flee. More people would hack them, and a black market in stolen ideas would begin to flourish, undercutting their monopoly. So they stay silent about my electronic trespass and thievery, and since I have the ideas now, they won’t (and can’t, due to the terms of their warranty) sell them to anyone else.
These ideas are mine now. Carefully stored away in a locked filing cabinet in a secure vault at an undisclosed location. Whenever I need an idea, I pay a visit and flip through the pages, looking for an idea that catches my eye. And then I come home and start writing.
I think I have enough ideas to write comfortably for the next decade at least, with enough ideas left over that I could sell them for extra income. And I’m not talking Airport grade, if you know what I mean.
Anyone want to buy an idea?