After 23 weeks, 33 posts and 23,000 words, I’ve come to the end of my blog series, The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books. Starting the next book is a great place to complete my thoughts.
I don’t know how many brainstorming sessions I’ve held with only one brain in the room. I don’t think that’s a very good method for truly figuring out a strategy. But I’ve also been in countless meetings pegged for brainstorming that turned out to be a waste of everyone’s time. Wits larger than mine have come up with methodologies for developing ideas yet those can also be hit or miss. Here is my advice for manifesting a great next book.
Who were your biggest supporters during the last production? Was it the photographer? The designer? The printer’s rep? Who do you want to work with again? These are the people you want to connect with as you develop the proposal for your next book. Bring them together for a few focused hours where you can exchange ideas. Engage in a free-flowing discussion, but be prepared, too.
After experiencing the workflow involved with your last documentary book, you’ll have examples of where the project was a success and where failures surfaced. That type of investigation is going to help clarify the direction for your next project. For example, if your theme was a pictorial biography and all went well except for some delays in the approval process, then you can make adjustments next time. But if the ROI didn’t pan out as expected, you might not want to attempt this type of book again without concrete presales.
Where you are heading is to a place where the new project sounds really fun and one that allows you to immediately imagine ways it can come together. That place is sometimes called the “ah-ha” moment or the illuminated idea. As concepts are tossed about, several will make it to the top of the list. But at last there is one that has the most appeal, usually because someone says something like, “Hey, I can call so-and-so about that tomorrow!” Other key components come up, such as a timely marketing hook or a memorable title idea. And then more thoughts and resources surface until the idea becomes absolutely feasible.
Building ideas for documentary books are complex and require you to outline next steps and establish timetables to determine if the project can get a green light. Momentum will only continue if the project has a producer who is passionate about the book and one with the know-how and determination to see it through.
If creating books in this fashion is a career that interests you, take a look at the various roles I’ve outlined in this study to find out what excites you the most. Above all, stay engaged in the industry. Keep scrapbooks of ideas. It can take years, even decades, for some documentary books to materialize.
Thank you for reading my series. I welcome your feedback, questions and ideas on what I should blog about next!