Someone gave me a copy of an interesting and visually appealing book about the buildings that were designed but never actually constructed for New York City, called Never Built New York, by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell, with a foreword from Freedom Tower architect Daniel Liebeskind. It inspired me to think about the many millions of book ideas people have developed but never turned into a published book. What might our book landscape really look like if writers acted on the ideas that filled their minds?
In the case of Never Built New York, the back cover copy perfectly captures the notion of what could have been, that the city would certainly have been different if any or all of these drawn-up projects came to be:
“New York towers among world capitals, but the city we know might have reached even more stellar heights, or burrowed into more destructive depths, had the ideas pictured in the minds of its greatest dreamers progressed beyond the drawing board and taken form in stone, steel, and glass. What is wonderfully elegant and grand might easily have been ingloriously grandiose; what is blandly unremarkable might have become delightfully provocative or humanely inspiring.”
It’s always hard to play the “what-could-have been game” in any aspect of life, but it does cause me to wonder aloud, what would the world and the book industry be like today if books that were conceived but never completed and published had seen the light of day?
What if there was a book that exposed secrets about something or someone important had been published? What if a novel filled with some unique ideas actually got green-lighted? What if a book that espoused some unique philosophical theories actually circulated? Would any of these change how the world is or how we live our lives?
If one believes that books can and do influence society, on a collective and individual level, then one has to support the notion that some number of unpublished books, if they’d been published, would’ve contributed greatly to how the world functions. New theories, new facts, new ideas new stories – this is what the book world feeds off of.
But perhaps there’s a reason why all of these book conceptualizations that seemed so fascinating upon their creation didn’t come to fruition. Perhaps there were legitimate reasons, including:
· The author lacked the ability to write a book that lived up to their ideas.
· A better book ended up getting published thus, negating the need or marketplace for the other book.
· Something changed, from the time of concept to the time the book should’ve come out and thus, it was determined that views, needs, or lives had changed so much that the book would no longer be relevant if published.
· The writer came up with a better idea that sidetracked his or her ability to pursue.
· The initial idea for a book may have come from an error or a lie, in which case, the writer felt the book’s foundation was undermined.
Other issues could be at play:
Someone threatened or incentivized the writer not to publish it.
· The author fell ill, became disabled or died and couldn’t bring the idea to fruition.
· The writer had a conflict of interest that didn’t allow him or her to actually pen the book he dreamed up.
· Fire, flood or some other calamity caused the writer to lose the manuscript, leaving the depressed author to abandon the project.
· The book was written but the publisher, who kept the rights to the book, decided to kill the book.
There are as many reasons why books don’t get completed as there are why they do. Sometimes authors lose interest on the topic or cover that the execution is harder than drafting the idea. Or they determine the book won’t be as good they’d hoped or it won’t be commercially viable. Somewhere between their lightbulb moment and the time they killed the book, they were fueled by their aspirations and ideas. But somewhere along the way they decided to cease work on it.
That’s the creative process at play.
But if some of these books actually had been published, undoubtedly they would’ve inspired not only people’s lives but other writers to create more books. So with the loss of the unpublished books come generations of other would-be writers with books that could-have-been but never-were.
It’s like trying to imagine what the world would be like if the tens of millions of aborted fetuses since Roe vs. Wade were instead allowed to be born -- and then to wonder about the millions of babies the unborn would have spawned. No doubt some of them would’ve been writers, too.
The thing with books, though, is if one writer decides to abort his or her book idea, another writer can freely publish it, assuming he or she conceives of it. Plus, the writer who decides not to publish a book idea at one point in his career may decide later on to publish it or to use parts of it for a new, better book.
Maybe the world is for the better without the books that almost were but didn’t actually come to be. Not every idea is worthy of publication and some books just aren’t needed. But I can’t help but wonder, like the book about buildings that never came to be, would we be living in a much different place if even a handful of the book ideas came to fruition?
Maybe this will lead to a new book – or will this idea just go away just as millions of others have?
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs
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