Are There Any NEW Book Ideas Out There? • by Natascha Biebow

there really any NEW book ideas out there . . .? When you
have a book idea, do you go online and search if anyone else has done it

For example, say you wanted to write a book on the topic of TREES. Here are just seven different ways 'in' to the topic that you might find:

Trees to Spot by Kirsteen Robson and Sam Smith

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman
Changed a City Forever
by H. Joseph Hopkins and Jill McElmurry

Tree by Britta Teckentrup

Trees: A Lift-the-Flap Eco Book illus by Carmen Saldana

Little Tree by Loren Long

As an Oak Tree Grows by G Brian Karas

The Wisdom of Trees by Lita Judge

So, arguably, most of
the time, the answer is yes – in some shape or form - someone will have already written a book on 'your' topic. Why?

People are often
asking the same questions – we’re curious by nature.

reminds us of something . . .

It can
be dispiriting, sometimes, to find yourself almost halted by this kind of obstacle before you’ve even
really started.


But  . . .


Here’s a
glimmer of hope: most ideas HAVE already been done, but they haven’t already
been done by YOU.


So, how
can you figure out your fresh, new take on an idea, your uniquely YOU story?


coaches and industry professionals will often say:


from the heart.”


what you know.”


what you’re driven to share.”


Yes, if
you do this, your writing will come from you and your experience.


But the
key here is to find a connection with readers that feels fresh and new. How?


You have to find a way to make your idea
resonate with readers in a uniquely YOU way.  




You have to make them say a-ha! or ahhhh!!!
or aw! or WOW!


understand this, we have to delve into where any ‘new’ ideas come from.


are driven to be creative and innovate. It gives us a boost. But . . .


“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a
lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them
a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and
making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored
glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
― Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Own Autobiography:
The Chapters from the North American Review

Our ideas are in all kinds of combinations, in a 'mental kaleidescope' 

So how do we make ‘new and curious
combinations’ that are amazing and feel
fresh and new? How do we create something that feels AUTHENTIC?




To create new ideas, we often start
with what’s come before, then question the defaults in order to innovate. In an
article for the Smithsonian Magazine,
this is summed up perfectly:

“Across the spectrum of human activities, prior art propels the
creative process . . .

Before 1908, building a new
car was laborious. Each vehicle was custom built, with different parts
assembled in different places and then painstakingly brought together. But
Henry Ford came up with a critical innovation: he streamlined the entire
process, putting the manufacture and assembly under one roof. Wood, ore, and
coal were loaded in at one end of the factory, and Model Ts were driven out the
other. His assembly line changed the way the cars were built . . .  Ford later said, “I invented nothing new. I simply assembled
into a car the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of


authors must Start with the BUILDING BLOCKS of our world and our lives and seek
out the new. We must be curious. This is why we must look around us – really


We must do RESEARCH:
listen to people around us,

read lots of books, watch movies and documentaries, view art,

search for problems that need solving in new ways, get involved in pursuits
that are unrelated to writing for creative inspiration. Spend time with our
young audiences.


our writer ears must be attuned and open to
We must look for adventure and explore.   


Then, we must CHANGE THINGS UP, push
of our everyday and knowledge, and look for NEW ANGLES on
existing solutions and ideas beyond what we already know.

We must make creativity a habit!



In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant suggests
creatives should generate a lot of ideas to find the original. 

Originals: How Non-Conformists
Changed the World
by Adam Grant

Surprisingly, he shares that William Shakespeare wrote his famous plays
MacBeth, Othello and King Lear at the same time as quite a few ‘un-exceptional’
plays. Similarly, Mozart and Beethoven composed more than 600 pieces in their
lifetimes, and only a handful were masterpieces. Picasso painted thousands of
paintings and Edison registered over 1000 patents, but each are remembered and
revered for a handful of achievements.

Grant also says that most people make the mistake of generating only a handful
of ideas and ‘then obsess about refining them to perfection.’ Sound familiar?

So, to create new, innovative ideas, we must push ourselves to generate more of
them and think big.


So, now you have a pile of ideas . .
. but here’s another problem – how can you figure out which ideas are the ones
to pursue?
Grant says that as creatives we are too close to our work to
evaluate it successfully, which is why we are either often too positive about
something (we love what we’ve just made!), or unable to see its faults. The
solution? To ask fellow creators because they are “open to seeing the potential
in unusual possibilities” and they often don’t have a stake in the outcome of
our ideas in the way we do.

So, find a reliable critique group
or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, listen to your editor, agent or
art director – they know what they’re talking about!

to have the thought in the back of
our minds long enough to come up with creative and unique idea.


Let's take another evergreen picture book topic (New babies in the family!) and look at some examples
of how different creators have approached it and innovated to
create a ‘new’ book idea that felt fresh and new and connected with readers:

There's a House Inside My Mummy
by Giles Andrae and Vanessa Caban
15 Things NOT to Do with a Baby
by Margaret McAllister and Holly Sherling

The Baby's Catalogue by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller

The NEW Small Person by Lauren Child

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora

There's Going To Be a Baby by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury

How to Be a Baby by Me The Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap

Mr Bear's New Baby by Debi Gliori

Mummy Laid and Egg by Babette Cole

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

Mommy, Mama and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

So many ways 'in'! You can change up the target age group, fiction vs. non-fiction, flip the point of view, turn the voice on its head, innovate the structure and so much more!

Even if you don’t come up with a
brand new idea, by adding your unique take on it, you could add a new
perspective or spin that might feel new and connect with young readers. And
THAT is valuable!


Natascha Biebow, MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor

Natascha is the author of the award-winning The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons,
illustrated by Steven Salerno, winner of the Irma Black Award for
Excellence in Children's Books, and selected as a best STEM Book 2020.
Editor of numerous prize-winning books, she runs

Blue Elephant Storyshaping,
an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering
writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission, and is
the Editorial Director for Five Quills. Find out about her new picture book webinar courses!
She is Co-Regional
Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.
Find her at

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