What’s an Idea Worth?

Writer BewarePosted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m fascinated by the bizarre things that happen at the outer fringes of the publishing universe.

Well, here’s one: on eBay, someone is attempting to auction off his or her story idea. Starting bid? $3,000,000. Alternatively, you can buy it outright for $10,000,000.

No, I did not accidentally attach any extra zeroes.

I am selling my story that I have been creating for 10+ years. (not constantly writing, but of piecing everything together in a cohesive manner) It can be compared to stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Indiana Jones and other titles in those categories…

I will share my story with someone in person only and not over the internet. My story is too valuable to be spread publicly and will give a lot of new ideas for movies and book series that should belong to the buyer…

This story will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it. I do not have money to hire a Ghost Writer and I do not want to die with this story untold.

So what exactly is this amazing story? The seller gives no clues other than the above. Apparently, would-be buyers must make a leap of faith. Don’t worry, though–

If you win the auction; we would meet in person, you would sign a nondisclosure document so i can be protected if you back out, I would share the story. Then you would choose to keep the story or refuse it. If you refuse it you would get a 100% refund.

Well, that’s a relief. Just wire it to my Swiss bank account.

It’s always possible that this is a joke or a hoax, but after 13 years with Writer Beware, I’ve learned never to underestimate writers’ ability to be delusional about the value of their work (and that includes me, though on the opposite end of the spectrum). But while it’s just remotely possible that your completed manuscript might be worth a multi-million dollar advance (yes, I know, but it does happen on rare occasions), convincing yourself that your idea is worth a boatload of money is mere folly.

Ideas aren’t worth anything. It’s only their expression that has value. This is why ideas aren’t protected by copyright: they are the basic building blocks of creative endeavor, and as such must be available for anyone to use. Give a dozen writers a single idea, and you’ll wind up with a dozen different novels of a dozen different qualities, each of which might or might not find publication, depending on a wide variety of factors and variables.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a spare $3 million, the auction has two days to run.