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Will It Sell?TM
How to Determine If Your Invention Is Profitably Marketable
(Before Wasting Money on a Patent)

Jim White
Marketing help for inventors and small businesses. James E. White & Assoc.
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"Will It Sell? presents a sophisticated yet easy to follow approach to critical marketing methods and tactics every serious inventor will be able to apply to their day to day invention development activities right from the start. The 'Web' approach to resource listings is excellent and timely. The resource listings are top quality, well researched, hit the subject matter hard, and make for inventors' instant access to information that otherwise doubles the effective size of the book. Combined with the well-documented index, this book is a virtual 'pocket manual' that presents crisp, easy to find information on the myriad invention marketing and marketability issues inventors will encounter on their way to invention success. All in all, a fine job."
Andy Gibbs, Patent Cafe, www.patentcafe.com


About The Book

The book provides some useful information for inventors (and prospective inventors) but it is also both an advertisement for and an offer of services. If you wish to use the offered services, you should be aware that they are NOT offered for free. If free services are what you seek, go ahead and read the following material, then go elsewhere. I can guarantee you that, in the long run, you will always pay dearly for your FREE services. The cost may not be directly and immediately out of your pocket. More than likely it will be either the cost (in dollars and time) of pursuing something that was not worth pursuing in the first place or the lost opportunity cost of never correctly marketing a winning product.

Crass Commercialism

If "crass commercialism" somehow violates your sensibilities, you probably are not cut out to be a successful inventor. You will also probably have trouble saying NO to your own inventions even though careful evaluation of your invention via the mechanisms suggested in the book indicate that NO is the only commercially viable answer. Some sources estimate that you will pour an average of $50,000 into a non-viable invention before you finally call it quits. While that money may be a financial loss to you (who are "holy," and not crassly commercial), rest assured that most of your $50,000 will be a financial gain to others who are crassly commercial. If you follow the steps in the book you may be able to keep the total costs for rejecting your 98 out of 100 non-commercial ideas to under $500. You may also be able to keep your final costs to reach a full GO decision on each of your 2 out of 100 commercial ideas to around $5,000 each. Being crassly commercial is in your best interests!

Inventor's First Book

While the book has been intentionally written to be "the" first book an inventor dips into to get a solid handle on the invention process, it should also serve inventors with more experience. The book covers a lot of territory but primarily sticks to giving readers specific steps they can take and the tools needed to execute the steps. The emphasis is on keeping your costs down until you can be pretty certain (based on objective facts rather than your own opinion) that your invention has real, as opposed to theoretical or hopeful, profit potential. The book could be much longer than it is if it included more information from the many resources that it directs you to. On the other hand, you can think of it as intentionally not overwhelming you with every little detail. In keeping with the emphasis on taking inexpensive steps, you are strongly encouraged to use the identified resources at your local library, nearby business or university libraries, or over the Internet. As a "first" book, it is also planned as the first book in a series. Other potential topics include: Financing, Prototyping/Modeling, Design/Engineering, Marketing, and Advertising. If you would be interested in books similar to this one on those topics please let me know. If you would be interested (and capable) of authoring such a book please let me know that too.

Not About Marketing

The book is not intended to replace any of the marketing books out there and, in fact, it will direct you to a few of them WHEN YOU REACH THAT STAGE of the invention process. None of the invention process or invention marketing books that I have examined, in my opinion, emphasize nearly enough that it is the product, and its value to the consumer, that must be counted on for the real profit rewards—not the marketing. The book starts from the premiss that a bit of serious up-front effort to determine if there even is a market for your invention will be far more valuable to you in the long run than spending money to "protect" a commercially worthless idea.


You may deduce, while reading this material, that I have a rather high opinion of myself. I'm not so sure that is bad. I expect you to have a (justifiably) high opinion of yourself also. But, the caveat is, you (or I) shouldn't automatically lap that high opinion over onto each of our ideas. I've had some pretty boneheaded ideas (maybe even the book) and you may be subject to having boneheaded ideas too. Be prepared to discard ideas by the bushel (or at least set them aside) and winnow down to just your best ones. Once you really discover how cheap ideas are you will be well on your way to only devoting time and money to those that look like they will be the most profitable among the ones at hand.

I expect inventors to be able to totally defend their inventions. If I make a blistering comment and the inventor has no "heat shields" in the form of independent validation, or a serious examination of their competitors, or whatever, for their invention—and no interest in raising any—I won't be interested either. The book, I hope, shows how to start raising those heat shields. My bias is to be quite blunt because I believe it works on the people that have a chance.

The Individual Inventor

The book is clearly not for people who only want positive feedback. If you want positive feedback there are many organizations and individuals, from patent attorneys to marketers, who will be happy to keep providing that positive feedback for as long as you keep paying them money. By the end of the book you should know how to avoid that IF YOU WANT TO. As my patent attorney said after reviewing the book for me. "I would never give this out to my clients." She went on to explain that the book is too discouraging and she would have trouble getting enough clients to buy patenting services if they first determined if a patent would have any value. She also suggested that I soften the book considerably so that I too could get more clients to pay me. I'll let you make your own decisions on how to proceed but I have not softened the book.

Step Sequence

Be aware, too, that this material is presented in a specific order that I believe will make sense for most inventions that you might create. That does not mean, however, that you must always apply the steps to determining profitability in the order presented. Often it makes sense to think about what might be categorized (for a particular invention) as the "killer question(s)." Answer those questions first because you know that you should probably cease further effort if the result is negative. If you decide, for example, that selling price in a market with competitive solutions is the "killer" question and your invention will be more expensive to manufacture and distribute than competitive (but slightly inferior) products, then you'll know it is probably best to stop work on the idea. But then again, you might want to ask yourself if there might be a high end market of discerning individuals that want your slightly superior result and are willing to pay substantially more to get it. You can buy ink pens, for example, for less than a dime or for more than $350—and they all meet your writing needs.

For purposes of following the sequence of the book, you should assume that the kind of product I have in mind is a product for a fairly broad subset of the population, is relatively simple from the user's perspective, is not seasonal, and is maybe less than half the size of a 2-slice toaster and probably costs under $60 (perhaps well under). It could be an electronic or a mechanical device. It definitely is not an industrial process or even something as large and complicated as a riding lawn mower. Yet even for some of those type things the basic principles should remain the same. The odds, however, are that developing and marketing an industrial process, or something as large and complicated as a riding lawn mower, will take more money, expertise, and time than an individual inventor can devote to it.

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