Big Idea Guidelines

 The following are the guidelines for the Big Idea feature. They are current as of September 7, 2013 and supersede previous guidance.

THE BIG IDEA is a regular feature on Whatever, the blog of author John Scalzi, in which authors talk about the central subject of their latest book. The Big Idea has run since 2008 and has featured hundreds of authors, fiction and non-fiction, across several genres.

John Scalzi’s blog Whatever has existed since 1998 and and is one of the most popular personal blogs on the Internet. It receives up to 50,000 visits daily, from visitors who are often avid readers and buyers of books.

The Big Idea usually runs twice a week on the site (sometimes more, sometimes less). Here are the most recent Big Idea pieces that have run. Big Idea pieces are widely linked across the Internet, increasing the reach of each piece.


Authors of any genre of novel (or works of standard length for YA/MG/Children/Graphic Novels) and any field of full-length non-fiction work, published by presses who distribute to major American bookstores on a returnable basis and/or make their ebooks available on at least three of the following American online book stores: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Apple iBookStore, Kobo.

Works must be published by a third party, i.e., not self-published (Amazon Digital Services, Smashwords, et al are distribution platforms, not publishers in the usual sense). This third party publisher must publish more than one author, must have an editorial staff that is not comprised of the author or their immediate family, and have a Web site which includes its current author slate and immediate release schedule.

In very rare cases self-published work by authors with substantial, successful previous publishing history will be considered.


The following statement is important: The author (or their publicist, editor, publisher) needs to ask to participate in The Big Idea. Just sending a book or a press release querying for an interview for the author isn’t going to work. The Big Idea works best with authors (and others) who know what it’s about and are affirmatively interested in participating.

With that noted:

No earlier than two months from the book’s official North American publication date and no later than one month from that date, send an e-mail to, with an e-mail header formatted like so: “BIG IDEA QUERY: [Author] [Book Title] [Release Date]“. In the body of the e-mail please briefly describe the book.

At some point prior to release, send the book (or have the publicist/publisher do so), following the site publicity guidelines (mailing address is at that link). ARCs are fine; finished copies are good, too. Hard copies preferred.

If a slot is available, a notification will be sent confirming the date. Ideally the confirmation will be sent within a week of query but it may be sent later. If you have not received a response within two weeks of your initial query, you may query again. If you do not receive a response within two weeks of the second query, you may assume a slot is not available.


If a book is selected for a Big Idea, no later than three business days before scheduled publication, the author or their representatives should send the following:

The Big Idea essay (400 – 1,000 words; a guide to writing Big Idea posts is here). Note that John Scalzi will provide an introductory paragraph to each essay, do not feel the need to write it for him;

Links to the work on Amazon (US), Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and Powell’s (if one or more links are not available, links to the US stores for Google Play, iBookstore or Kobo are acceptable substitutions);

A link to an online excerpt of the book, if available;

A link to the author’s Web site (and an additional link to the author’s blog, if it exists and is separate from the author site’s front page);

A link to the author’s Twitter account, if it exists (preferred), or other existing social media presence;

A high-resolution .jpg or .png of the book cover.

Additional links (for examples, to book trailers) may be sent if desired but may not be used.

For the essay, .docx, .doc and .rtf files are preferred. Text in e-mail is acceptable if necessary but not preferred because the formatting can be wonky. Links may be either included in the document or placed in the text of the e-mail.

The more the author document looks like the final form of the essay on the Web site (see here for examples), the quicker it will be able to be gotten up on the site on publication day.


Send them along in e-mail.