The Popular Science Total Inventor’s Manual, by Sean Michael Ragan, promises to help you Transform Your Idea Into a Top-Selling Product, offering advice in areas of Ideas, Prototyping, Funding, among others.
I first “met” Sean, the author, more than 5 and a half years ago, via email introduction. I was looking to expand my contributions with Make Magazine, where he was an editor.
Since then, we met once – at a Maker Faire, and although we haven’t been in frequent contact lately, I would consider him a friend. He was my editor for numerous assignments, both short reviews and long articles, and in a twist, there was one time where I was the editor and he the contributor.
Sean is clever, and has a way with words. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if he can inject interest and even amusement in something that would ordinarily be routinely dull. Take group emails, for instance, such as those announcing a call for tool reviews. You get pulled in, not because the subject line is click-bait, but because it is lively.
I once came across brief meeting minutes in the Make Magazine online back end. I was an outsider with access to the blog software, looking in. I don’t remember much, aside from it being some basic routine stuff, like a once-a-week editorial group catch-up kind of thing. I distinctly remember thinking “Sean must have written that one!”
His writing captures interest, holds attention, and conveys necessary information.
With this in mind, I suppose I should not have been so surprised at how much I enjoyed his book.
Inventors reach out every so often, wanting to see their product shared about or reviewed on ToolGuyd. Emails and requests have increased in frequency, thanks to Kickstarter and other direct-to-user mediums. Or sometimes there are new tools or products from small companies that haven’t quite honed their marketing skills.
I communicate with people each month, sometimes as often as each week, who could benefit from a friendly voice passing along helpful information.
This is not a textbook. It’s as if the author is your friend, telling you it as it is.
Amazon has a short preview that I would encourage you to look at, but in the meantime, here are 2 sample pages taken from said preview:
The book has an almost magazine-style layout and presentation, and it works to its favor. There is lots of visual imagery, and the information is broken down into easily digestible chunks.
There are 4 main topic areas, including sections on brainstorming, sketching, prototyping, manufacturing, marketing, and others:
MAKE ONE [Top-Selling Product]: Get that great idea out of your brain and into the real world with a crash course in ideation, prototyping, and testing. Includes clever, can-do lessons in CAD, 3D-printing, laser-cutting, electronics, robotics, coding, and more.
SELL ONE [Top-Selling Product]: Whether you’re riding the Kickstarter wave or hitting the venture capital beat, get your idea funded—and protect it with a proper patent. Then learn to refine your prototype’s look and feel to give it a boost in the market.
MAKE MANY [Top-Selling Product]: Bring your invention to the masses with tips on manufacturing processes and best practices, plus solid advice for beginners on running a supply chain.
SELL MANY [Top-Selling Product]: You’ve built it—time to make them come. Discover how to effectively position your product in the marketplace, deal with consumer feedback, and run—or sell—your newly successful company.
While insightful and helpful, and choc full of information, it’s also interesting.
I particularly like page 188, “Pitch Your Product to Influencers,” Step 2: Make their jobs easy. Yep. It basically says that when pitching a product to bloggers, reviews, social media folks, etc., one should include clear images and a clear list of product features. It’s unfortunate how many times someone will ask me to write about their product and fail to provide me with information or visuals I need to even give fair consideration.
Sean has taught me a lot, much of the time without there being a question asked or advice sought.
I’m not looking to design or sell my own product, but there are a lot of people who are in this position. Even if you’re not, it’s an entertaining read, and everyone is sure to learn something.
The information, insights, and suggestions are enhanced with quick looks at prominent modern inventors, quick injections of knowledge, and appealing off-the-sketchpad illustrations.
I enjoyed this book. It’s an interesting read by an interesting person.
I have not read it cover to cover yet. I skimmed some sections in my first read, and went back a few times, repeating particularly interesting sections and covering some of the remaining ones. And I believe that’s how it’s meant to serve as a reference. You visit the sections you need, and come back to the other ones later.
You probably can read it front to back, and I imagine there are many first-time inventors and product creators who might benefit from doing so.
As mentioned, it’s not a comprehensive textbook. The author shares enough insight and information to steer you in the right direction. Perhaps it is best considered an introductory tour guide, one that reveals sights along a path into unfamiliar territory. You are given enough information to choose which paths to pursue with greater attention.
I cannot be sure that inventors or potential inventors will find the knowledge they seek in this book. Nor can I guarantee that you will definitely enjoy it. But I can tell you that I found new knowledge, and I found enjoyment. Of the parts that cross into my personal experiences and expertise, I found accuracy and agreement.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
(The book is “Printed and Bound in Canada.”)
Disclosures and Question to Readers
Thank you to Sean for providing the review sample unconditionally.
Note: I would consider Sean a friend. Yes, a friend I would do a favor for, but this review is not intended as a favor. This review is as impartial as can be, with great attempts made to be objective and fair.
In high school, my English teacher’s friend wrote a book. She talked a little about it, I thought it was interesting, and bought a copy. It was so bad, I was never able to finish it. It was never clear to me if she personally recommended his book, or if she was simply trying to sell some copies. I don’t intend for you to have any such confusion.
I was offered a copy, and was glad to accept one. The book never arrived, so Sean sent one one personally. We never talked about whether it would be reviewed, where it would be reviewed, how it would be reviewed, or even if there would be mention anywhere at all.
There were no expectations, promises made, agreements, or really any discussion about a review of any kind.
I already briefly reviewed this book for Make Magazine, but it’s too good of a reference in my opinion, and as mentioned entertaining, that I would be remiss for not mentioning it here.
If you stand unclear about whether I can be impartial or not about this book, you can minimize any cloudiness by 1) examining the sample pages via Amazon to help gauge its informational value or interest to you, or 2) find it at a library (or request it) at no out of pocket cost to you.
Lastly, this was the first time I’ve been in this situation. It was difficult to determine how to approach it, so I sought to share more than I probably needed to. As a reader, how would you like to see me approach reviews or previews where a friend or friendlier-than-typical acquaintance is the author, inventor, or creator? I don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon, but who knows.