How to sell your revolutionary idea

Unless you don't care about making a fool of yourself, don't tell it to others before you worked out enough details to be convincing. Your audience is very likely to be skeptic (since there are too many revolutionary ideas around which don't stand the test); so you need to make best use of this fact.

The secret is that most people like to answer questions that fall into their field of expertise, if it does not take too much effort to reply. But few like to listen to half-baked (or even fully baked but only outlined) ideas; too many such offers come from cranks. The devil is always in the details; and if you can't provide these details it is likely that other will think it is because your idea does not work or does not offer any advantage.

So the right approach is to ask them for (and afterwards study!) information about what is known in the direction you want to go, rather than proposing the revolutionary way of doing it correctly.

Take heed of the advice of an old saint: '' Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath'' (The Bible, James 1:19)

If you really can do it better than others, and you don't find prior relevant work in the literature, work it out yourself and show with a nontrivial application that you can do something more efficiently than tradition. Don't exaggerate what you achieved - let the reader judge. Then submit it to a respectable journal, and people are likely to listen.

If you get negative feedback from referees, take it seriously, learn from it as much as you can. Raise your standards according to what you learn, and accomodate the criticism in your future work. The referees are usually competent and have a point in what they say. If not, it is likely that your work was presented in a fashion prone to misunderstanding - in this case formulate your results and claims more carefully, taking into account accepted tradition. It is an author's obligation to minimize the chances of misunderstanding by potential readers.

It takes a while to learn how to write good papers. I gained a lot from considering the referees' advice in the many papers I have written.

Even if your work is good but not mainstream, it may take persistence to publicize it properly; publishing is not enough. But publicizing does not mean boasting with great claims - this makes people suspicious and is therefore counterproductive. Be modest in your claims - claim what you can actually prove, but not what you only dream of proving one day.

See also: The Crackpot Index (by John Baez)

  • On expertise and credentials
  • How to get your work published
  • How to respond to critical referee's reports
  • How to sell your revolutionary idea

    Arnold Neumaier (
    A theoretical physics FAQ