Book Review: One Simple Idea

One Simple Idea by Stephen KeyIn 2011, I re-read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Except this time, I was intentional about taking action on some of the recommendations in the book.

One of the recommendations was to buy and read One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work by Stephen Key. Since licensing is something I’ve wanted to learn more about, I decided to get the book and read it.

And I’m glad I did. It’s one of the best business books I’ve read recently.

In a nutshell, One Simple Idea teaches you how to come up with simple-yet-marketable product ideas and license those ideas to manufacturers and distributors.

Licensing means that you’re renting your idea to a company in exchange for a royalty on every unit sold. If you come up with a “hit,” you could literally make millions from just one idea.

The author, Stephen Key, has done this multiple times. In fact…

I’ve licensed more than 20 ideas for products in such diverse fields as the toy, beverage, music, novelty, and pharmaceutical industries. Celebrities Michael Jordan and Alex Trebek have served as pitchmen for two of my products. Collectively, my creations have sold more than a half billion units and generated billions of dollars of retail revenue. I have served as a consultant on the reality show “American Inventor” and been featured on the CNBC show “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.” I am invited to speak at U.S. Patent and Trademark Office events, Stanford University, IDEO (one of the world’s top design firms), and elsewhere, and I teach my “invent right” strategies to thousands of people.

Not only does Key have more than 30 years of experience creating and licensing products, many of his students have gone on to create their own licensing “hits.”

So Key is highly qualified to teach on the subject.

In Just 19 Chapters Key Takes You from Product Idea to Licensing Agreement

There are two things I really appreciate about One Simple Idea.

First, the book walks you through every phase of product creation and licensing, from coming up with good ideas all the way to cutting licensing deals.

In between, Key is liberal with the nitty-gritty details of how to make it all work. He teaches you:

  • How to protect your intellectual property without spending a fortune on a patent;
  • How to create cheap prototypes quickly and easily;
  • How to shop your idea around to interested companies;
  • What you should expect from a licensing arrangement;
  • How to make sure you get paid what you’re owed;
  • And all sorts of things I would never have thought of.

Secondly, interspersed throughout the book are a number of real-life examples of products that were successfully licensed to companies.

Some of these examples are especially inspiring. They also serve to deepen your understanding of how the licensing process works.

Info Products vs. Real Products

I may be considered a charlatan for saying this, but it seems to me that real physical products have more value than information products. And as the number of information products explodes, we’ll see downward pressure on prices (just look at the Kindle market).

What’s more, running an information product business is no walk in the park. It requires constant ongoing time and effort to keep the wheels of the business turning. You have to constantly be bringing in new subscribers and customers and creating more products to sell to your existing customer base.

It’s not that I think information product businesses are bad; I actually like them very much. But I think creating and licensing real products to manufacturing companies seems like it could provide a person with some real time freedom and financial freedom to live life on their own terms.

If you agree — and you’d like to learn more about creating and licensing products — then I highly recommend One Simple Idea by Stephen Key. I bought the Kindle version from Amazon, but you can get a copy from just about any major bookseller. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like,, and

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