1. Stay away from invention-marketing companies that advertise on radio and late-night television. They're out to fatten their wallets and empty yours.

2. Keep good records about your idea . . . someday, they may be the backup you need to prove your idea is yours!

3. Go to a patent depository library and do your own patent search. If you find your invention is already patented, there's no need to go to a patent attorney.

4. Build a model. No need to get fancy at first . . . cardboard, white glue, balsa wood, off-the-shelf parts. No matter how simple the idea, prove it works.

5. Have your invention evaluated by an unbiased professional.

6. Read all you can about new-product development. Go to your local bookstore or library. Don't reinvent the wheel.

7. Network with other inventors. Join one of your local inventors' organizations.

8. If your patent search looks promising, make an appointment with a patent attorney. Show your attorney the results of your search and follow the advice he or she gives you.

9. Do what you do well; hire professionals to do the rest.

10. Don't fall in love with your invention, but if you're really sure you've got a winner (see #5), hang in there! Even "overnight" successes take a while.