Our readers are creative entrepreneurial types. A common dilemma for them is to have what strikes them as a very clever and potentially profitable idea, but to have no idea how to begin commercializing it or seeking protection. I have been in this situation many times myself, and it can be very frustrating, because when you're in the creative / manic part of the process you can feel very trapped by a good idea: it's brilliant, it could make me rich, OMG WTF do I do?
The US patent office offers a so-called provisional patent application that sounds complicated but isn't. Basically, you write them a letter describing your idea in as much detail as possible. They receive it, note the postmark date, and save it for a year. If you subsequently file for a full Utility or other patent during that time, if a question of priority ever comes up, you enjoy the benefit of the provisional patent's filing date.
So, I firmly believe, the best solution for a small inventor who's panicked about their brilliant idea is to fire off a provisional patent application. That secures their place in line, and gives them a year to calm down, do market research, talk to attorneys and/or investors, etc., etc.