When first time non-fiction book authors come to me, I find that just as often as not they suffer from too many ideas as opposed to no ideas, or only one. After years of helping them wrangle through the process of selecting which of their ideas they should focus on for their first book, I came up with a way to look at multiple ideas and quantify their readiness. It’s now part of the first course I offer online in the Academy, Passion & Purpose.
It’s called the Book Idea Quiz, and It gives you a method for determining which idea will work best for you and the market, right now. You answer the following six questions, assigning point values to each, and the tool works out which is the winning idea, and what you might need to do to make a so-so idea a winning one, if that’s the one you’re set on doing first.
Here are the factors I use in the Quiz…use it to get you thinking…
- Am I interested enough in this idea to spend 1-2 years devoted to research and writing on this topic?
I list this question first, as I think it trumps all the others. First and foremost, you need to think long and hard about how passionate about this idea you are. Passionate enough to devote yourself to this topic for at least a year, maybe two? Passionate enough to keep at it when other things go south in life, or when you may flounder during the research and writing phase?
- Is there a definable market for this book?
Maybe the next most important question: is anybody out there interested in your topic? If not, you definitely need to reconsider it. It takes a lot of resources of time and money to write a book; it’s not like writing a blog post, or even 100 blog posts. It’s a life journey. It had better have a readership when you get to the other end. There are lots of ways to determine potential market interest. Look for similar titles in your category online or in your favorite bookstore. Ask a group of friends and colleagues. Do a poll on your website or facebook page. Or do all of the above. You don’t need to know exactly how many people might be interested, but you need to know there is a market that you can define. (More on this in my third course coming next month on finding your Audience Avatar.)
- Can I reach this market?
Next most important: Having defined them, do you have established methods or knowledge of how to reach this market? Do you have an existing online presence? Do you have a blog that already has a number of followers? How do they get their information about books to purchase? Can you be visible in those channels?
- Does the idea have a unique selling point over other books on the same topic already in the market?
In sales this might be called the USP, or distinct marketing advantage. Whatever it is, do you have it over other books in the market? (This, of course, requires knowing the other books in the market!) It might be simply that your voice is telling the story, and therefore it’s different than any other, but that may not be enough. Can you improve on that competitive advantage by adding features to your book that the others don’t have?
- Is this idea aligned with my existing author/company branding (if I have one)? If not, does the idea align with my values/beliefs?
I’m just going to say this: It’s really really hard to write a book that doesn’t at its core align with your values and beliefs. Also, it’s very difficult to write a book about a subject in which you have no experience. (You might think this is obvious, but I see it happen.) If you are writing about a subject matter expertise that revolves around your professional products or services, does the book’s concept align with your branding?
- Do I sense a strong purpose in writing this book?
The last question ties in pretty strongly with the first, but it’s a little different. In addition to feeling passionately about a subject, you will be more likely to find it a successful exercise if you also are purpose-driven: What will the book do for others that will improve their lives in some way? If you are clear on this, your idea is much more “ready”.
Being very clear on the answers to these questions will help you separate the wheat from the chaff of your non-fiction book ideas, and focus on what’s most worthy of your efforts.
Get free access to the Book Idea Quiz as a special offer to Academy members only… Enrolling automatically signs you up as a Member, creating an account for you to enroll in courses if and when you’re ready!