How to choose an idea for your book
Do you have an idea for your book?
This is the first question I ask someone who tells me they want to write a book but don’t know where to start.
Because your first book-writing steps vary according to whether you have one idea, lots of ideas or no ideas at all.
Below is an outline of the steps you need to take depending on whether you have an idea what you want to write about.
No matter what your idea for your book, it needs to provide at least one big benefit for your readers. And you need to be able to state that benefit clearly in your title.
This is the root of a highly desirable book that will help others and grow your business at the same time.
1: You have no ideas at all
If you are a consultant, coach or business owner and you have no idea what to write your book about, you probably have one single – but significant – problem: you have no defined system for working with your clients.
If you deliver a solution but focus on working in a unique way with every client, you may find coming up with an idea for your book particularly tricky.
However, even if you don’t have a system, you may have more options than you think.
In fact, you can write about a great many things, including:
- An explanation of your core belief or message (and why it matters).
- A key set of ‘tools’ you use to do business or achieve a goal.
- Your results (best illustrated via case studies) and how you get them.
- An easy-to-implement list of top tips for achieving a desirable goal.
If these ideas do not appeal to you or are not relevant, you may need a simpler idea for your book.
Focus on becoming a resource
A simple but effective solution for finding an idea for your book when you don’t have a system or method to write about is to publish a book of useful business resources.
For example, you could include:
- A glossary of technical terms.
- Lists of the essential tools needed by your clients.
- Your favourite books or courses on your area.
- ‘How to’ guides on core processes and activities.
To cater for updates and changes, you can offer your readers a downloadable resource file. This will this enable you to capture their contact details and grow your list. You can also include some affiliate links too, so you can generate passive revenue (make sure you are up-front about this, though).
The best thing about this sort of book is that your existing clients will love it (they will get all your recommendations and wisdom in one place). This will give you an instant audience for your book and that will increase your chances of achieving bestseller status. It’s also a brilliant way to introduce yourself to new prospects and show what you know.
Other simple book ideas to consider
- Avoid reinventing the wheel. Get away from the idea that you need an original or outstanding idea for your book. Your angle, approach or personal way of discussing relevant and common problems your clients experience is enough. Stay mainstream.
- Use what you have now. Start with your existing writing, even if it’s your business description page. What is the core message you deliver? Write down 8-10 topics you can cover in relation to that core belief or message. Use that to develop your idea for your book.
- Keep it simple. Books of quotations or tips can be just as powerful and comprehensive ‘how to’ books that deliver an entire system. Sometimes simple books are more likely to be read over and over again, especially if put together with care and purpose.
2: You have lots of ideas
To someone who has no ideas what to write about, your problem – having too many ideas – may seem like a luxurious position to be in.
But that’s probably not how you experience it.
If your head is spinning and you feel fractured because you are constantly switching between one idea and another, having lots of ideas will feel overwhelming and frustrating.
What’s worse is that you often end up with nothing to show for yourself because you never settle on any idea long enough to develop it and bring it to fruition.
The problem with having lots of ideas is that you have to choose one, and that is where the problems begin.
Focus on the outcome you deliver
The way to choose an idea for your book if you have too many to choose from is to focus on the results you want your book to deliver rather than the topic you want to write about.
When you know what outcome you want to achieve for yourself and for your readers, you will see your book in a different light. That’s when you will realise that the idea itself is less important than the goal or the strategy you use to achieve it.
Sometimes the topic of a book is just not that important.
For example, there are many, many books on how to get clients. It’s not a unique or startling topic but each book written on this topic will be different to every other.
The content, the structure, the method, the resources, the style …all of these factors will make the book more or less attractive to a particular set of readers.
What will make the book stand out it is that it has a clear target market, a brilliant title, excellent content or an interesting angle, approach or argument.
Questions you can ask to help you find an interesting angle
- What is your message to your target market?
- How do your core beliefs about this problem influence how you talk about it?
- How are others advising your market to solve their problem. What do you think of it?
- Do you have a unique approach or attitude towards some aspect of this topic?
- Of the solutions being offered, which aren’t working for your target audience? How can you help?
Asking questions like this can help you dig deeper and get to the heart of what you think. It can help you turn an apparently vague book idea into something exciting, noteworthy and special.
But first, you need to choose an idea to develop, so let’s cover that next.
How to choose your best idea
When you have lots of ideas, it can be difficult to choose one idea for your book. So, first of all, make sure you have all your ideas in one place. And, make sure you can find them again. A folder on your computer or a notebook that you’ll keep and be able to find again will both work. You could also use a tool like Evernote to store your book ideas.
But you need to choose one…
There are a few ways to do this but before you use these tips, you need to decide what is your core motivation for writing a book: raising your profile, making money, growing your mailing list… What do you most want to achieve by writing a book right now? Use that question to guide your choice.
1: What do you want?
Ask yourself which part of your business or income stream do you most want to develop in the next 6 month to a year? Is there a book that will help you do this? Start with the end in mind by focusing on what you want most. Then choose a book idea that allow you to make it happen in the easiest way. Don’t be constrained by feeling you have to write a long book. A digital (Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo) book could work just as well for you.
2: Follow your passion
Is there a book that you feel especially passionate and fired up about? It may not be the best business choice, but if it has potential and you’re already excited about it, this could be the ideal book to start working on. Going with your energy will ensure you do the work. If you work on a book that your head says is right but your heart says no to, you probably won’t be motivated to finish it.
There’s a caveat – test your idea and research the market. Don’t go ahead with blind faith that your gut is right.
3: Be logical
If nothing is jumping out at you as being more appealing than anything else (meaning that you’re equally motivated to write all the books), take a logical approach. Look at all the ideas together and use a set of criteria to eliminate the least favourable books.
- Do you want to write a book quickly? If so, it would make sense to set aside any ideas that are going to require a lot of extra research to develop.
- Maybe you want to write a bestseller. That means you’ll probably want to discard ideas that are going to be published into a slow market.
- If you want your book to generate revenue, you may want to set aside ideas that your business isn’t ready for or that are not focused on generating leads for a service or product that you know how to sell.
Give yourself time to explore your ideas and work on the ones that appeal to you most.
Get your list down to three and then create a contents list and write some draft back cover copy. These tasks will get you thinking about what you want the book to be about and what content you want to include. If you get into flow and get excited about a book idea, it’s a good indication that it’s one you’ll be motivated to write.
3: You have one BIG idea
If you have one BIG idea for your book that you are wedded to, you need to tread with care. Your idea could be brilliant but it could also be a pit of potential disaster. This is especially true if you believe it is either unique or that nobody has written a book about it before (unlikely and if so, it could be dangerous territory). You need to proceed with eyes, ears and mind wide open.
Test your idea
Before you do anything else, you need to test your idea. The best way is to do this is to check it out with your existing clients so you can find out is whether your idea is attractive to them. Write about your topic (or some aspects of it) on social media, in blog posts and in your newsletter.
Share your idea wherever you get the most traffic and have the most followers. That could be your blog or on one or more social media platforms. Test it in one place at a time so you can adjust your approach. If you get hits on one platform rather than another, get clear on why that is the case.
Research the market
After you have tested your idea and found it has some legs, you need to do some market research. Check it out on Amazon and Google using keywords. Look at some of the books, websites, blog posts and businesses you find as a result of your search.
If there is little or no other publishing on this topic, beware. It may be a sign that there is no market or only a small market for a book on this subject.
When working as a commissioning editor, I was wary of an area where no other books had been published. Especially if I didn’t have any other evidence that a market existed. In fact, I would often abandon any book proposal on the topic because it was almost certainly a sign of a publishing black hole.
And, believe me, you don’t want to publish into one of those!
The only time you can ignore what is happening with published books in relation to your topic is if the topic is trending.
- Look to see if articles are being written about your topic in the media (for more than a week or so) it probably has enough strength to support a book.
- Has the topic you what to write been of interest to your target market for more than 3-6 months? If so, it probably means it has longevity.
- If your topic is around a major change in your industry, it means it will still be of interest when you get your book out there.
Avoid flash-in-the-pan trends as these will be over by the time you publish a book and it might not sustain sales in the long run.
Go with your gut
No matter how much thinking, testing and research you do, at some point, you’ll have to make a decision about whether to choose one topic or another for your book. For that, you need to be able to interpret the data you gather, and trust your gut.
A lot of publishers back books based almost exclusively on gut instinct. That, and a lot of experience. It’s an exciting but very risky approach so it’s not for the fainthearted. The stakes are at their highest using this strategy. But if you feel the urge to ride the big dipper, this may be the best way for you.
FINAL WORD OF WARNING!
There’s a lot of information here and overwhelm is the death of most books.
Only spend time on what will truly help you find the best idea for your book. The rest is for someone else. Focus, focus, focus and you’ll choose the right idea and write the right book.
Plan Your Business-Building Book
If you are struggling to decide on an idea for your book why not arrange a complimentary Plan Your Business Building Book session with me? I will help you:
- Create a crystal clear vision of what your finished book will look like and how it fits with your business.
- Uncover the fears, doubts and procrastinating habits that could be stopping you from getting started with your book.
- Move forward feeling renewed, energised, inspired and ready to start your book.
Click here to book your 30-minute session now!
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