As a ghostwriter, I often get emails and calls from potential clients who say, “People tell me my life story would make a great book.”
Comments like this tell me they’re not ready to write a book yet (though they may be someday). Writing a book is a big undertaking, on par with launching a startup or having a new baby. No one takes on a big commitment like that because other people think it’s a good idea. It’s too much work. It’s only worth writing a book because it’s so important to you that nothing could stop you, except circumstances beyond your control…because you will be tempted to stop writing many times during the process. It’s hard.
Even if you have that intense desire—backed up by a commitment to action—it’s also important to have a strong sense of purpose for writing the book. I’ve found that the most successful entrepreneurship authors—whether they run one-person businesses or fast-growing startups—address three key questions in their minds before they start writing.
- What gap in the marketplace does it address? Just as a product will do best if it brings unexpected joy to your target customers or solves a vexing problem for them, your book will be most compelling if it provides a unique answer to an important question that readers are trying to solve (and can’t find elsewhere) or is so entertaining that they can’t put it down. It’s not always easy to figure out what gap you can fill, but no one says you have to answer that question on your own. Doing some market research in online bookstores will help you to understand the conversation that authors are having in print about the topic you plan to write about so you can figure out where you can move that dialogue forward.
- Why does it need to be published now? Timing is everything when it comes to new product releases—and though books are creative works, they are ultimately products, too. If you can’t think of a compelling reason your book must be written now, hold off until you have a “Why now?” Often, one way to uncover it is to ask yourself what current opportunities your book will help readers to go after or what pain points will it help them to avoid. These should be timely enough to make the book a must-read now but not so time-sensitive that they’ll seem dated in a two or three years—which is how long it takes many books to go from the germ of an idea to a published work.
- How is this book about the reader, rather than me? A book is a great way to express yourself, but it’s important to remember that, ultimately, readers will be looking to find out something about themselves from it. It’ll be easier to connect with them through your book if you give plenty of thought to what they’ll get out of it and how they’ll feel when reading it. It’s similar to welcoming guests to your home. The more you can show them a great time and keep them interested and entertained, the more likely it is that they’ll stay a little longer and come back again soon.
Forbes – Entrepreneurs