10 Key Questions to Ask Before You Begin Writing Your Book – Part 3

This is the final installment in a three-part series on the questions to ask before you begin writing your book. Be sure to check out the first post (covering Questions 1-3) and the second post (on Questions 4-6) in the series.

Now, on to the final four questions!

7. Who is my audience?

“Everybody” is not the answer to this question! You might say you want to profile your target market. I prefer to phrase it as creating a portrait of your ideal reader because the word “portrait” reminds us that we are talking about people here – not about some abstract. So what do your ideal readers know about the subject? What do they need to know? What do they want to know? Why would they buy your book? What is going to grab their attention? Can you identify their demographics? Psychographics? Lifestyle? Goals, dreams, pains? The better you know your audience, the better the book you will write!

8. What tone and style would I like to use?

Once you know your audience, you will be able to answer the question of tone and style. Some markets will prefer a personal, conversational style. Others will want a lot of information and a scholarly approach. A different segment will want copy that is quick and scannable. Remember: there is no style that is “perfect ” for every book, just as there is no book that is perfect for every audience. Your subject matter, your goals, your personality, and your audience will suggest an appropriate tone and style.

9. How long do I want my book to be?

You can certainly just start writing and when you reach the end, stop. The finished product may be 100 pages or 400 pages. But you may find it helpful to figure out ahead of time the approximate length you would like for your book. After all, if you are going for a quick, scannable style, it may not make sense to have a 350 page tome. On the other hand, an in-depth treatment of a topic might require nothing less. Determining the final length of your book will also give you a general guideline as to how long individual chapters should be.

10. Will I need a marketing plan or a marketer, or can I handle both the marketing strategy and implementation myself?

Don’t forget about the work that happens post-writing! For your book to be a success, you will need a marketing strategy and time and effort for implementation. If you can work that end yourself, that is excellent. But if you can’t (either because you lack the knowledge, expertise, or time), then plan on bringing in an outside resource to assist you. Either path will require an investment, but good marketing is crucial to your ultimate goal: having people read your book!

So, having gone through these 10 questions, here is one more … are you ready to write?



10 Key Questions to Ask Before You Begin Writing Your Book – Part 2

This is the second in a three-part series on the questions to ask before you begin writing your book. The first post in the series (covering Questions 1-3) can be found here.

Now, on to the questions … starting with Question 4:

4. Why me?

Why are you the perfect person to write this book? What are your credentials and qualifications? Books are a great way of promoting your credibility, true … but only if you have the knowledge, experience, and expertise to back it up! A general rule of thumb: you are most credible when you talk about something you know inside-out and backwards.

5. What’s my point?

You need to go beyond “I want to write a book” to “I want to write a book about THIS.” Whatever “this” is should be something you are passionate about, something that is compelling to your target market, something that meets a need, something that is different in some way from similar material already on the market. Consider writing an elevator speech for your book: what would you say to people to tell them what your book is about and why they should read it?

6. Am I willing to put in the time?

Books take time. I know there are “write a book in a weekend” and “the secret to breezing through your first book” seminars touted all over the web. I’ve written many books – spanning everything from a short 40-page ebook to a 400-page novel. Trust me: writing a book takes time. It takes time whether you write it yourself or hire a ghostwriter (since you’ll need to provide the ghostwriter with all the content, and read and edit the manuscript). So ask yourself: Am I willing to put in the time? If I want to write it myself, how good a writer am I? How fast do I produce quality material? How much time am I willing to commit? Will I put aside concentrated time to write my book, or do a little bit every day, or write when I have a spare hour?

Stay tuned … final questions to come in Part 3!

10 Key Questions to Ask Before You Begin Writing Your Book – Part 1

Books are great marketing tools. They establish your credibility and help you leverage your knowledge to bring in new and repeat clients.

But I have seen too many people frustrated when it comes to books … writing them, printing them, marketing them. You want your book to work for you; and to do that, I recommend you spend a little time answering 10 key questions:

1. What are my goals and objectives for the book?

This is not about what you want to write, but why you want to write it. What do you want to accomplish? Be specific: Do you want to sell the book as a revenue source? If so, how many copies would you have to sell at what price point(s) to realize your financial objectives? Do you want to use the book as a lead generation tool to bring in new clients? If so, how many clients are you aiming for?

2. How do I want to produce the book?

Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, print and/or ebook? Be careful to explore all the pros and cons of each. For example, with traditional publishing – if you can find a publisher (no small feat these days) – you may have to wait up to 18 months before you see your book on the shelf. Self-publishing can be done in a fraction of the time. With traditional publishing, the publisher usually handles proofing, layout, cover design, etc. With self-publishing, every task falls in your lap (though with a good self-publishing company, they’ll walk you through it step by step). Do your research, and pick the production method that will best help you meet your goals and objectives.

3. Am I willing to make the financial investment?

Don’t think otherwise: writing a book will cost you money. Even if you have a traditional publisher, you will have to put money into marketing your book, because unless you’re a bestseller, the publisher won’t put much (if anything) into marketing your work. Other routes may require you to invest in a ghostwriter, editor, proofreader, layout, cover design, printing, distribution, etc. Determine what your budget looks like. Weigh the ROI.

Stay tuned … more questions to come in Part 2!

Short is Not a Virtue

As a ghostwriter and book coach, I have found that there is a recurring theme among businessfolk when it comes to writing books. “I want it to be short,” I hear over and over again. “Short and sweet. People are pressed for time. They don’t have time to read anything long and involved.”

Now, if you’re talking about direct mail, short and sweet is essential. If you are blogging, you don’t want to ramble on ad infinitum. And website content? Scannability is the name of the game.

But books? When people pick up a book, they want information. They want to learn something they didn’t know, discover an approach they can use, gain insight they can leverage. And that, my friends, may take some time.

If you try to be short for the sake of being short, you may run into the following pitfalls:

  • Skipping. You assume a knowledge base your readers don’t have, so you skip important topics entirely. The result? Reader confusion.
  • Rushing. You touch on all pertinent topics, but each one only gets a cursory treatment. The result? Reader frustration.
  • Skimming. You don’t have enough space or time to ever get deep into your topic, so you just skim along the surface. The result? Reader boredom.

The purpose of writing a book is to deliver value. That’s your primary goal, and one that should dictate everything else about the book, including tone, style, structure … and length.

Does that mean that books should never be short? Of course not! Short can work magnificently well – in the right place. Just remember: short is not a virtue. Short only works if it delivers true value.