Your experience as a business leader brings with it a wealth of insight, wisdom and lessons learned. Perhaps your peers encourage you to write a book to share this knowledge to grow your business. The business book is a symbol of author expertise, and authors are successfully employing their books as tools in a bigger strategy to grow their own businesses. Or maybe you want to write in order to give back to the community — or to get writing a book off your bucket list.
Regardless of the inspiration, writing a book is no small feat – and publishing and promoting it can be a job in and of itself. So how do you know if you’re ready to take the leap?
Here are six easy questions, direct from a publisher, to ask before you dive in:
1. What do you want to write about?
If the answer doesn’t immediately come to you, that’s okay. Most authors start with a vague idea like “marketing tactics” and work their way out from there. Focus on your experience and your successes to get the ball rolling.
Once you have the idea in place, create a brainstorm document where you can list some more specific topics that you feel comfortable discussing. Don’t worry about outlining just yet. The key here is making sure that you have something to say.
2. What do you want your book to accomplish?
A book can definitely serve as a calling card to drum up business, but you don’t need to be a business owner to use a book to your advantage.
Are you a speaker, hoping to use your book to get your foot in the door? Are you an executive hoping to build up a personal brand outside of your company’s? Do you just want to write for the challenge of writing?
There is no wrong answer here, but it’s important to think through your goals for the book before you get too far down the road. Publishing a book is a big investment of your time — and often, money — and clarifying your goals will help ensure that you haven’t wasted either.
3. Who is your audience? And are you already talking to them?
Visualize your target readers and try to get in their minds before you begin. What are their pain points? What are they hoping to learn?
At Greenleaf Book Group, our author branding team regularly creates audience profiles to help authors answer these questions. They create several personas for different kinds of readers who are likely to need a certain book.
While you don’t need to spend hours researching personas, start by thinking about your current platform. What kinds of followers do you have on social media? Who is sharing the articles you write? Chances are good that you are already producing content in some way. Who is reading it?
If you aren’t actively engaging with an audience yet, start now! Dip your toe in the water with shorter-form works, like blog posts. This will help you understand your audience while also building a base of readers to create demand for your book when it comes out.
4. Why you?
You now know what you want to say and who you want to say it to, so it’s time for an honest evaluation of whether or not you are the best person to deliver the message.
What is it that qualifies you? Have you worked in the industry for years? Did you pioneer something new? Or did you do a lot of research on a topic?
Credentials are important in earning the attention of an agent or publisher, and equally important to provide the breadth of knowledge needed to write 50,000-plus words on a particular subject.
This question will also help you identify your differentiating factor. What do you bring to the table that is new and different compared to the content that readers can get through articles, podcasts, white papers and other books?
5. Why now?
Do you feel like there’s a strong demand for your content? Are your customers always asking for more information about a certain area of your business? Do you foresee a shift in the industry?
Most non-fiction books aim to provide timely, useful content for readers, but if you are able to anticipate their future pain points and help them avoid them, you will give your book an edge.
You know your own industry better than most, so spend some time thinking about what is happening within it to help you pinpoint where your book will fall in that broader conversation.
6. Is a book the best outlet for the idea?
There are so many ways to share your ideas with the world. If you have worked through answers to all of the above questions, end your brainstorm with this: could I sum up everything that I want to say in a blog post? A blog series? Some lengthy tweets?
Most readers can point to a book that was chock-full of valuable information for the first 30 pages but then devolved into filler or fluff. Before you embark on the journey of writing a book, it’s worth a gut check to confirm that you truly have the passion and a meaty enough subject to deliver valuable content to your reader. The process of outlining your book will help to confirm this.
Repurposing already written content is a helpful way to compile your book, but if you don’t have enough content to support a manuscript, by all means keep writing. Get your work out to the world in other formats, and your voice and content will come together with time.
Writing a book can be an extremely valuable tool for your brand. Working through your answers to these questions will make the process of writing much easier while setting you up for increased success at every decision-making point throughout the publishing process.
As CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, Tanya Hall drives the company’s growth efforts and fosters a culture built around serving authors. Learn more about Greenleaf Book and connect on Twitter (@GreenleafBookGr and @TanyaHall) and Facebook.