These days, it's hard to keep up with all of the content being produced. In addition to a constant stream of articles, podcasts, white papers, and free downloads, there are also more books being produced than ever.
In recent years -- thanks in part to the rise of different publishing options -- authorship is no longer limited to those who were lucky enough to get a book deal. In fact, the business book has become a symbol of author expertise, and authors have been successfully employing their books as tools to grow their own businesses.
At a time when it seems like everyone is writing a book, how do you know if you're ready to take the leap?
Here are 6 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 out some more specific topics that you feel comfortable talking about. 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?
As I mentioned previously, a hot topic in the publishing industry has been using your book 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? Perhaps you're an executive hoping to build up a personal brand outside of your company's? And maybe you just want to be a writer, with a book that sells well.
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 oftentimes 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 reader and try to get in their minds before you begin. What are their pain points? What are they hoping to learn?
Our Author Branding team regularly creates audience profiles to help authors answer these questions. They create personas for 2-3 different kinds of readers that 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 that you are already producing content in some way. Who is reading it?
"Publishing today is all about authors directly connecting with readers, and the book is only one point of connection. More and more, readers don't just want the book--they want the author," says Amanda Rooker, writing coach and co-founder of SplitSeed.
If you aren't actively engaging with an audience yet, start now! Dip your toe in the water with shorter-form works. This will not only help you understand who you are writing to, but it will also help ensure you have demand for a book when it comes out.
4. Why You?
You now know what you want to say and who you want to say it to, but it's time for an honest evaluation of whether or not you are the best person to deliver the message.
What is it about you 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, not only in getting the attention of an agent or publisher, but also in ensuring that you have the breadth of knowledge needed to fill out 50,000+ words on a particular topic.
This question will also help you identify your differentiating factor. What do you bring to the table that is new and different than the content that readers can get through articles, podcasts, white papers, etc?
5. Why Now?
Do you feel like there's a strong demand for your content? Are your customers continually 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, and it will help you decipher where your book will fall within the broader conversation.
6. Is a book the best outlet for the idea?
These days, there are so many ways to share your ideas with the world. If you have thought up 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 and then drifted off into repetition. Before you embark on the journey of writing a book, be sure that you are so passionate about the topic that you are bursting with valuable information and anecdotes.
Repurposing already written content is a helpful way to compile your book, but if you don't have enough to say to fill a book, keep writing. Get your work out there 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 not only make the process of writing much easier, but it will help you at every point along the publishing process.