10 Questions to Ask Before You Start Writing a Book
These days there are many options if you’re hoping to publish your book. You can do it yourself using Amazon CreateSpace.com or IngramSpark.com. You write your book, format it and upload files to the website.
Voilà! You are a published author. However, there’s much more involved in successfully publishing, especially if you want to attract readers and get publicity.
Your book needs to look indistinguishable from books from any major publisher. That’s the key to having a tome that appeals to readers and the media; you don’t want to take short-cuts that leave your book looking sloppy and amateurish. In later columns, I’ll explain how to avoid this and other common mistakes in self-publishing.
Whether you’re just starting to write your book or are thinking about doing so, I encourage you first to stop and answer the following questions. There aren’t “right and wrong” responses but your answers can be insightful and may help you refocus your topic or guide you toward ways you can promote your work.
What Is the Message of Your Book?
You should be able to clearly articulate the point of your book if it is non-fiction. If you’re writing a novel, you should be able to easily explain its theme.
Why Are You the Best Person to Write this Book?
Are you an expert in the topic or are you interested in a particular subject and involved in research on this topic? You’re more likely to write an engaging book and be able to promote it if you’re very familiar with the subject.
If you are torn between several topics, remember that completing a book is difficult so focus first on the subject you’re most passionate about and one in which you have some experience. That is likely to enhance your credibility with readers.
Do You Have the Time, Energy, Financial Security and a Place to Write?
If you have family or professional commitments, you should establish a realistic schedule that allows you to complete your book without putting undue hardship on yourself or your loved ones.
If you need a completed book for a particular event such as a speaking engagement or special anniversary, make sure you plan accordingly and allow time for the unexpected that may delay your schedule.
Are You Writing a Book About a Sensitive Topic or Subject That Could Be Offensive?
If you’re uncertain, then you should consult a publishing attorney. Simply changing names or identifying details doesn’t mean that readers can’t identify a real person you’re writing about. You may be eager to write a memoir but will your family be offended?
If you’re writing about details from your professional life, make certain that you aren’t prohibited from doing so by an employment contract or a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Could You Partner with Someone to Complete the Book?
Perhaps you would work better with a co-author or a ghost writer who can interview you or shape your writing into a compelling narrative. Could you hire someone to create quizzes, charts or illustrations? These professionals are easily found on sites like LinkedIn, Freelancer.com and Reedsy.com
How Does Your Book Align with Your Professional Work?
Can you feature the book on a website or in speaking opportunities? It’s important you think about how you will use the book and promote it once it’s completed.
Do You Have Existing Material You Can Use?
Is it possible that you have existing material from speeches, presentations or white papers that you can use in the book? Do you have the legal right to use such material?
Does Your Book Relate to Current Events?
This may be a reason to try to write more quickly so you can get media coverage!
Have You Reviewed Different Book Formats?
For example, a self-help book can be a variation of “Seven Strategies to…” or “Get a Better Body in 90 Days.” Looking at various book formats and types can help you determine a structure that works for your subject.
What Happens After Writing a Book? What’s Your Elevator Pitch?
Can you describe your book easily in two to three minutes in a way that will captivate the listener? You must be able to do this if you’re looking for a traditional publisher or intend to spend any time promoting your book on media.
It’s a new year and a great time to start writing. By taking some time to answer these questions before you immerse yourself in the content, you’re more likely to have a successful publication.
Are you considering writing a book in the new year? What would it be about? How have you developed a plan for successful writing? Please share your creative ideas with other women in our community.
Debra W. Englander is a writer, editor and book coach based in New York. She has written for numerous publications and managed a business book program for John Wiley. She writes “The Savvy Self-Publisher” column for Poets & Writers. Follower her on Twitter @DebraEnglander.