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Six Questions to Ask Yourself before Writing a Book

Updated: 2 days ago

Most people want to write a book. Though many people make that wish a reality, many more never get around to it. Do you want to know why?

Because writing a book is HARD.

You can improve your chances of going from a wannabe author to a published author by asking yourself six questions.

These are the questions I ask my clients. Before I can ghostwrite their nonfiction book or coach them to write it themselves, we both need to be 100 percent clear on the What, Why, Who, When, Where, and How of their book writing journey.

Before you write a single word of your book—or hire a coach or ghostwriter to help you write it—consider these six questions.

1) WHAT is your book idea?

What is your book about? What makes you uniquely qualified to write it?

If you have more than one idea, which book are you most qualified to write? Which book do you really want to write? If your answer to these two questions is the same idea, you’ve probably hit on a great book idea. But if you aren’t sure which idea to pursue, don’t worry—you’ll have more clarity after you answer the next five questions.

2) WHY are you writing it?

What are your personal, professional, and/or financial goals for writing the book?

Authors often tell me they want to write a book to help other people. That’s a nice sentiment and a positive side effect of writing a great book. But unless you have a selfish reason, you won’t be motivated to finish it.

Think about what you have to gain by writing the book. It might help to follow the SMART rule for setting your book goals: make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based.

This is a good time to revisit your response to the WHAT question: Will the idea you chose allow you to meet your WHY goals?

3) WHO are you writing it for?

Who will want to read this book? Your book must solve a problem for readers or help them achieve a goal. Describe that person. Then ask yourself, "If my WHO person reads my WHAT book, will I achieve my WHY goals?" If the answer is no, you may need to change one or more of your WHAT, WHY, and WHO answers.

By the way, you are not writing a book for everyone. If you do, it will be a boring, shallow book that touches no one. To go deep with your subject and resonate with readers, write your book for a particular reader with a specific problem or goal that you can help them solve or achieve in a unique way (your way, which you will teach them in this book that you are uniquely qualified to write).

4) WHEN do you want to publish your book?

Your timeline for writing and publishing your book affects many decisions. If you can meet your desired timeline writing the book yourself, you may not need a book coach or ghostwriter. However, if you’re short on time and/or book-writing skills, you can shorten the timeline and get professional guidance by engaging a book coach or ghostwriter to do some of the heavy lifting for you.

Your publishing preference also impacts your timeline. Today’s authors can self-publish, self-publish with paid assistance, work with a hybrid publisher, or pitch their book to agents and traditional publishers. Each choice comes with advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you plan to pursue an agent and, depending on your book’s genre, you may need to produce—in addition to a manuscript—a query, a synopsis, and a book proposal. These items will add more time to your publishing schedule. A book coach or ghostwriter can explain the pros and cons of the different publishing choices and help you prepare the necessary additional documents.

5) WHERE is your reader, and how will you reach them?

No matter which publishing route you choose, marketing your book is your responsibility. This means knowing WHERE your target readers are and having a way to connect with them. A connection to your target reader—your WHO—may include a social media following, newsletter or blog subscriber base, client base, professional or personal organizational relationships, and speaking engagement audiences. These are not people you hope to connect with after you’ve written your book—they’re people you’re connected with right now, while you’re writing your book and before it’s published. They’re people who will pre-order your book because they know and trust you, and they’re eager to read whatever you write.

If you cannot reach your audience to tell them about your book, you may have to hire a marketer to do this for you.

If you plan to build a brand by getting other people to talk about it and you, you may have to hire a publicist as well.

Traditional publishers do very little marketing and publicity for anyone but their top authors, so no matter which publishing path you choose, expect to be the primary marketer and publicist of your book.

6) HOW are you going to do all this?

Some people are terrific organizers, planners, and writers. These people make excellent ghostwriters and book coaches. Some make great authors. They know how to plan a book, position it, outline it, and write it. They know all the other questions that need to be answered as they get deeper into the book-writing process too, like:

- Which tools to use to write their book, such as Word, Scrivener, or Google Docs

- Which style manual to follow

- Whether they should hire a researcher and/or fact-checker

- Whether to use alpha and/or beta readers

- Whether they need a developmental editor, line editor, and/or copy editor

- Whether they need a book designer, cover designer, and proofreader

- How to get their book published

- How to manage their schedule to finish the book within their timeframe

Answering the WHAT, WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW questions will make your next steps easier. Depending on your responses, you might decide to write a book completely different from your original idea. You might decide to hire a book coach or ghostwriter to kickstart your book. Or you might opt to spend time building your audience before taking another step.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a book, because it’s different for everyone. Answer these six questions and figure out what’s best for you. Then take your next best step from being a wannabe author to a published author.

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