6 Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Book

By FRANCES SHARPE | Writer. Editor. Ghostwriter.

Are you thinking about writing a book? Whether you’re a nutrition expert, top surgeon, psychologist, business leader, motivational speaker, or someone with a remarkable life history, you may have a bestselling book concept percolating inside you. Here are six questions to ask before you start writing.

1. Who is the audience for your book?

One of the best ways to ensure the success of your book is to think about the specific audience you are trying to reach. Narrow down the audience to one or two specific categories—entrepreneurs, new moms, dog lovers, vegans, or true crime fans, for example. The more specific your audience, the easier it is to create content that is relevant to those readers and the simpler it is to develop a marketing plan to reach that audience.

2. What actions do you want readers to take after reading your book?

Most potential authors are concerned about starting the writing process, but now is the time to plan what you want readers to do after your book is published. Do you want readers to hire you or your business? Do you want them to join your subscription-based website or online program? Do you want them to purchase products from you? Your post-publication plan should be a win-win for everyone—building your business while helping readers achieve their goals, whether that’s weight loss, financial freedom, or better brain health.

3. How do you expect to earn money from writing your book?

If you land a traditional publishing deal, you will earn an advance and depending on how well your book sells, you may see more revenues through royalty payments. But advances and royalties are not the only ways to earn money from your book. Think of your book as a branding and marketing tool that promotes your business and services. A book can be an excellent “calling card” to raise your visibility as an expert in your industry. For example, when journalists are looking for expert sources to comment on topics for articles or TV segments, they often turn to authors who have written on the topic. Similarly, writing a book that offers insights about your company that other people can learn from helps you stand out in a crowded field. Ultimately, a book can lead to more customers and more revenue.

4. How strong is your platform?

These days, it isn’t enough to have an outstanding concept to land a traditional publishing deal. Publishers typically offer book deals to people who also have a rock solid platform. Do you regularly appear on TV and radio? Do you give seminars around the nation? Do you have a popular blog or podcast? Do you have an e-newsletter? Do you have a vast social media following? Do you have an existing customer base? If you don’t have a strong platform, you can still succeed as an author, but you may want to consider alternatives to traditional publishing.

5. Is traditional publishing or self-publishing the best option for your book?

If you have a solid platform and a killer concept, you may succeed in landing a deal with a traditional publisher. Mainstream publishers have a team of professionals to edit, design, print, and distribute your book. However, the process is very slow, you lose some creative control, and royalties are typically low. Self-publishing doesn’t provide you with an advance, but self-publishing allows you to deliver your book to market much faster, gives you more creative control, and offers higher royalties.

6. Should you write your book yourself or hire a ghostwriter?

If you have the talent, time, and discipline to write your own book, then by all means, stop reading this blog and start writing! But what if you have a stellar concept and a strong platform but just can’t find the time to devote to the writing process? Or you want to self-publish and would like some help with the writing process? If this is the case, you may want to work with a ghostwriter. For more information about what to expect from working with a ghostwriter, please contact me at frances@ses-la.com.

Frances Sharpe is a longtime writer, editor, and ghostwriter who has collaborated on more than 20 books, including two New York Times bestsellers. She has crafted book proposals that landed six-figure deals, ghostwritten books for major publishers, and collaborated with authors who made a name for themselves through self-publishing.