You want to write a book. Specifically, you want to write a nonfiction book. Easy — ideas are everywhere.
You’re keen to get started, but every idea you develop seems trite — uninspired. You’re wondering whether you’ll ever come up with something original.
Hey, listen up… “Original” is over-rated. Let’s say you managed to develop a completely different idea for a book… An idea which no one has ever had before.
Amazing, right? A guaranteed bestseller, right? Wrong.
Hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world are cudgeling their brains and looking for ideas too. Not only is it unlikely that you’ll come up with something that no one has ever thought of before, but if you did somehow manage it, chances are that no one would buy your book.
Decide now that you’ll write a book which will sell: the only way to do that is to write what readers want.
Write a book that people want to read
Recall that you’re not just writing a book, you’re writing a book that people will want to read.
When I started my writing career, more years ago than I care to remember, a savvy editor suggested that if I wanted to sell, I write about: diets, romance, and money. That trio of topics will always be popular, because: human nature.
Let’s look at ways you can get ideas and write books that readers will love.
1. Make a list of what fascinates YOU
It’s not what you know, it’s what you love, and want to learn more about.
Before the Kindle and the self-publishing revolution, authors’ research to find ideas for books was time-consuming. Not only did you need to hustle to the library to study databases of books which were already published, you had to source lists of upcoming titles as well.
All that took time, and convincing editors that you’d found a hot topic took a lot of back and forth. Even remembering those long-ago days makes me tired. 🙂
Today, you have millions of potential readers, and those millions of readers have endless interests. No matter how esoteric your own obsessions are, it’s likely that thousands of readers share those obsessions and will want to read about them.
So make a list of what you love (or hate, come to that) and keep adding to it. The list will serve you well in years to come.
2. What problems can you solve?
Everyone is an expert on something, and nothing is ever lost on a writer.
Make a list of what you know. Consider your history, your job history, personal challenges you’ve overcome… You’ll be surprised at the length of the list, no matter how young you are. Of course, if you’re mature, you know even more.
Share your knowledge.
3. What do you do in your spare time? You’re a fan of…
What do you like to do?
Create another list. This list should include everything you’d do if money were no object, as well as your favorite pastimes.
Your three lists: competition analysis
You now have three lists.
Choose five to ten topics, and do a little competition analysis.
From this early-stage analysis, you want to know:
- The category: how popular is the topic? Do any books covering the topic appear in Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers? Here’s the Top 100 for 2017.
- Assuming that your category is represented, are the books indie published, or traditionally published? Traditionally published books are a good sign, because publishers have research resources that we don’t. (Don’t take this too seriously — publishers are often wrong. :-))
- Potential for a shortie title. Can you come up some shortie topics with which you can test the category’s potential? Writing a couple of short titles makes sense, before you spend several months writing.
If you want to write a book, there are a million nonfiction topics
As we’ve said, with millions upon millions of readers, chances are that thousands of them will be interested in any idea you choose.
Have fun. And keep adding to your lists. Then you’ll never run out of great ideas for great books. 🙂
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