By: Karen Rowe

Question-MarkI spend a lot of my time with new clients finding out who they are and getting a real sense of their overall goals for their book. This is often a matter of listening and asking the right questions. I get so many writers that write and write and write and but forget to ask key questions until after they’ve finished their book. Successfully publishing a book means asking yourself these key questions:

Are You Treating This Book As a Business Or As A Project? One of the biggest myths of the book industry is that authors are going to get rich from publishing books. There’s no money in books. So if this book is a pet project, a tribute to your grandparents, a memoir to honor the death of a loved one, a therapy book to work out all your issues, that’s fine. But be clear about that before you start, and don’t expect to get much of your investment back.If your objective is to create a book for posterity’s sake, then the good news is that you won’t have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that’s quite acceptable. If your goal is a business venture, then treat it the same as you would any other marketing tool.

What Do You Want the Book To Do For You? Are you looking to build a speaking career, attract more clients, establish credibility and expertise, become a full-time children’s book author, land a publishing deal or write a book that your friends and family can be proud of and read for all eternity? I’ve said it before, the biggest difference between a successful author and one who has never been heard of is the ability to set clear, definable goals. Create a list, and then go about building a book that will do what you want it to, and will work for you.

What Kind of Market Do You Want the Book In? Knowing your market will sell more books. Niche books tend to do well. Nonfiction books with a clearly-defined topic, a compelling hook and a specific target audience will be more successful than a book appealing to the masses. There are also certain topics that will always sell:

a) How to make more money
b) How to find or have more/better sex/love/romance will always do well.

Fiction is a little tougher to predict, but some genres do better than others. This is why it’s important to do your research and also why traditional publishers like authors with loyal followings. There’s a balance that you have to strike between finding a niche that you can dominate, and selling enough books in that niche each month that it matters.

Who Is Your Target Market: Please don’t say ‘my book is for everybody’, because it’s not. If you write your book “for everyone”, you are more likely to attract no one. The more clear and specific you can be about your target reader, the more likely you are to attract them. Getting clarity on your target will inform your writing choices throughout the process. It will also help you find them and get them to buy the book at launch time.

How Do You Want to Help People? Zig Ziglar said it best: “You can get everything you want out of life, if you just help enough other people get what they want.”Whether or not they realize it, your reader will always ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’ If you can clearly identify the problem they are experiencing, solve that problem and then demonstrate how you can help them, they will automatically connect with you. It’s also a way to immediately position yourself as the expert that they must listen to because you have the answers. They will keep reading, they will tell their friends, and (in theory) you will sell more books.

What’s the Message You Want to Communicate? Let me give you a hint, you are the message you want to communicate. Six-time Emmy-Award Winner Shawne Duperon asks a much better question: what are you broadcasting? “What signal are you transmitting in business”… and in your book? Whether you’re networking, posting or writing your book, you are your message. Having a message that is directly in line with who you are, what you do and what’s important to you will help you authentically connect with your reader. It will attract the perfect client and ultimately grow your business or your career.

What Do I You Have To Contribute That Is Not Already In The Marketplace? Part of doing your research is finding out what others in your field are up to. Penny Reading Sansevieri, author and CEO of Marketing Experts, Inc. says, “success leaves clues.” By following and getting to know other authors in your market, you will find out what’s trending. Their work will not only familiarize you with how others are addressing your topic, but also highlight what’s not being said, and how can you expand on that. What can you add to the conversation? What should people really be discussing? What’s your unique value proposition? Another way to position yourself, is by disagreeing with the expert opinion. When done properly, this can carry great weight and influence. It also helps you to be on top of new information, and gives you the opportunity to add any missed information.

What Is Your Budget? I meet a lot of writers who aren’t willing or prepared to invest in their books. It’s funny how authors often think that being an author doesn’t require an investment. This is mostly because they’re not yet clear on how to generate energy around that book and get a return on that investment, or have the book work for them as a marketing tool. Decide on your investment and then ask yourself: How much money am I willing to lose? Yep, I did say lose. You may earn your money back in book sales, but you may not. It’s impossible to predict how any book will do so make an investment that you are prepared to lose if things don’t go as you’d hoped.

How Do You Want To Publish? You have several options. You will want to start thinking about this at the start of your writing so you can get the ball rolling long before you complete your book. You can self-publish, seek a traditional publisher, or a hybrid route, which combines the two. Regardless of your choice, it’s important to know about digital platforms such as Amazon Kindle, iBookstore for iPad and Barnes & Noble Nook. Did you know that you can make more money selling a book digitally at $2.99 than selling a traditional book for $24.99?Get the information you need to make an informed choice. More on this in a different post.

Who Do You Need To Collaborate With: Writers tend to be the worst self-promoters. Typically what makes you a great writer (ie: you might be an introvert) makes you a terrible self-promoter. You just wanna write. If this is you, and you know this is you, then you may need to hire a team to help you finish, publish and/or market your book.

Asking all these key questions before you get started means you will be further ahead than a large portion of first-time writers in the industry.  If you want additional direction, please consider attending my upcoming webinar with expert book marketer, Lynn Serafinn – more information on this will be provided shortly.

AND FINALLY, DON’T FORGET to subscribe to the ‘Write Better’ authors blog via the form at the top of this page for more tips on writing, editing, digital publishing, book promotion and marketing and much more.
And of course, if you’d rather have someone write your book for you, just drop me a line via the contact on this site.