Aspiring authors often wonder how to choose a book idea. Do you wonder whether you are “writing the right book”?
How to Choose a Book Idea
How can you tell if you’re writing the right book? What do you look for?
- Your book concept should match your vision: Look at your vision or mission statement for your book. Would this particular book help you bring that vision to fruition?
- Make sure you have the right audience: Are these the people you want to reach, that you feel called to work with?
- Your book should be marketable, if one of your goals is to sell a good deal of books or get traditionally published: If those aren’t your goals, then marketability may not be as much of an issue.
- Your book should feel fresh in some way: Do you share new research? Offer a fresh angle on a topic? Address an under-served market? Have a distinctive voice or unusual stories? Any of these can make a book fresh.
- Does thinking about this book fill you with passion? You want to feel excited about your book.
- Can you see yourself excited about this book a year from now? Two Years? Writing the book will take time. And once it’s published you’ll be promoting it. Ask yourself whether this topic will hold your interest long term.
- How easy is this book to write? You don’t have to write the easiest of your book ideas, but do take it into consideration. Cutting your teeth on the easy book, the one that stems from what you know rather than crazy amounts of research, may just be the way to get it done and prepare yourself to write book number two!
The Right Book May Be the Most Obvious Choice Click To Tweet
I once worked with a executive who had three different book ideas to choose from. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call them easy, medium and lots-of-work-and-time.
The easy book was the obvious choice—it would easily help grow his business, showcasing his authority in his field. It was a much needed book and he had a lifetime of great information that boards, HR directors and hiring executives needed to know.
Why, then, would he consider a different book?
Sometimes we overlook our strengths and knowledge base. “If I know this, everyone must know it. It must be obvious.” Or, “I know this stuff. I’m bored of it.”
Plus, I think he felt a little concerned that writing about what he knew so well, he wouldn’t learn anything new. The difficult, time consuming book would take research and time and tons of sorting out, but he liked the idea of the challenge.
The book that stemmed completely from his experiences, knowledge base and skills, well, that felt a little old hat.
When we revisited his goals and vision, though, it became clear that the easy book made the most sense to write. He’d be writing the right book to align with his vision. It would do the most for his business and it would serve his clients the best, which was very important to him.
The funny thing was, he had a great time writing the easy book. His stories were funny, powerful and sometimes a wild ride. He enjoyed word play and finding the perfect phrase. The more he wrote, the more fun he had. And, in my Bring Your Book to Life Program, another participant came up with a fabulous title, which branded his work perfectly.
His book attracted a traditional publisher and book deal.
So, don’t overlook the book idea that seems easy, or obvious, or old hat. It just may be that by choosing that one, you’re writing the right book, after all!
Ask any questions about how to choose a book idea and writing “the right book” as a comment below. By the way, I recently updated my post on How to Write a Great Book, which may be the perfect follow up for how to choose a book idea!
R. H. says
Thanks for addressing this topic. I am struggling with deciding which novel idea to choose. Your blog really captured my dilemma. But I am still unsure. The idea I started out with is one that I really like and really want to write, but it has been slow going. It’s historical fiction based on my grandfather’s experiences that are fascinating. Meanwhile, I had an idea for a completely different type of novel. Much more light and contemporary. Kind of romance, cozy mystery. I actually started writing and it has come so easy. My problem is, this is not the book I want to be my first novel. I feel like the other one is the idea that I want to be my first impression on people. I’m torn between starting with what’s easy, or committing to the one that feels more like me. Any advice?
Lisa Tener says
Hi R.H. Ah, what a wonderful inquiry to be immersed in! My expertise is not fiction. Normally, I would advise a writer to focus on one book at a time, but perhaps there is some benefit in moving from the difficult to the easy/flowing and then back again. Maybe the easy one is practice for the hard one? Try this exercise (asking your muse, your inner wisdom, your creative source): it’s an exercise I call Meet your Muse and you can listen to the guided visualization (it’s free). And please let me know how it goes! Also, if you want a fiction coach who can help with this dilemma, email me and I can recommend someone.
R. H. says
Thank you! These are good things to think about. You may be right about switching back and forth. That’s one of the things I love about writing – I can write what I feel like! I will try the guided visualization. I’m glad to have found your blog.
Joanne Daley says
JD here. I’m not about writing a comprehensive one idea book. I’m about using my very long-time inclination to write poetic verse, either specifically spiritual in nature, or poetically geared to awaken that aspect of ourselves in practice… because I believe we all are first and foremost Spiritual Beings…just living in human forms…and the dichotomy of that Truth is often hard to deal with in our real, everyday lives, so mindfulness verses or poetry are my way of ‘smoothing the edges’ of that Truth. I’ve already written hundred of poems over the years, so one thought is to publish a compilation of those. The other idea is definitely more spiritually aimed at touching bases with our Spiritual selves on a daily basis with a year-long book of Mindfulness Verses…again with 3/4 of them already written at this point, but needing to write the rest of them and take a lot of time editing to compile them in a way that’s most useful for the reader. I’ve already emailed you, Lisa, so I guess I just need to get to work on one of these projects. Thanks for the opportunity to share.
Lisa Tener says
Both books sounds beautifully inspiring, Joanne. I don’t edit poetry but I can refer you to a colleague if you are looking for that. I have responded to your email.
Hi Lisa, I found this informative blog when looking for the idea of my 1st book. You shed light on different aspects I didn’t consider. The problem is most of my ideas have some kind of criticism to some traditions, complex rules or process, or the influence of parenting mistakes on their children. All, I’m very knowledgeable about and they inspire me, but I have doubts after I publish, that I may regret writing a book that has any type of criticism. My vision is influencing others how to cope or deal with these kind of issues. Any help! Thanks.
Lisa Tener says
What are your doubts, specifically? Are you worried the reader will be disheartened? Do you worry that they won’t engage with the book because it’s critical? Or do you worry that people will criticize you? Can you be specific about your concerns? Thanks.
Hi Lisa, thank you so much for your kind reply.
Yes particular people to this issue will criticize me because these are all facts and I just want to put that in a book and show others who facing similar things how to deal with it and reach the quality of life they want. I also watched your video https://youtu.be/ktcVD3T6Ogw enlighten me to rethink wisely my book’s idea. Thank you.
Lisa Tener says
Hi Ema, I once had a coach tell me, “If you aren’t repelling some people, you’re not doing your job.” The point is that if you are really spot on for your target market, others may be repelled by your ideas or voice. So that’s actually a sign you’re on track. And controversial ideas, a controversial book, get more publicity than something everyone already agrees with. So the controversy can actually help you sell more books!
Thanks Lisa it’s unforgettable advice , it helps me and really meant a lot.