How do you know if your book topic is worth pursuing? (Tweet) With hundreds of thousands of books published each year, are there really any original ideas anymore? Well, not EXACTLY. Before you get discouraged, though, know that your particular take on a topic IS new and original. (Whew.) Validating your book idea will ensure that there is a market for your book. Of course, that does not guarantee book sales.
Validating your book idea will ensure that there is a market for your book; doesn't guarantee book sales. - @jodibrandon
First Things First
Before you can validate your book idea, you need to know what your topic is. This can be tricky, because there’s a sweet spot for every writer. Here’s my advice. Take your book’s general topic area and do an Amazon search. (Random aside for book lovers: Even five years ago, this advice would have included taking a trip to Borders or Barnes & Noble, which you can certainly still do, but most people these days stick with Amazon.) If you typed “writing,” Amazon would return 553,699 results. That’s a lot of competition! If you searched for “writing about insects,” the return would be 0 results. That’s no good, either. If not one person — ever, in the history of books — had written about writing about insects, perhaps the subject/topic is too narrow.
You want to narrow the focus from writing (but, again, not take it too far) so that your market isn’t oversaturated. Would your book be, maybe, writing reference? Or writing how-to? Or journalism reference? Think about where you envision your book in a bookstore or what category people would be searching on Amazon.
Not sure how to isolate this topic? Think about the questions you are most often asked, whether in comments to blog posts, on social media, when talking with people in person. The general topic area of these questions is one in which your audience already sees you as a knowledgeable expert. That’s just what you want!
Can I Run Something by You?
You know that writing a book is a huge undertaking, so you want to be sure that your idea — or your take on the idea — has merit. How do you do that? By validating your book idea. Yes, the bookstore/Amazon research is a good starting point. But you need to do more. As an entrepreneur, testing your idea isn’t a new concept to you (Tweet). Surely you’ve done something similar when you’ve launched other things (courses, products, services). The concept for a book is the same. Ask your tribe. Ask the people who are your ideal clients (and thus likely your ideal readers) what they think of the idea. Is it a topic they’d buy and read a book about? Ask in Facebook groups, ask on your social media pages, and ask people in person. Float your idea and see what the response is. Take this feedback into consideration as you flesh out your book topic (and what you include inside its pages).
Remember as you go through this process of gathering feedback that everyone’s will be different, particularly as you ask more and more people. Here are a few ways to manage that feedback:
- Stop the process if you begin to get overwhelmed.
- Have a system for capturing feedback (Google doc, Evernote, Trello card, etc.).
- Be targeted with your questions. What do you think about X topic? might be too broad a question. Think about asking instead targeted questions like: Do you think a book about topic X should cover A, B, and C, or just A and B?
Thinking Ahead: Five Stars!
Once you have an idea that’s been validated and you’re ready to move ahead with the writing process, let me share a pro tip with you. Remember earlier when you did a search for books in your topic area? Let’s return to that list for one last exercise. Check out the reviews for a few of these books. What did people like about them? What did people not like? Did readers wish, for example, that the author covered subtopic A in greater detail? This will help you determine not only the contents of your book, but also the level of specificity you want in your topic area.
Still have questions about validating your book idea? Let me know what they are. I’m happy to help. Happy writing!