How to Discover the Perfect Idea for Your Book
I’m really excited about this…
… today’s post is going to be a little bit different than what we’ve talked about so far this month:
- First, we talked about how writing nonfiction radically changed my life.
- Next, we talked about 10 other people who rode a book to success.
Those posts were pretty good. They provide fuel for the dream factory, which is necessary. But now, I’m ready to move from dreams to reality.
Without further ado, here’s the process I use to come up with book ideas on demand. Feel free to rip off and duplicate :)
First, the good news: you have endless possibilities!
Now, the terrible news: you have endless possibilities!
The idea is to be empowered by your options, not overwhelmed by them. After all, I’m a firm believer in what Thomas Edison said when it comes to generating ideas:
“To have a good idea… have a lot of them”
The book idea process is no different. Even if you came into this post with a vague book idea, what’s the harm in coming up with a few more? Maybe you have a little elf holding an even better idea hostage between your ears. That’s why the first thing I do in my book process generate a WHOLE bunch of potential book ideas.
I do this with NO FILTER. For the first 4 steps of this process, any idea is fair game. If my brain tries to hesitate on writing something down, I do it anyway just to spite the snarky little thing.
Get out your pen and paper to answer this series of questions. (You’ll want ten ideas MINIMUM to really get the juices flowing).
Question 1: What am I passionate about?
This is the first and most obvious question. If you aren’t passionate about the topic of your book, there is no chance you’ll make it through the marathon of writing about it.
“But Todd, I’m passionate about more than one thing!”
Congratulations. This probably means you are mentally healthy. Write it down.
Every single thing you could possibly care enough about to write a book on it, put it on paper. Write them all down.
Question 2: What am I an expert on?
I often laugh about how many people completely gloss over their own expertise. The Curse of Knowledge is wicked.
Fortunately, most of us have an easy pass on this in the form of our jobs. Do you do data analysis? Why not write about that? Do you know 54 Useful Microsoft Excel Hacks? Fantastic! Put it on the list. Are you a physical trainer? A miner? An investor? Anything is fair game in a world where you and Amazon can reach the exact people who will care about your expertise.
“But Todd, I’m not an expert at anything.”
I used to say “that’s total BS!” automatically. Truthfully though, you might have a point. You might be too inexperienced to have real expertise.
If that’s the case, take a look at things you have at least some knowledge of. Merely making a point to write your book is the perfect excuse to become an expert. You never know how deep your own knowledge goes until you start teaching it.
Write it down. Don’t just think about it.
Question 3: What type of book do I want to write?
Is it a How-to Book? A Big Idea Book? A Memoir? A Manual? Maybe it’s just a photo book, and the only writing you’d have to do is telling the story around the images.
A quick point here, you don’t want to write down “How-to Book” on your list. But “How to (do x thing you care about)” works perfectly. Likewise, you shouldn’t just write “Memoir,” but maybe “The Redemption of Grief” can perfectly tell the story of losing your loved one.
It’s likely one of these categories either fits your personality or writing style the best.
Write down anything which comes to mind.
Question 4: What ideas have done well so far?
If you’re a blogger, go right now and sort the stats of whatever publisher you’re using. What is that post about? Is it possible the topic could be explored in a book? If so, write it down.
If you’re NOT a blogger, look at your last ten Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram posts. Which captions or ideas do well? What seems to be resonating? Think about the conversations you have. What stories keep people rapt with attention?
Write them all down.
(Are you getting the importance of actually writing things down yet?)
Here’s a preview of what my list could look like, with the question that prompted each noted. Pay attention to the variety of topics at this point. This is okay.
You started at 0 book ideas. Maybe you had 1. Now, you have 10 or more! I love the way this process opens doors.
But now, we need to close a few :)
Question 5 [The Most Important Question]: What book idea fits best with my goals right now?
For the final question, it’s time to take off your hat of dreamy creativity and put on the eyeglasses of ruthless editing.
What exactly are you trying to do in your life right now? Which book will help get you there?
Maybe you want to try to find a publisher for this book to increase your chances on landing the NYT Bestseller List. Maybe you’re trying to start a business and you’ll give away the book to grow your email list. Maybe you’ll sell it to clients for $100+ as an expert guide (this is not unheard of).
The point is, I don’t know your goals right now. Only you do.
Narrow down your choices, and find the golden egg in your pile of ideas.
Then write it down on its own piece of paper (to stay focused on it).
Now it’s your turn.
If you didn’t do the exercise along with me in this post, do it now. Worst case scenario, you spend 10 minutes to come up with ideas you can use later.
For bonus points, put your results in the responses. I genuinely love seeing your ideas :)
Much love as always ❤
- Todd B