“Is this a book?”

It’s said that 80% of people think they have a book inside them.

What’s true is 100% of people have a spooky skeleton inside them.

Books take a lot of time and energy to produce, but they can be a truly effective way to share your vision with your audience. So how do you know if you have a book idea worth pursuing? Here are three ways to test your non-fiction book idea.

1/ Can you sustain the idea?

Books vary in length. An ebook sold on Amazon or through your site could be 30 pages, but a business book in an airport bookstore is usually about 200 pages. So the question is less about the dismissive “this could have been an article” and more about the generative “this should be a book.” Do you have enough fresh ideas to bring to the page? Can you keep the reader engaged for 30, 100, 200+ pages? And are you interested enough in the idea to stick with it for the average two years it will take to produce and release the book, and then the two years to promote it? Put plainly: are you so excited by your idea and its potential that you will put in the time to make it the best it can be?

2/ Will your book bring something of value to your target reader?

Spend some time determining your ideal reader. Will your book solve a problem for them, fill a need, serve as a gift? Bill Bryson’s books, for example, generally don’t “solve a problem”—they’re just enjoyable to read, a gift for the reader. How will your target reader interact with your book now, and in five years? Does your reader need your book (and do they know that)?

3/ Will this book support your other goals?

A book is just one piece of your offering—what I call your publishing ecosystem. You might already reach your target audience through workshops, speeches, blog posts. How big is the chasm between your current offerings, and reaching a book buyer online or in the aisle at Powell’s? Think hard about your goals in publishing—it might be that you can achieve a lot of them already (e.g., audience engagement, revenue generation, legacy building) through several well-edited articles that are available for free or a low fee, rather than a book.

I’m always happy to talk through the “is this a book?” question, as I’ve been having this conversation for 15 years at acquisition boards with some of the brightest minds in publishing. If you want to road-test your idea and see where you can take it from here, reach out to book a call.

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