I'm a big advocate of not beginning a project--especially a big project--unless you know it has chance to succeed. Failure's okay; we learn from it. But writers and aspiring authors, like most people, have little time for failed project into which they invested hundreds of hours. Therefore, I'd never write a word of either a self-published book or one I hoped to have traditionally published unless I first evaluated that book idea's success potential. That's why today's blog posts is about doing just that--evaluating your book for success using what I call the "proposal process." I'm your expert blogger.
How to Evaluate Your Book Idea’s Success Potential
By Nina Amir
When writers come up with ideas for books and want to simply sit down and begin writing, that’s good. It means they have enough excitement about their ideas to actually start and even finish their projects. However, that excitement may cause them to begin too quickly.
In fact, not every book idea deserves to become a book. Some ideas make better articles or essays because you don’t have enough subject matter to produce a full-length book. Others might be appropriate for a book but only your friends and family might be interested in reading it. In other words, your idea might not have a market beyond your immediate circle of influence. Or maybe your idea simply isn’t unique—the market is flooded with other books just like it.
It’s a worthwhile venture to evaluate your book idea’s success potential prior to writing a word—or very many words. You do this by using the publishing industry standard—the book proposal—as your guide. Take your idea and look at it through the lens of a book proposal, and you’ll know soon enough if your idea has the ability to make it as a print or ebook. Evaluate your idea as any agent or acquisitions editor might if they were to read your book proposal. You don’t need to write a proposal, just go through what I call the proposal process.
Book proposals contain a variety of sections. The most important ones will quickly tell you if your idea is viable:
- Markets: This book proposal section asks you to describe your book’s markets—large groups/numbers of people who might be interested in and purchase your book. These are the people who will find your book relevant for some reason. If your idea has appeal to large markets, many markets or even one small niche market, it might be a good idea.
- Competing Titles: In this proposal section you look at the previously published books and compare your book idea to them. If you feel your idea is unique and fills a “hole” on the shelf of a brick-and-mortar bookstore as well as an online bookstore, then your idea gets the green light.
- About the Author: In this section you actually write a bio of yourself and discuss why you are the best person to write this book. However, this is a chance to compare yourself to the authors of the competing books and ask yourself if you can compete with them. Are you unique? Do you have the credentials necessary? If so, then your idea passes on to the next part of the proposal process.
- Mission Statement: Do you have a reason to write this book? Is it your purpose or mission? Will your book serve a purpose, too? Will it add benefit and offer value. If you can answer “yes” to these questions, your idea might be a winner.
- List of Chapters: Create a table of contents for the potential book. Does it look like you have the makings for a book? Can you see an actual structure and imagine content for a full book? If “yes,” proceed!
- Chapter Summaries: Describe each chapter’s content. If you can summarize each chapter and then feel certain you really do have a book inside you that needs to get out,” and it all makes sense on paper, get writing!
A book proposal has more sections, and all of them prove helpful to the “proposal process.” I suggest you go through all of them, but the sections above are the most essential ones for evaluating your book idea. If you take the time to go through this evaluation process, you’ll find yourself writing many more successful books—books that sell to readers and to publishers—and ending up with a lot less book manuscripts that you shove in a drawer or save on your hard drive for eternity.
About the Author
Nina Amir, Your Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires writers to create the results they desire—published products and careers as writers and authors. She the author of the forthcoming book, How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer's Digest Books, April 2012), as well as a freelance editor, and writing, book, blogging, and author coach who blogs at Write Nonfiction NOW and How to Blog a Book and writes the National Jewish Issues and the National Self-Improvement columns for www.examiner.com. She is also the founder of Write Nonfiction in November, a challenge and blog, and the weekly writing and publishing expert on Michael Ray Dresser's popular radio show Dresser After Dark. Find out more about her at ninaamir.com or at www.copywrightcommunications.com . Purchase a copy of her popular workbook, How to Evaluate Your Book for Success, here.