For a book to help your career, and be bestseller-worthy, it needs to solve a problem, answer a need, or provide a clear and present benefit to your target audience. Where your Book Concept meets the Market
These five questions look at where your book fits in the market, how other books compare to yours, and your unique position. When you answer these five questions thoroughly, it will do more than any other step to boost your confidence in your book and your material.
They are the same questions that a literary agent or a publisher would ask, so if you intend to be published by someone else, you will need to prepare compelling answers to get a book deal. Do this even if you plan to self-publish. Since the publisher is YOU, you probably want to make sure the publisher gets a good result for spending the publisher’s money.
Question 1: What’s the genre? What category is your book in? At the highest level, most books fall into one of three macro-genres: fiction (novels), mass market non-fiction (self-help, pop-culture, how to, and memoir) or reference (almanacs, cookbooks, travel guides, and textbooks). Most of the bestselling books written by experts are in one of these four sub-genres. How-to—teach the reader how to do something. Self-help—inspire, motivate, and aim to increase the reader's awareness. Pop culture—books that contain investigative, observational, and interpretive information about our culture, behavior, and our world. Narrative—i.e. storytelling. When written by experts, these books appear as fable, memoir, or an investigative piece or expose.
A book’s category describes the topic area that the book covers. Several genres can exist within a category. For example, in the Business category, you can find a self-help book like Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a how-to book like Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup, and an investigative narrative like Michael Lewis’s, The Big Short.
Question 2: How does your book compare to other similar books in the market? Every time I introduce this question, someone becomes concerned that looking at this will deflate their confidence. Not so. In fact, it’s just the opposite. When you take a close look at the other books in your category, you can see clearly what makes yours unique, and thus why it’s so important that you write it. If you do not find that your book concept is unique, it’s a BIG hint to go back to the first five questions and create one that is. Go to Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and your local bookstores to look and see what else is out there and how your book compares.
Question 3: What makes yours unique? Before you commit fully to your book concept, run one last test. This test is a “make or break” kind of marker, for if you have any ambitions of writing a bestseller, your concept must pass. If you want your book to enhance your image and raise your status to THE expert on your subject, you must be able to complete the following sentence, “This is the first book ever to…” and make sure it's a topic people find interesting. I borrowed this idea from Michael Larsen author of How to Write a Book Proposal. If you can’t fill in that blank, if it’s not the first book ever, why write it? As Larsen so deftly pointed out, who in the world wants to read the second book ever? No one, that’s who!
Question 4: Why are you the best/only person to write it? Your voice is essential, and there can be no substitute. If you believe that anyone else could author your book and do even half the job, it’s time to go back to the beginning and revisit the whole concept. Your unique signature book that the world wants and needs is inside of you. Don’t stop looking until you find it.
Question 5: What is missing that the market wants and your book brings? You now see your unique book concept that only you can write. Go a step further and discover what in your message brings the most value to your audience. What does your target market need, want, desire most that all the other books fail to address? What did they all miss? What did they all leave out that you plan to (or could decide to) include?
You’ll know you are ready for the next step when your book idea has grown into a concept that brings value to your audience, communicates a clear benefit, shares something new and unique that only you can deliver. Congratulations! You’re the #1 Expert!