Questions You Need to Answer Before Writing Your Non-Fiction Book

Thinking of writing a non-fiction book? That’s a good idea. A book is how many experts start out on their road to authority and Internet fame. But before you put fingers to keyboard, there are several important questions you need to answer to avoid mistakes that could cost you days or weeks of wasted effort; having to start-over or, worst of all, becoming angry, frustrated and giving up.

I want to do something splendid… Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead… I think I shall write books.
~ Louisa May Alcott

Like any big project, you need a clear plan for your book: your book’s end goal and how you’re going to get there. Here are three things to consider before tackling any large writing assignment:

  1. What outcome are you promising your reader? What will your reader be able to do after reading your book? Think beyond the prosaic. What’s the transformation you’re selling?
  2. What is the one problem you’re solving? Your book should be solving just one problem. It may solve smaller problems to get the the larger solution, but the larger solution should be focused on one problem the reader is faced with.
  3. What is your book’s USP (unique selling point)? Why should people buy your book and not any other? What are you doing that’s different from your competition? The difference may lie in your solution; the exercises you set to help the reader reach their goal; your communication style or maybe you or your clients have achieved something desirable in your own life using the principles you’re teaching. It could be something else – a book whose time has come.

Ask yourself the following questions before you start writing

It’s a noble goal to write just for the joy of it, for the personal satisfaction derived from articulating your thoughts with power and clarity. But if you want your book to be a commercial success, to propel your career as an industry expert, you need to stop and evaluate your book idea. Fortunately, writing expert Nina Amir has written an article for The Creative Penn, detailing the exact questions you should ask. From their article:

If you simply want to write the book of your heart and you don’t care how many copies you sell, great. Go for it.

If you want to write a successful book, meaning one that sells to lots of readers or to a traditional publisher and to lots of readers, however, it behooves you to take the time to consider if your idea is a good one by industry standards.

To do this, I suggest you discover nine things about your book idea. Once you have this information, you’ll know if your book has a chance of success.


  1. What your book will be about and why would someone would want to read (buy) it. You’d be amazed at how many writers cannot tell you in 50 words or less, or in 30 seconds or less, what their book is about. They also may not be able to list the benefits their book will provide to readers. Before beginning to write your nonfiction book, hone your topic and its angle.
  2. Who wants to read your book. Make sure you know your average reader—that one person you are writing for—as well as the size of your book’s market. Who wants to read your book, and where do you find them? How many of these people exist in the world? Are there enough of them to justify writing your book?
  3. Whether your book will be unique and necessary. Make sure the book you plan on adding to the mix is not only unique compared to the other books in your niche or category but also necessary before you add one more title to the staggering number of books in print. Take a good hard look at what other authors have already written and published. Is what you want to write different—different enough to make someone…

Read the full post here:

Takeaway points

  1. Good non-fiction books promise an outcome, a result, a transformation.
  2. If you want to write a commercially successful non-fiction book, you need to take the time to evaluate your idea.
  3. You need to identify your book’s unique selling point. Your USP may be internal, e.g. your approach to the topic; the originality of your solution etc. Or it may be external, e.g. good-timing – maybe you see a trend in your industry that no one is writing about.

Action steps

  1. Go through the above exercise to evaluate your book idea. If your book does not pass the test, all is not lost. Perhaps you’re not looking to write a commercially successful book but, rather, use it as a gateway to other opportunities, e.g. speaking engagements; building authority; demonstrating your expertise. Those are valid reasons – it’s not just sales figures. Of course, sales figures can only help – tremendously.
  2. If you have a promising idea, take the next step and plan your book outline.

Photo credit: Sebastian via / CC BY-NC 2.0

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