Writing a Great Nonfiction Book, One Page at a Time

Why Write a Book: Four Questions to Help You Align Your Goals with Your Content


“Why would you want to write a book?” If you’re considering writing a book and have told people about it, it’s likely at least one person asked this question. It’s a good question, because writing a book—a good book—isn’t easy. When I ask authors the “why” question, I get a range of answers, from “I’ve always wanted to” to “It’s part of a seven-step plan to launch my speaking career.” These are both good answers, primarily because neither one of them is: “I want to make millions selling books.” But alone, neither is enough of an answer.

The more specific your goals, the better your chances of fulfilling them, and the better chance of actually completing the book.

When getting ready to write a book, it’s important to be clear on all of the motivations driving the project: the personal hopes, the financial dreams, the business plans, the marketing initiatives—anything that could influence how you develop the book or whether or not you view the project as a success. The more specific your goals, the better your chances of fulfilling them, and the better your chances of actually completing the book. Consider the following questions:

How does this book tie into your current business growth plans? Whether you’re a consultant, a doctor, an accountant, or a contractor, if you are writing a book in your area of expertise, you are likely hoping that it will help you grow your business. That’s a good goal. But how will it do that? Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Do you want to expand your name recognition with your core clientele or branch out to a new set of potential clients? Dig in and be as specific as possible.

Are you hoping to use the book to shift your career? Many authors write books to create a platform from which they can launch a new career, such as speaking, consulting, coaching, blogging, or all of the above. Again, if this is a goal for you, you need to be very specific about the new direction and how you will use and promote the book to support that shift.

What are your personal motivations for writing the book? Writing is a creative process. With anything creative comes a host of personal hopes, dreams, fears. How do you feel about writing a book? How do you want the book to reflect upon you? If you don’t address these issues early on, they can rise up in the middle of the writing process and derail the project.

How will this book change the world? Now, this question may seem a little grandiose, but every expression of ideas has the potential to change the world—the butterfly effect and all that. What is your great, grandiose goal for the book, the goal you may not want to say out loud? Say it, write it, and believe in it. It will keep you going when the writing gets tough or tedious.

When you are clear about your goals, you can use them to direct your decisions about the core message, the target audience, and the content presentation. Look for my future posts on these crucial elements. And as the late, great Stephen Covey said, it’s always better to begin with the end in mind.

Here’s a challenge: Share your goals below. Put them out there for the world to read. Admitting you have goals is the first step to fulfilling them.

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