You have an idea for a non-fiction book that you just HAVE to write. You believe in it, you’re prepared to invest long hours in bringing it to life, and you’re convinced people need to read it.
But will they?
Publishers and agents have a strong sense for what sells in the marketplace—and what doesn’t. Certain book ideas will get publishers fired up and ready to hand you a contract. Others will prevent you from getting a toe in the door. So how can you know whether or not YOUR book idea is publish-worthy?
Here are some questions to consider—based on what publishers and agents are looking for.
Does your book idea address a felt need?
Great books meet people where they are. They identify a problem and provide wisdom to solve it. What core issue or problem does your book address? Is there an audience for it, and if so, how widespread is that audience? Niche topics can sell well as long as the audience is still broad enough to generate substantial interest.
Does your book idea contain a unique premise?
Some of the most popular book categories include parenting, business, health, and spiritual growth. These books sell well because they meet a popular felt need. But in today’s vast market, authors and publishers need to distinguish their books from everyone else’s. How? With a unique premise. The most marketable book ideas examine a popular topic from a fresh angle.
For example, there are tons of books out there on motherhood. But only one (as far as I know) is all about a mother’s evil alter-egos. That’s why my first book, The SuperMom Myth, appealed to my agent. She saw dozens, maybe hundreds of proposals on parenting and motherhood every year. But she’d never seen an author explore the topic from my perspective, which personified the nasty people we moms turn into when we face our sin nature. I discussed a mother’s worry, envy, exhaustion and frustration with names such as Worry Woman, Fence Hopper, Zombie Mommy and the Grouch on the Couch. This was a popular topic (struggles in motherhood) written from a fresh angle. Does your book idea take a fresh approach to a large-market need?
What is your book’s format?
This is a harsh truth. Memoirs and devotionals are tough sells. If you’re a first-time author and you have either a memoir or a devotional format in mind, consider self-publishing. Most traditional publishers are not interested in memoirs or biographies unless the author is famous. (I once heard an acquisitions editor say it doesn’t matter how remarkable your story is; she wouldn’t consider publishing your memoir unless you were Osama Bin Laden’s nanny. Ouch.)
Are you the right expert for this topic?
What experience or credentials do you have that make you a credible spokesperson for your book idea? You don’t need a PhD in your genre, but you should have some authority on your book topic, whether as a blogger, teacher, speaker, business person or been-there/done-that expert with valuable insight. What about you says to a publisher, “This person needs to write this book”?
Do you have an audience?
Finally, do you have an existing audience? This could be a blog following, social media fans, a busy speaking schedule, an e-mail list, and so on. Publishers want to know you have buyers ready to read what you write. The bigger your audience, the more attractive you will become to a publisher or agent. But don’t fret. First-time authors with modest, growing platforms can still capture interest from publishers as long as they have a fantastic book idea and writing skills to match.
Do you need help determining if your book is marketable? Contact me to talk more about it. And check out my writer coaching services for help with editing, writer training, self-publishing and lots more!
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