Starting a Conversation: The Three Questions to Ask Yourself before You Write a Book

Image via http://unsplash.com@albertosaure

A book is a conversation between an author and their readers. Many people dream of writing a book, but how do you know if you’re really ready to start working on your book? To start a conversation, you have to know what you want to say.

Thinking about your project like a discussion can help you tackle some of the biggest challenges you face when you start writing: Determining your message, your audience, and your market is essential before you begin. Asking yourself three questions will let you know it’s time to start talking… err, writing.

  1.  What Do I Want to Say?
  2.  Why Does It Need to Be Said by Me?
  3.  Why Does It Need to Be Said Now?

What Do You Want to Say?

Figuring out exactly what you want to say will help you discover what the message, purpose, and value of your book will be.

Many authors begin their writing journey with only a fuzzy idea of their goal. They may have chosen a subject like “company culture” or “sales” or even imagined empowering unlimited success, but these are only general topics for discussion. They are a launching pad to get to your unique content.

Once you have your general topic, you need determine what you want to say about it. What—specifically—are you offering your reader? Perhaps you want to show how company culture is effectively improved through a series of specific changes that you’ve identified and tested over decades of experience. Maybe you’d like to teach people about how they can master sales by focusing on a certain aspect of customer interaction. Everyone wants unlimited success, but how will you lead the reader there?

The more specific, the better.

Why Does It Need to Be Said by You?

Determining why you are the right person to discuss your topic will show you two very valuable things: where your strengths are and where your audience is.

Every author has a unique perspective that they bring to their book. Some are experts in their field with a wealth of experience; others have innovative ideas that place them ahead of the curve. What about your experience—about you—makes you the go-to expert on your topic? You should determine what only you can offer your readers. What will your book give them that they cannot get from another author or from a free source on the Internet?

Knowing your unique expertise also helps you identify your readers. Once you know what you are offering, you can begin to think about the sort of people who will react to your message. You can now start talking to them, learning what they need, and building a platform.

Why Does It Need to Be Said Now?

Knowing whether your book is timely and relevant helps you decide whether now is the right time for your book. As the resident expert on your subject matter, you are keenly aware of the ongoing cultural conversation surrounding it, trends, and the relevant pain points. How can this knowledge serve your readers right now?

Many authors come to their books with years of experience in a particular field. Although that experience can provide in-depth wisdom about business practices, simply speaking about what has worked in the past will not necessarily help your readers in the future. What makes your wisdom relevant now? How will it help your reader address their current pain point or—even better—the pain point they’re about to have?


Knowing your message, your value as an expert and the audience for it, and the relevance of your topic, you’re ready to start gathering material. Greenleaf’s team of experts is available to help you through any stage of the process.

Working on fiction? November is National Novel Writing Month. #nanowrimo #amwriting  

If you’re ready to discuss your book project, visit our submissions page.