Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ten Questions to Test My Book Idea

I will never again make light of my suggestion to potential authors that they begin by answering ten short questions about their books. If I am going to write a book of my own, I have no choice but to accept the same challenge. The questions may be short, but the process of answering them has been longer and tougher than I realized. The good news is that the answers will take me a long way toward a completed book proposal.

1. Why are you writing this book?
  • To reflect on my life as a writer which began with little more than a vague goal—to write—and developed into a successful career as a feature writer, editor, corporate communicator, author, and book coach
  • To show aspiring writers that if they really want to make writing their life’s work, with a little talent and a lot of determination, they can achieve any goal they set for themselves
  • To illustrate the process outlined in my previous book, How to Write a Nonfiction Book; From Concept to Completion in 6 Months by planning and writing a book on my blog.
2. What is your book about?
This book is a memoir of my life as a writer—40 years of learning, growing, and reinventing myself to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.

3. How are you qualified to write this book?
I am an editor, ghostwriter, teacher, writing coach, and the author of 14 books, including How to Write a Nonfiction Book: From Concept to Completion in 6 Months, Going Solo: How To Survive & Thrive as a Freelance Writer, and The Invisible Author: Confessions of a Ghostwriter.

My passion is working with writers at all levels to convey their messages through books. In addition to coaching prospective authors, I have taught classes in nonfiction book writing at local universities and community colleges. My articles have been published in corporate and university publications, the trade and national business press, and on 25 online article sites. I have also written audio, video, and print training programs on a wide variety of topics.

As the owner of a creative consulting firm for the past 20 years, I have worked with organizations in both the private and public sectors on projects ranging from annual reports to websites. My 40-year career has included marketing communications, public relations, training, magazine writing and editing, and lecturing.

4. Why is this an appropriate and timely topic? Why this book, now?
This past year has been rough in terms of the recession, thousands of layoffs, a staggering jobless rate, people losing their homes, and a general feeling that the American dream is not as bright or shiny as it once was. Yet, my unlikely career is a Cinderella story of knowing that I wanted to be a writer and going for it, one step at a time. There seems no better time than this to tell that story.

5. Who are your target readers?
Someone asked me years ago what I wanted to do and my answer was help writers write. The answer hasn’t changed. My target audience comprises writers, no matter where they are in their careers —learning, aspiring, working, or succeeding. This is not a book aimed particularly at women, but it is one woman’s story of what it takes to “make it” before, during, and after the women’s movement.

6. How will they benefit? Why should they read it? What will they learn?
This is a writer’s chronicle of a career that began modestly and developed in ways the author could never have predicted. The lessons the book teaches through its reminiscences and humor include the following:
  • If you know what you want to do, don’t let anything or anyone stop you from doing it.
  • With a little talent and a lot of moxie, you can be whatever you choose to be.
  • Set attainable goals that stretch you; as you achieve each one, set another one immediately.
  • Writing is not a competitive sport; don’t be threatened by other people’s success
  • Seek mentors; then become one.
  • Be generous with your talent; remember that it’s a gift; pass it on.
  • Know what your values are; let your writing reflect them.
  • Don’t lose your sense of humor.
  • Ask yourself from time to time if there is something else you would rather do; if you can’t think of anything, keep writing.
7. How will you reach them? Where are they likely to buy this book?
At Borders or Barnes & Noble? On line? In the grocery store? Those all sound good to me. It will be available on my own website, on and Kindle, in major and independently owned bookstores, possibly book catalogs, at the “back of the room” during presentations, and any specialty store I can convince to sell it.

8. How big is the market? How many potential readers are there?
Aspiring and working writers read …
  • Writers magazines (Total circulation: 166,460)
  • Articles on writing at the major online article websites
  • Writers blogs
  • Women's magazines (Total circulation: 30,510,960 )
  • Social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn [WritersWorld], Twitter, Gather)
9. What else is out there on this subject? How is this book unique, special, important?
  • Six autobiographies by Maya Angelou
  • The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman
  • The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds by Peter Bowerman
  • A Dangerous Profession: A Book About the Writing Life by Frederick Busch
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
  • Memoirs of a Delta Favorite by Ellen Gilchrist
  • The Writing Life by Ellen Gilchrest
  • The Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg
  • Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life by Bell Hooks
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird By Bird by Annie Lamott
  • Writing About Your Life: a Journey Into the Past by William Zinsser
What sets this book apart from these and many other memoirs is that it is by and about a working writer who spent the first half her career in magazine journalism and corporate communications and the second half trying to master running a one-woman business. It is not about being a novelist or a poet; it is not on how to write or to make a lot of money as a freelancer. Rather, it is a light look at a long love affair with the unglamorous side of the writing life.

10. How will you help to promote your book?
  • Dedicated website (
  • Online articles (,,,,, and others)
  • Social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn [WritersWorld], Twitter, Gather)
  • Articles in writers' magazines (The Writer, Writers' Digest, Writers' Journal)
  • The Writing Life blog
  • News & Views (monthly newsletter)
  • Presentations on all aspects of nonfiction writing
  • Writers blogs (request link exchange or guest blogging opportunity on,,,, etc.)


Kim said...

You go, girl!

Lea said...

Very well said. Those are important factors to consider when writing a book.

petersteel said...

that was really nice to read .. that was great.. great job.. for more information regarding Pittsburgh memoir writing, Pittsburgh storytelling, Pittsburgh corporate communication u can visit

FictionDeeva said...

Those are some wonderful questions and pointers. I just wrote my first age 21! yeahhhhh. I'm excited about my writing career. your blog is really helpful...thanks