Updated: Jan 13, 2020
In my last post, I wrote about why you should consider writing a short, nonfiction book, a.k.a. a “business-card book.” But before you can start writing, you have to brainstorm ideas for your book’s subject.
Here are 4 brainstorming strategies to help you choose your book’s subject.
1. Swipe file
A swipe file is a collection of writing examples in the general topic you wish to explore. These could be blog posts, articles, and videos you’ve saved along the way in Pinterest, Evernote, or a desktop file, or you could spend time now researching your subject area.
The goal is not to copy ideas, of course, but to see if anything sparks an idea or takes you to a different research area where you’ll discover your topic.
2. Google search
Another good starting point is doing a simple Google search. If you type in the beginnings to questions about your subject, you can see what Google suggests to be the end to your questions. (Google makes its suggestions based on the most-popular search queries.) In theory, your book would answer the question posed in the search box.
Let’s say you want to write about yoga. Here are two sample searches you can do in Google that show the most-popular questions:
If your book's subject falls within one or more of these general questions, then you know people are seeking the type of info you want to provide.
3. Check out competition
Go to Amazon and search for other books with your general topic. As you scroll through, ask yourself:
What’s missing? Are there any topics you think should be there but aren’t?
What popular ideas can you put your own spin on?
What big ideas do you see that you can narrow?
Let’s take the last question, for instance. Say again you are going to write a book about yoga. There are lots of books with yoga poses and explanations of how they benefit your health. But how can you narrow that topic down? What’s a specific time when yoga may help?
I thought about this and came up with the idea of yoga after having a baby. Yes, the subject is narrow, but there is still room to explore. You could write about the physical side: which moves to do to tone, strengthen, and heal muscles. And you could write about the mental/emotional side: the meditative qualities that help lower the stress and anxiety that comes with having a new one. Plus you know that books for new mothers are very popular.
4. Ideal reader or client
What book does your ideal reader or client want to read? To figure that out, think about that person and ask:
What about your subject excites them?
What information do they want or need that you can provide?
Where are they on their journey? How can you help them along?
What content would help them right now?
What questions are they asking?
Part of what I do as an author coach is help writers early on in the process. I offer a free, 30-minute coaching consultation during which we can do a brainstorming session together to help you come up with book ideas to consider. To schedule your free session, email me at Erin@dotanddashllc.com. You can learn more about my coaching services here: Dot and Dash coaching page.
Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and owner of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company serving women author-entrepreneurs. To learn more about how she can help you with your book project, check out her website: Dot and Dash home page.
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