I have 10 questions for you that will help you plan your entire book publishing process in 15 minutes or less. This plan does not need to be perfect to be effective-it only needs to be complete.
It’s okay if you update the plan over time-and that is actually recommended-but answering these questions now can make the difference between publishing a book that sells and publishing a book that doesn’t because of a lack of planning.
Research Before You Answer
Have you considered turning your non-fiction book content into a course, a public speaking platform or a coaching career?
If you have only thought of using your message to fill the pages of a book, I highly recommend browsing the “Milestone #1: Organize Your Book Publishing Plan” blog category to help you understand the variety opportunities that a book offers before you even look at the 10 questions.
The 10 Question Overview
The ten questions are:
- Who will you sell your book to?
- What is the message you are selling in your book?
- Which format(s) are you selling your message in and what proof do you have that your audience is interested in each format?
- When will the book be ready?
- Where will the book be available for purchase?
- Where will the book be promoted?
- Why will people buy your book instead of your competition’s?
- How will you publish it?
- How will you finance your publishing and initial promotion?
- Who is on your publishing success team?
Before you answer these questions let’s dig a little deeper into what I am really asking you.
Question #1: Who will you sell your book to?
This is where you talk about your target audience. The people who need your book’s message the most. The people who are probably already spending money-or at least time-investigating an answer to the problem your message solves.
What is their age? Their gender? Is there a specific place they tend to live? Do they tend to have a specific educational background or career?
The most important part to include is information related to the problem your book solves for your target audience members. What is the problem? Is this a problem they are already spending money to solve? If so, what are members of your target audience doing now to solve the problem? If not, what makes you think they will spend money with you to solve something they have not put money towards before?
All of this helps define who your target audience is and who you are selling to.
Question #2: What is the message you are selling in your book?
If you cannot summarize your book’s message in 1-3 sentences, there is a good chance that even after reading your 300-page book, your readers won’t be able to summarize your message either.
Another way to think of this is to answer this question: what do you want your readers to think, feel or do after reading your message?
It’s not always easy to be concise, but being clear about your message in the beginning makes writing, editing, and marketing much, much, much easier!
Question #3: Which format(s) are you selling your message in and what proof do you have that your audience is interested in each format?
Are you selling just a print book? Just an e-book? Just an audiobook? Or some combination of the three?
Your choice should not be based on what you like. It should be based on what members of your target audience have told you that they like. Better yet, it should be based on what you see members of your target audience already buying from your competitors.
This is also a good place to talk about any other complimentary products or services you now offer that you can sell to your audience in addition to the book. But this only works if those products or services are related to your message.
If you don’t have any complimentary products or services you can offer now, this may be something for you to consider creating and selling in the future.
Question #4: When will the book be ready?
What is your target publication date?
It is possible to finish writing a book in 3-6 months. But this will only work well if you have a clear message and you already have all the research you need, you commit to a writing and publishing schedule, and you already have the money you need to publish your book.
It’s more common for authors to take about 12 months to write a book because life keeps getting in the way of writing.
I recommend that first-time self-publishing authors allow at least 6 months between the time they finish writing the book and the time they publish it and make it available to the public. The physical production may only need 2-4 weeks, but it is wise to use the full 6 months to gather pre-publication reviews, endorsements, make key distribution arrangements and to execute a launch that gets everyone ready to read the book.
Authors who plan to partner with a traditional publisher may take years to find a publisher. Even after they find a publisher, it may take another year or so for the book to be released because they are very careful about production and distribution. But it is still wise to set a date as a goal.
Question #5: Where will the book be available for purchase?
This is where you talk about the types of retailers you want your book to be sold through.
Amazon.com and bookstores are not the only place you can sell your book. Do you want to sell your book to libraries? Do you want your book to be available through book clubs? How about in grocery stores?
Question #6: Where will the book be promoted?
Online promotion through your website and social media accounts should be the first two places on your list. Online advertising-the cheapest kind of advertising available-is another popular choice.
But are there any specific blogs, magazines, newspapers, talk shows or organizations that your target audience often connects with that you want to use to promote your book?
Question #7: Why will people buy your book instead of your competition’s?
This is all about stating your unfair advantage over your competitors. The thing that makes you stand out from all your competitors. Of course, you can only answer this if you know who your top competitors are.
This is why I often encourage authors to search Amazon.com for 2-3 competitors. Once you find them, use the “Look Inside” program to preview the table of contents to see how the book is organized and what type of information is included. I also recommend looking at the top three positive and the top three most critical reviews for clues about what you should take from them as inspiration and what you should do to improve on their publication. Sometimes a detail as small as making your book easier to navigate can give your book an advantage over competitors.
But don’t limit your study of the competition to books. Your competitors are not always books. They may be companies with other solutions to the same problem. So you will want to do a quick Internet search to become familiar with other competitors too if you are not already aware of who they are.
Your unique life experiences and training can also be part of your unfair advantage.
Question #8: How will you publish it?
Do you know if self-publishing or traditional publishing works best for you?
If not, here are a few posts to help you figure it out:
- Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which Option is Best for Me?
- What Is Your Book Publishing Personality?
Question #9: How will you finance your publishing and first promotion?
Will you pay for it out of money you already have? Will you raise the money through crowdfunding or old-fashioned campaigning? Will you find a corporate sponsor?
Question #10: Who is on your publishing success team?
It is absolutely possible to plan, write, publish and sell your book on your own, but you will probably wear yourself out. Your exhaustion will probably be enough to cost you your success.
So it is much better to build a publishing success team of people who can help you through the entire publishing process. Who will you put on your team?
Now that you understand the questions, it is time for you to set your timer for 15 minutes and challenge yourself to answer each of these questions on your own.
Don’t worry about perfection, because your plan may evolve between now and the time that you write and publish your book. Your 10-part plan simply offers a starting point to outline your path to success. The words you use to describe your goals may evolve, but the message is likely to remain the same.
But now that you have outlined the big picture for your publishing plan, the only things missing that will help you put this plan into action are a budget and a publishing timeline for you and your success team to follow until you reach your publishing goal. The PLAN Your Book e-guide will guide you through each of these steps.
If you would rather let me do it for you, I can handle it all as part of my Book Blueprint service.
P.S. If it takes you longer than 15 minutes to complete your plan because a question or two completely caught you off guard-that is okay. It’s more important that you commit to answering the questions entirely than it is for you to answer them all in 15 minutes.
Header image is a derivative of work by Jackdal via 500px