Ask the Editor: What to do with my book idea?

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2015-07-08


Are you thinking about self-publishing a book? Many people feel they have a book idea rattling around in their head, just waiting to be written. If you are one of those people and you decide that now is the time to get that book onto the page, I have some things you might want to think about.



First, if you would like to write this book just for the joy of writing it---perhaps it's a memoir to share with your children, or a short story you'd just like to see in print---then the following points might not apply to you. If, however, the goal is to self-publish your work and to make some money with the sale of your book, this blog is for you.



Is my book idea original?

Chances are, you’ve chosen to write about something you’re passionate about or, at the very least, interested in. Use that knowledge to include things that would make YOU pick up a book.


If you’re writing a history book, think of other history books you’ve read—what was it that made you keep reading? What did you like or dislike about the book? If you’re already an avid reader of the genre you’re writing in, do some research to see if other authors have written about your idea. If there are already too many books on your idea out there, tweak it so that it stands out from the crowd.


The more original your idea, the better chances you have of selling your work.



Know your audience (and why it’s important) 

To sell your book, you have to know two key things about your audience: (1) where to find those readers, and (2) how to appeal to them. What specifically will make them want to pick up your book, out of the hundreds that are available? (Yes, hundreds. This is why originality is so important.)


Find out where your potential customers/readers hang out: what social media sites do they frequent? Where do they leave the most comments or reviews? Do they subscribe to any newsletters? Do they belong to Goodreads: what are they reading? Check out user-created Pinterest boards for other books in your genre, and look at Facebook groups about the genre you’ve chosen, or dedicated to authors you admire. Find out what your audience of potential customers are saying (to each other, and in general) and use it to your advantage.


Taking the time to research your audience means you’ll know exactly where to find them and exactly what they are looking for. For more information on researching your audience, check out our Author's Guide to the Pre-Publishing Editing Process


Book marketing: Harder than you might think

Book marketing is so much more than simply posting your book on Amazon or Kobo and waiting for the money to roll in. At TEC, we know that marketing your book can be a full-time job on its own! Here are a few book marketing tips that you can use to get the most bang for your buck:


  • Twitter: Don’t be one of those people who make a Twitter account for your book. Instead, spend some time building up your own profile—as an author. Follow and interact with industry leaders, voices in the book community, and other authors. Pump up your book, but not constantly. Try to stick to the 80-20 rule: only 20% of your tweets should be self-promoting. Use the other 80% to have conversations with other authors and potential readers, or post related content. 
  • Keywords: I could write several blog posts on keywords alone, but the takeaway is this: keywords are how people will find your book, so you want to make it as easy as possible. In the taglines and descriptions for your book, use three keywords to describe your work (it sounds counterintuitive, but using too many just muddles up the algorithms). Click here for more tips on using keywords in digital marketing materials, like a synopsis.
  • Self-promotion: Once your book is published, find places to do readings. Is your book related to a timely topic? Then contact radio shows, news shows, or local talk shows and see if they’ll have you as a guest. Find groups related to your genre and see if they have meetings. See if you can offer up a guest blog post for a writer or organization you admire. Or find an outlet where you can sell your book: for example, a book about home renovations might be sold at a hardware store. Anything that gets your name out there is great, but above all you want to get your name out there to the right people—i.e., the people who will conceivably pick up your book.


Writing a book and putting it out there into the world is hard work, but it can be very rewarding too. And, if you’re smart about it and do your homework, you can even make a little money at doing what you love.