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101 Questions To Ask Before Writing A Book

Writing a book is a big undertaking and something that I think people often shy away from because it feels too big. When you look at what is involved, it can seem like it is a big undertaking, however, when you look at each part as a chunk, it does and will start to feel manageable. This blog has been designed for you to assess each part of your book journey so that you can become really clear.

I liken writing a book to a bar of chocolate, although that does depend on how you devour your chocolate. Imagine if you will a large bar of unwrapped chocolate.

As you look at it, you will see it is generally made up of lots of little squares. Each square is an element of writing your book. The key is to take your book a chunk at a time. Just as I have put all of the questions into chunks.

Grab your journal and take a deep dive into your motivation for writing a book. These journaling prompts are not designed for you to tackle in one go. No, you need to chunk these too. Start with each part and explore, remembering to reflect.

My goal is that at the end of this process, you will see that writing a book is achievable and that you can see a way to make this a part of your day to day business.

If you look at these and start to feel faint book in for a book discovery session and we will nail the right book for you and look at how you will get it written.

About You and Why You Are Writing A Book

You will, of course, have noticed that books don’t write themselves, you do need that all-important ingredient called motivation. Motivation starts, I believe with getting your head around the why of your book and getting to the heart of your book.

  1. Why do you want to write a book?
  2. How do you perceive writing a book will change your life?
  3. Why do you want to share your story, knowledge, skills or experience?
  4. How do you feel about sharing your words?
  5. Why are you the best person to be writing this book?
  6. Are you writing a book you would like to read?

Success and writing a book

Success means different things to different people. You may write a book and never publish it, yet it is a success because it has helped you to heal. Success could be that your book has helped to raise your visibility and attract new clients. You may have more speaking engagements. It could be that you want to become a bestseller and sell thousands each week. You have to decide what success means to you and embrace it.

What does success mean to you and how do you define success?

  1. What will this mean to you when you successfully publish and become a published author?
  2. What are your success habits, and how can you use them on this project?
  3. Which successful author do you identify with and why?
  4. Would you feel your book was a success even if it wasn’t a bestseller? (hint: the answer is yes, writing is hard work and being one of the small percentage of people who do publish means you rock!)
  5. How will you profit from writing a book?

About you, your business and the business of writing a book

Writing a book starts a long way before you start to plan it. People often tell me that they have had a book inside of them for years. Some tell me that they have written many words but have never felt compelled to publish. When it comes to books, my observation is that sometimes books are written to help us to heal, and these may well have served a purpose, and sometimes books are waiting for the right time to emerge.

When you know why this book, how it aligns with your brand and business and what you want to create in the world, things start to fall into place. Your business is about creating and delivering value, and a book is a vehicle to help you to do that. Get clear on where you want to go and what you want to create first.

  1. What do you want to create in the world that brings meaning to you?
  2. What are your top five values, and how do you want to express who you are through these?
  3. What is the vision for your life and business – where does your book fit?
  4. What is your businesses core message?
  5. What is the core message of your book?
  6. How do the two connect?
  7. What do you want writing a book to do for your business?
  8. How do you know that this is the right book?
  9. If you could visualise your book on the bookshelves, which other books would it nestle alongside?

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Your personal brand

A personal brand is all about what you want to be known for and seen as. A brand, in the corporate sense, is the image etched in the mind of the public through the culmination of all communications and experiences with the organization. A personal brand isn’t much different. Every interaction you have with others, what you wear, what you say, what you don’t say, how you react facially or through body language all create an image of you. Everything you do either builds or detracts from your personal brand.

Personal branding is the process by which we understand who we are, what our message for the world is, and how we then ‘market’ ourselves to others. The key to your success is to find your message and calling (aka purpose) and get compensated for it.

Understanding your Personal Brand is the key to planning the direction of your life, business or career and enable you to create a unique position for you in the world.  It will help you to focus on how you create value and experiences for your clients while staying true to your values.

You already have a personal brand whether you want one or not – simply by being you, you have a brand. What you do with it is up to you. If it needs bringing into alignment, then you make a choice to do that. Life is always about choices and while it may be tempting to say I don’t care what others think, or they can take me or leave me, the reality is, your personal brand is how others perceive you. Writing a book supports that perception.

  1. What do you want to be known for?
  2. What are you an expert in?
  3. How do you already demonstrate your expertise?
  4. How would a book support this?
  5. How do you see your book working for you and supporting your brand?
  6. How will writing a book change the perception of your brand and what you are known for?

Your book ideas

You will have many ideas for books; I know that I do. The key is choosing the right idea. This comes back to the earlier question of asking what do you want to create, but also looking at what book is the right book for right now? If you choose your best idea, it will be easier and more enjoyable to write.

  1. What are your top 5 book ideas?
  2. If you have to choose one, which is it? (no thinking just go for it)
  3. What kind of book are you writing?
  4. What are the three to four core ideas in your book?

Your book plan

Having a book plan is important as it will keep you on track and focused. Yet so many people don’t have one. I like to create a plan which has my book journey set out in stages. I like to reflect often and celebrate when I have completed each stage.

  1. What are the major steps your book plan?
  2. What tools will you use to make it easy for you to stick to your plan?
  3. What is your planning style (hint – think of your learning style and how you get things done)?
  4. What has to happen to make you stick to your plan – any plan?

Product blueprint and roadmap

A book outline lends itself very nicely to becoming a product blueprint from where you can create a roadmap for the development of your products and services. From the book blueprint, you can define a 24-month development plan that includes e-books, journals, planners, courses, workshops, retreats and signature programs.

  1. What else could you use your book for? Don’t know – book in for a strategy session.
  2. List at least five other products and services your book could become and consider why these would help you to add value to your customers

Market Research

Market research is all about making sure that there is a gap for your book. One of the best places to undertake research is on Amazon and particularly the book reviews. Also, make sure that you check out your competitors and learn from them

  1. What other competitive titles are there in your genre?
  2. What books are in the Top 100, and what can you learn from them?
  3. What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
  4. What is the biggest thing that you have learned from your market research?
  5. What can you learn when you analyse competing titles (hint – look inside at the table of contents and download samples)?

Your book and ideal reader

When you are writing a book, it is vital that you have a picture of who you are writing it for in your mind. Many people struggle with ideal client avatars but get this right, and your ideal reader profile will emerge. Make sure when you are writing, you are focused on the needs of that one person, and you will create a better book. You need to think carefully about the category your book is in so that your reader can find it.

  1. What genre or category is your book in?
  2. Who is your ideal reader? Spend some time getting to know who they are.
  3. Why are they reading your book?
  4. What questions is your ideal reader asking?
  5. How does your book help your reader?
  6. What is stopping your reader from solving their problems?
  7. What keywords does your reader use when looking for answers?
  8. What is the journey this book takes your ideal reader on?
  9. What will your ideal reader get as a result of reading this book?
  10. How will your ideal reader feel when they read your words?
  11. What do you want your ideal reader to do as a result of reading your book?

Your book and your story

Not everyone wants to write a memoir or personal story, although everyone does have stories to tell. Consider if your story will add value to your reader and this and if so, which slice of life is relevant. If you are sharing anecdotes, what are they and how to they add to the learning that your reader will get?

Writing your story can be emotional, and for me, there is the aspect of writing it to heal, in which case do you want to publish and if you do, how does it add value to your reader’s life and learning?

Often people who are writing personal stories find that at the end of the process they don’t want to publish because the purpose of the book has been fulfilled. When this happens, I would encourage you to think about how else you could use the content/

  1. Which part of your personal story or stories will you add?
  2. Why those stories?
  3. What is the key message of your story?
  4. How will sharing your story add value change your life and that of your readers?

What stands in the way of writing a book?

Let’s get good old writer’s block out of the way. Writer’s block is always about what lies beneath your resistance, not the blank page. One of my favourite activities is to explore writer’s block and to come up with ideas for moving past it and getting a book completed. When you understand what stands in your way, you can make choices about how to change these things.

  1. What stands in the way of you starting this book?
  2. What are your perceived biggest obstacles to getting this done?
  3. What if there weren’t any obstacles would you still write this book?
  4. What barriers have you encountered in the past around writing a book?
  5. If you wrote this book and it did not succeed, what are the implications?
  6. What could you do that you aren’t doing right now, that could make this happen?

Your book title and the chapters

Having a book title even if it’s only the working title will bring your book alive. In the ‘my book exercise,’ one of the first jobs is to write the book title and get used to telling others that this is your book. I find that my titles change often and that’s ok because eventually, you will find the one that resonates with you.

When you have a title, it’s like an umbrella for the rest of the journey. When your umbrella is up the outline seems to flow. The outline is the journey that your ideal reader will take towards a good result or outcome. Use these questions to have a go at brainstorming your book idea. Grab a big sheet of paper, some coloured pens and have fun.

  1. What is the title of your book – no thinking – just write?
  2. How can you draw your reader in with your book title and subtitle (hint – keywords and understanding your ideal reader)?
  3. What is the first chapter title?
  4. How will your book flow? Brainstorm or list each of the chapters
  5. Now you have the chapter list, what will each chapter cover (be brief)?
  6. What questions does each chapter answer?
  7. What are the key messages of each chapter?

Writing a book and your time

The phrase making time always amuses me. We all have 24 hours and so the idea that we can make more time seems odd. However, there are many ways in which we can waste time or not use our time productively. Right now, if writing a book is a priority considering how to become a more productive writer is a must.

What works for me is to write first thing in the morning before my doggie walk. On the walk, I have time to reflect. Later in the day, when the working day is over, the last walk done, I put my computer on my lap, leave the TV on in the background and edit. The key is to find a routine that works for you.

I’ve known clients say that they will miss their morning writing time when the book is over. They have cultivated this great habit and seen their books come alive, and now they are left with a hole to fill.

  1. What activities could you swap to ‘make’ time for writing a book?
  2. What do you perceive as your biggest time-wasting activities? I dare you to add up the hours…
  3. Why have you never found the time to write your book?
  4. How will you determine if writing a book is a good use of your time and resources?
  5. What time strategies would work for you?
  6. How much research time have you factored in?

How will you write your book?

There are many ways to write a book. You can write it; you can blog it, you can use transcriptions from videos and podcasts, you can talk it, ask someone to co-write or hire a ghost-writer.

The pleasure for me is to write the book myself. I adore writing and love the feeling of the words flowing from me onto the page. But this is not true of everyone, and this comes back to your motivations for writing a book. If this is an exercise in raising your visibility and you have the budget, perhaps hiring a ghost-writer is the best option.

  1. Will you do all of the writing?
  2. How can you make writing enjoyable for you?
  3. What are your preferred writing strategies?
  4. What can you do to become a more productive writer?
  5. What has to happen to increase the pleasure of writing a book?
  6. Will you blog your book?
  7. What is in your editing plan?
  8. What is your editing process?
  9. Who will help you to edit and proof your book?
  10. What tools can you invest in to support the writing and editing process?

Cover design

One of my favourite and sometimes frustrating tasks is deciding on what the book cover will look like. Sometimes I can wander down many rabbit holes researching on Amazon and looking endlessly at images and fonts. What I have learned is that you need a good cover design specification and cover designer. My cover designer gets me and usually comes up with ideas that need hardly any tweaks. You need to spend time getting to know your designer and trusting that if you are open and positive in your communications, you will get a great cover.

  1. What kind of covers are catching your eye right now, and why?
  2. What do you want your cover to convey to your ideal reader?
  3. What kind of images conveys the essence of your book?
  4. How do you want your ideal reader to feel when they look at your book cover?

Publishing your book

Self-publishing is a wonderful way to get your book onto the shelves quickly. It has become a hugely popular route for many writers. You have total control of the process, even if you do have to share your profits with your publishing platform (Amazon). However, for some, it is important to be traditionally published. This will take longer, and you have less control of your book. To ensure that you sell your book to a potential agent or publisher, you will need to write a book proposal. Be prepared for rejections and when you do find the right publisher check out how to make the relationship work for you both.

  1. What publishing route will you follow, and why?
  2. If your first choice is not available, what is plan B?
  3. What is the publishing deadline?
  4. What might get in the way of you making that date?
  5. Is there anything that would prevent this book from being published?

Marketing your book

Marketing is something that many leave to the last minute. I always recommend that you should start marketing your book before you start writing. A launch plan will help you to focus your mind and the tasks. If you start it early, then it won’t be a mad rush when you hit publish. Then, of course, there is the all-important question what goes into your marketing plan. You need to look at the overall marketing plan and goals of the business and align your plans. They are not separate, yet many see them as so.

  1. What is going into your launch plan?
  2. What is your marketing strategy for this book?  
  3. What is your budget?
  4. What resources do you need?
  5. Who will do the marketing?
  6. What measurement metrics do you have in place to show that this has been successfully executed?
  7. How often do you plan to update and relaunch your book?

And finally, some tips.

  1. Write every day. Writing is a muscle, and it likes to be exercised
  2. Get rid of distractions
  3. Get support for those moments of self-doubt and dwindling motivation
  4. Have a plan, chunk it all down and reward yourself at each milestone
  5. Take breaks and reflect often

Planning and writing a book with a proven system also helps. Ready to make an impact?  Book in a call and let’s explore how you can create an impact with your book (or blog).

101 questions to ask before you write a book

101 questions to ask before you write a book

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Dale Darley

Dale lives in the hills in Spain with her three furry writing muses. She works with her clients to support them to plan and write a book, build their brand and create a business that they love.

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101 questions to ask before you write a book