Choosing a book topic is a crucial first step to writing and selling your book for publication. If you take this step carelessly, you risk running out of information before you finish the book. Or, you drown in a vast pool of data.

Unlike an article or an essay, the topic of a nonfiction book has to be big enough to carry for 75,000 or so words. Of course, you don’t want it to be too broad, either.

Confused yet?

Let’s break it down into a few manageable steps.

1. A book idea must be broad enough.

Does your topic appeal to a large, but specific audience? Or is it aimed at a small target? Publishers want to know that a market exists for your topic and that people are reading about it.

A book on organic knitting would do better than a book about organic knitting with cashmere. Do you see the difference?

With concerns about the environment and a return to non-synthetic materials, organic knitting, or knitting with natural fiber yarn, is appealing to a large population. However, if you restrict the topic to only one type of organic fiber, you restrict the audience, even if cashmere is popular.

2. A book must be able to compete.

How saturated is the market for books on your topic? Organic Knitting would have some, but not a lot, of competition. It also has the advantage of fitting in multiple categories, environment and crafts, for example.

But if you were to write a book about training your Labrador Retriever, you might have a harder time. Unless you put a unique spin on a common topic, it is an uphill climb to publication. So, if you train Labradors with sign language, you have a better shot than if you rehash what is already in the many training books on the shelves.

3. A book must not copycat.

It is easier than you think to be influenced by what you’ve recently read. If that happens to be a best selling title on your chosen topic, tread carefully. Yes, you can choose a book topic that rides the coat tails of popular books and current trends. Look at the many copycat books based on the Dummies┬« series. However, it is a difficult path, because you are not the only one doing this. So, you better act fast. Trends are first come, first serve.

A better idea is to look at your topic from new angles and see if you can make your book different.

4. A book idea needs sales potential.

Have other books on this topic sold well? If not on the specific topic, how about in the general category? Going back to our earlier example, knitting books sell well. In today’s economic climate, people are returning to making their own clothing and gifts. Yet, even during a boom, crafts remain popular.

Books about living eco-friendly are starting to make their mark, as well. Overall, Organic Knitting has a shot. So, do some research and consider the sales potential of your idea. Editors and publishers certainly will.

5. A book idea must get attention.

Is your idea an attention getter? Will it draw a crowd of interested onlookers? Could you put a spin on it for publicity purposes? Organic Knitting (I’m falling more in love with this idea as I write) could be used as the cornerstone of an eco-friendly event or a craft fair.

Think about book promotion before you sit down to write. Think about the audience and how you would reach them best. It takes more than a book tour and a blurb in Publisher’s Weekly to make a bestseller.


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