by Cory Hott January 17, 2024
Your book topic is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make as an author. It determines who will want to read your book, how easy it will be to find and reach your target audience, and even how motivated you feel to write it. Not to mention, picking the right topic requires balancing your own interests with reader demand, organizing a mountain of book ideas, and reframing your focus around helping readers. It can feel overwhelming, but having a systematic approach makes it manageable.
Follow these research-backed tips from book publishing pro Angela Lauria to choose a winning topic tailored to your goals and audience.
1. Brainstorm Extensively
Write down every idea or story you’re considering, whether it’s a full book concept or a fragment. Use mindmaps, note cards, or spreadsheets to capture it all. Look for connections between ideas and categories, those are likely your strongest topic contenders. Tune into the ideas that excite you most. Scrap any that don’t. Then, identify the audience who would be interested in each theme.
2. Niche Down
Today’s readers have shorter attention spans, resulting in shorter books (about half the length of 1980’s standards). Trying to cram too many ideas into one huge book is a recipe for failure. Split your material into multiple, shorter, focused books of around 40,000 words each. Niche topics tailored to specific reader interests sell best. Pick the topic that excites you most and write that first. The others will follow!
3. Consider Your Goals
If your primary goal is generating revenue from your book, pick a prescriptive “how-to” topic where you have expertise (business, money, health, wellness, etc.) You need deep knowledge to share actionable advice readers will pay for. If your goal is personal expression, pick the topic that inspires you most. Understand that unless you’re a stellar writer with a uniquely exceptional idea, personal expression rarely leads to lucrative book sales.
4. Conduct Market Research
Market research is critical. Search Amazon and read book descriptions in your genre to understand what compels readers to buy. Study successful titles and flap copy. Use keyword tools to find high-demand topics and questions searchers are asking Google. Your book exists to help the reader. Frame it around resolving their problems, not just telling your story. Write your book description and title specifically for your ideal reader avatar.
5. Avoid Memoir
If you aren’t already famous, avoid vague memoirs about your life. Unless exceptionally well written, they rarely sell. Instead, focus your memoir on just one specific slice of life, like battling cancer, adopting a special needs child, getting sober, immigrating to a new country, or losing 200 pounds – something with inherent drama, struggle, and overcoming challenges. This creates a target audience who share that experience and will be drawn to your story.
6. Organize, Organize, Organize
Tame the overwhelm of too many ideas by organizing everything into easily navigable folders or spreadsheet tabs – characters, settings, quotes, scenes, etcetera. Write a one paragraph summary of each chapter. Fill in details until each chapter summary is one page. Now you’ve created an outline from chaos! Outlining before drafting prevents losing focus mid-story. If some ideas don’t fit the core narrative, save them in a “potential spinoff topics” folder.
7. Consider Your Ideal Reader
It’s natural to obsess over what you want to express, but that can result in a meandering, self-indulgent memoir no one relates to. Shift your mindset from “This is the message I want to share with the world” to “My reader is struggling with [insert problem], how can I craft a story that will help them?” Interview early readers in your target audience and ask what keeps them up at night. Shape your story around resolving their concerns and providing insights that improve lives.
8. Take Advantage of AI
Neurodivergences like dyslexia, ADHD, or anxiety can make writing hard. Use tools that simplify the process so you can focus on content. Have AI like Grammarly or Claude.ai decipher dyslexic writing errors for you. Enable text-to-speech to let you “hear” your draft. Use FocusWriter software to hide distracting formatting. Install website blockers to limit procrastination. Set a timer for thirty focused minutes at a time. Choose topics intentionally in the sweet spot of stimulating enough to hold attention but not overwhelm.
9. Forget Hierarchies
First book paralysis is real. “Should I write this business idea or that spiritual memoir first?” But here’s the deal – forget hierarchies. The “right order” is whatever excites you most right now. Finishing one book, regardless of topic, builds confidence to tackle the next. Each will refine your skills and unlock future opportunities you can’t foresee yet. Consider combining approaches: Write a prescriptive nonfiction book first to fund your passion project memoir on the side. Merge business knowledge with spiritual insights. Just don’t limit yourself to just one path.
You Can Have Many Book Ideas!
With the universe of ideas out there, picking a book topic can feel utterly overwhelming. But having a system makes it manageable. Trust your intuition; it’s smarter than overanalyzing.
Applying these tips will help you select a topic that’s fulfilling to write and delivers maximum value to readers. And remember: if you decide to start with a book different than the one you imagined, it doesn’t mean you’ll never write that initial book idea. Who knows, it could be the next book you write.
Will You Create Your Winning Book?
Write your success story—watch our writing skills webinar!
By opting in, you’re joining our vibrant community! Expect 2-3 weekly newsletters packed with curated content, exclusive updates, and valuable insights to fuel your journey. Welcome to the conversation!