Question: I'm currently struggling with why I should write my book and why anyone other than family would want to read it.



First, please know you are not alone in feeling this way. Most writers go through periods of serious self-doubt, especially those writing their first book. The process of writing a book is very solitary, personal, and challenging, leaving writers feeling vulnerable about how the book will be received when published.

Before investing any time and money into your book project, there are 5 steps you can take to understand your writing goals, the marketability of your book, and your potential target readers and their expectations. Following these steps can help guide your writing, publishing, and even marketing decisions.

Don't let self-doubt keep you from writing a book, whether for just yourself or a wider audience.STEP 1: Know Your “Why”

Many people feel compelled to write a book, but the reasons behind that impulse can vary greatly. For some, writing brings structure to jumbled thoughts and can serve as a means of bringing order to chaos. For others, it’s a way to share an experience, passion, or expertise and connect with people outside of their inner circle. This connection can serve as a way to help, educate, entertain, or inspire others. There are also writers that want to become a bestselling author, while others want to leave a legacy for their immediate family and don’t care as much about reaching a broader audience.

No matter the reason, it’s important to understand your writing goals and why you feel compelled to share your story or message. If you’re struggling to get to your “why”, here are some sample questions you can ask yourself:

1.  Am I writing for just myself? My family? My inner circle? Or, do I hope many others will read it?
2.  Do I desire to help, educate, entertain, or inspire others with my writing?
3.  Do I want to share my area of expertise with others?
4.  Do I want to make money from my book?
5.  Do I care about writing accolades and bestseller status?
6.  Do I plan to write more than just this book?

Writing for just yourself or for your close network of family and friends are commendable reasons. Many writers want to document something for their family or simply be able to say they’ve reached their personal goal of having something published. When writing for these reasons, you don’t need to be as concerned with your book’s marketability or potential readership. Finishing and publishing a book is an amazing achievement, so just enjoy the process!

If your ultimate goal is to reach a wide audience, have your book distributed through major retail channels, and generate revenue from book sales, you’ll greatly improve your chances of success by continuing on to the next steps.

It's important to define your "what" early on in the book writing process.STEP 2: Know Your “What” and Where it Fits

In order for your book to matter to others, you have to make it matter. The definition of the word “story” is “A narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader.” Your book, whether fiction or nonfiction, needs to be relevant, relatable, and readable in order to attract and engage readers. Life revolves around story and there are proven elements that make a story or narrative great.  

So, what’s your story? What message or information do you want to share with readers? What’s unique about your perspective? It’s important to define the focus of your book from the beginning. You also need to understand your book’s central theme or purpose. For example, is it about overcoming odds, mending relationships, battling a mental or physical illness, or teaching a process? Tying in universal themes such as grief, family, love, survival, and perseverance, will make your book relatable and appealing to readers.

Once you’ve defined the direction of your book, it’s important to know where your book “fits in”. The publishing industry categorizes books based on established genres and subgenres. These are how your book will be catalogued and shelved, and how readers search for books. Find books that you believe are similar to what you plan to write and see how they are being categorized. It’s a GOOD thing to be able to build a comparable book list. These are not your competition. Instead, they are an indicator there are readers that may potentially purchase YOUR book.

STEP 3: Identify Your Target Readers and Understand Their Expectations

Your target audience includes readers who are most likely to notice, purchase, enjoy, and tell others about your book. Readers are choosy consumers that have likes, dislikes, and buying habits, just like you and me. While some readers enjoy books of all genres, most readers have particular genres they favor. The reason a reader might favor a genre is because they enjoy the elements, themes, and structure that are standard with that genre.

If you’re writing a fantasy novel, for example, and are targeting fantasy readers, you’ll want to make sure you understand fiction story structure, popular fantasy tropes, world building, and the rules of magic. If you are writing a nonfiction how-to book, you’ll want to make sure you understand nonfiction formats, how to research and cite sources, how to best organize the information, and how to integrate an interesting narrative around the topic.

You can use the comparable books list you created in Step 2 to further research your intended genre. Read these books and take note of what you like and don’t like. This process can help inform your book or inspire you when you’re feeling stuck. Knowing there is an audience eagerly awaiting new content like yours will give you a boost to keep moving forward!

STEP 4: Use Critique Partners, Beta Readers, and Professional Editors for Feedback

While it can be intimidating to have others review your writing, it is a necessary step toward producing the best book possible. Having multiple sets of eyes on your work throughout the writing process will highlight the things that you overlook because you are too close to the material, or because you are still honing your craft.

Critique partners can be used at any point in the writing process, but will be most effective if you at least have an outline or summary of your book that you can provide for feedback. You can find people to review your work through writer’s group and critique groups, either locally or online.

It's important to get feedback throughout the writing process when writing a book.Beta readers are people in your network that you have access to that fall into your target reader group. For example, if you are writing a young adult romance, teenagers might be the best target. Feedback from beta readers will be most effective if you wait until your manuscript is complete and you’ve done some self-editing to clean it up.

Professional book editors are trained and experienced, and know the common mistakes to look for when reviewing a manuscript. They also know the book market and genre standards or expectations. As with beta readers, hiring an editor will be most effective after your manuscript is complete and you’ve done some self-editing. You will also save time and money if you present an editor with a polished manuscript. There are different types of editing, so do your research to understand what level of editing your manuscript needs.

STEP 5: Start Creating Your Marketing Plan EARLY

By going through Steps 1 through 4, you’ve started to build what’s called your “author platform”. This is your ability to reach readers and includes your key branding, publicity, and marketing efforts. Don’t wait until AFTER your book is published to think about your author platform. The planning should start while you’re still in the writing phase.

Efforts during this phase can include creating a basic author website or blog, being active on social media, building an email newsletter list, and joining relevant forums or groups. If you create a following leading up to your book’s release, you will have a dedicated group of readers ready to buy it and hopefully spread the word about your book.

Publishing without following these steps will likely result in your book getting lost in the marketplace. You are also unlikely to see a return on your efforts or financial investment. Understanding the market, reader buying behaviors, genre expectations, and overall book standards will help ensure you write and release a quality book that can attract a wide readership.



  • Thank You. I have just had my first book published and can relate to much of what has been said . Some of it, I wished I had known earlier but at least I can now take away this information for my next book which is in the very early stages of writing. I too, was rather hesitant in letting other people read my work but I am learning to take on board any helpful criticism or ideas.