The Write Reasons

So, you have a burning desire to write a book? Great. But before you leap into the fray, ask yourself: Why am I writing this book? I asked this of several professional speakers recently and the answers were eerily similar: “To promote my business”. “To gain more credibility with my audience.” “To have product for back of room sales after my talk.”  “Because I’ve always wanted to call myself an author.” Let’s be clear – those are all great potential benefits of writing and publishing a book, but none of them are REASONS to write a book. The number one reason you should write a book is because the book addresses a NEED of a specific audience and in some way makes their lives better.
If you’re a fiction writer or a poet, the book’s main benefit could be to provide insight, entertainment, or a welcome escape from the mundane realities of life. If you’re writing a scientific treatise or a how-to book, it’s your expertise and guidance that is valuable to your readership. To my mind, the reader is the raison d’etere for writing anything. Period. I had no intention of writing a book for high school and college students on how to get the most out of college until my former students ASKED me to. This was in 2001, before social media and blogging. I had left my position as chair of the graphic design department at Bowling Green State University and was in the process of building a speaking career. My targeted audience was college kids. I spoke with dozens of former students about what I might talk about and they all told me that in four years of schooling they had kept one notebook, which they still referred to. It was from my senior seminar course, which I informally renamed “Reality 101″. I was stunned. It turns out that the simplest advice on writing a resume, learning how to interview, picking out a business wardrobe and managing their savings were the lessons students valued most. Not at the time, of course, but in retrospect. More importantly, they were willing, even insistent, on providing testimonials for a book I hadn’t even written yet! With their guidance and my fat course notebook as grist, I wrote and self-published Smarten Up! For College in just three months. It has sold briskly on ever since. The funny thing is, I rarely speak to high school or college students. My focus changed and I currently enjoy speaking to organizations and companies on the importance of opening their minds to change and recreating themselves at home and in the workplace. I will be asking this audience what they NEED from me and that will be the foundation of my next book. Not exactly rocket science, is it? So, if you have a desire to write a book, channel that energy by first finding your audience, asking them for guidance, and solving THEIR problems and meeting THEIR needs. You’ll not only have a built-in readership, you’ll be creating something of value that’s bigger than yourself and has lasting power. That’s a book worth writing.