How to Choose the Topic for your First Book

by Sam

An old saying goes 'Everybody has a book in them.', but the truth is, most writers have more than one book project on the go - so which one to choose for your first book on Amazon?

Self-publishing, both as Kindle book and print edition, is by far the easiest way to get readers to your words and hopefully many buyers for your books. But which of those many book projects that are collecting virtual, or real, dust on your hard drive or in your desktop drawer, should you tackle first? As I went just recently through the same thought process, let me share my findings and conclusions with you.
First of all, it really doesn't matter if you are planning to write your book from scratch or if you have already a half, or completely, finished manuscript. The essential steps are the same!

Choose a Manageable Project

First Rule: Choose a manageable project for your first book publishing adventure!

If you are only a little bit like me, you have many great ideas for even greater books! Some of these ideas will be easier to realize into 'real books' than others. I give you an example:

You have several short stories lying around that you think would make a nice themed anthology or collection - great idea and a very manageable project.

You plan to write the ultimate reference book about xyz, including a lot of pictures, an extended bibliography and a lot of maps - not a good idea for your first project, as things might become quickly overwhelming for a new author.

Task 1:

Make a list of all possible projects you have in mind and note against each how much time and effort it would take to convert them into a 'polished', edited and ready to be sold book.

Books like these require typically a whole team to pull such a project off.

Photographers, Food Designers ect. are needed to make books like these:
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My...Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes ...

Knowing Your Topic / Subject

Second Rule: Know what you are writing about.

Actually, this should go without saying, but still, knowing your subject and knowing what to write about it - and what not - makes for better books and happier readers ;-) So, choose a subject / topic you know lots about, as in 'real life knowledge'. Just writing something because it might sell but without your heart, mind and knowledge behind it will most likely not work. Hint: Vampire Romance Novels and 'erotic masterpieces' like the two books below have been already done to death.

Task 2: Make a list of subjects you are a real expert in.

Subjects that have been either done to death or have over-whelming competition:

The Twilight Saga Complete CollectionFifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of...

Do Some Research

Third Rule: Do some market research.

After you have settled on a topic / subject you would like to write about, have a look at what is already published on the subject, what areas are not covered or where only 'bad' books exist. In short, find out which book is still needed in your chosen field. What book would you like to have read when you got interested in xyz or what kind of book would you like to recommend to somebody who is just getting started or generally interested in this genre?

Task 3: Take your previous lists and compare your results with what is already on the market and what is still missing.


Tidying Up and Adjusting Your Manuscript

By now you should have an idea about:

1. The work involved to take your manuscript to the next step.

2. Be sure that you write about a topic that you know inside out.

3. Have chosen a topic that hasn't been done to death.

4. Know which kind of book is still missing in your target market.

Finally a few tips and tricks to get your manuscript ready for publishing on Amazon.

For the print version, via CreateSpace, the layout of your book can be as fancy as you like as you will submit your manuscript as a PDF-file. But bear in mind that color photos INSIDE your book will increase the price of printing dramatically. If you need to include photos or illustrations, try to keep them to black and white.

Ebooks have other restrictions like tables not displaying properly, images not lining up as you think they should and as a general rule, the less layout you have, the better and the easier your life and that of your readers will be. Also images will not display in color on older e-readers, but they will do so on newer ones. As a rule of thumb:

  • Keep formatting to the minimum: bullet points, bold and italics are ok, tables are a big no-no, pictures depends.

In the end you might need to adjust your layout differently for both types of publishing, the printed and the electronic way, to give your readers the best possible product.

Fellow Wizzley Author Lissie Wrote this Book

which explains nicely what you can and can't do in the Kindle version.
Kindle Nonfiction Formatting Guide: Solve Your Nonfiction Formattin...
Updated: 12/17/2012, Sam
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BrendaReeves on 03/08/2013

That's a good idea, Sam.

Sam on 03/08/2013

Why don't you write a collection of your short stories, Brenda? SY

BrendaReeves on 03/08/2013

I write short anecdotes for my blogs. People have told me I'm great at comedy. My cousin and friends keep telling me I should write a book. That was my plan at one time. I got my BA in creative writing. I like to read nonfiction. Maybe I should get off my butt and write something. I like your idea of making a list.

Sam on 01/28/2013

I have any intention of doing so!

dustytoes on 01/28/2013

Very good advice for choosing a book topic to write about. I hope you will be writing more relating to self-publishing. I don't know much about it, but would like to.

BrendaReeves on 01/27/2013

Excellent article on choosing a topic. I was a creative writing major in college. By the time I graduated, I was tired of fiction. I only read nonfiction now and would like to write a nonfiction book eventually. Maybe I'll start soon. I'm going to bookmark this to refer back to. I'll give it a tweet also.

Sam on 12/17/2012

Thanks for your kind words, Sheri and wishing you all possible success with your book endeavours! SY

Sheri_Oz on 12/17/2012

Excellent points, Sam. I have one book out (professional book) and am now preparing my second one so this was a good review of points to consider.

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