So what is your next book about?

A thought on shaping the topic for your next nonfiction book

Whether your “next” book is your first or your fortieth, you are no doubt already thinking and praying about the topic. 

In the excitement of imagining the new nonfiction book, have you also taken a look to see what else has already been written on this topic, by which authors, and from what perspective?

First, let me remind you I’m not a book editor of any kind. There are experts out there to help you make sure you are heading in a good direction. I am not one of them.

But as a book publicist, I end up talking to a lot of authors. And sometimes authors talk to me about their books or their next book.

When I ask them if they have taken a look to see if someone else has already done what they are proposing, I have often been surprised to discover this hasn’t occurred to them.  

But I promise you, traditional publishers think about this before they begin work on all new titles.

You don’t want to invest time, heart and money into a book that isn’t going to serve a need. Put another way, if your book isn’t providing a new perspective, it’s not going to entice bookstores into giving it precious shelf space, and it’s not going to sell very well.

What makes your approach or perspective unique? Why is it needed? What gives you the authority, the expertise, to write on this topic?

My primary job is to tell other people, especially the media and reviewers, about an author’s book. Sometimes the media gets excited about a topic or a perspective because they recognize it’s a fresh angle on a popular topic or even a topic they’ve rarely heard spoken about. So that uniqueness factor also plays into how much attention you will find people giving your book, as a precursor to the sales you are hoping for.

No two books are ever the same, of course, as they each reflect the heart and talents of the author. But at the level of subject matter and approach, in the few seconds you have to catch someone’s attention, something needs to stand out as a unique angle.

Once you do some research, you may realize how to tweak your idea to illustrate your unique point of view.

Let’s say you have envisioned a cookbook of vegan dog food recipes, because you are certain this is a new idea the world needs and you wish you had some for your dog, since vegan seems healthier. At this point, you have no experience, expertise, authority or (I’m assuming) name recognition status to bring to this book to make someone trust your opinion.

When you research the topic, you may find Rachel Ray has already done this to promote her dog food line.  (Maybe this is a bad example. I’ve never owned a dog or been vegan, and am indifferent to Rachel Ray…though my cat does like her dry kibble.) But if you developed recipes that helped issues in your own pets, or you are a vet or animal nutritionist who has developed and tested recipes on many other dogs, you might be even more qualified than Rachel Ray.  So while her name will help her sell her books, your expertise gives you credibility and authority in this topic area.

You get the idea.

I also have one other thought for you. If/when it’s possible, don’t limit your research to online sources. Get out to a good bookstore or library and physically touch and flip through some of the titles you find that might be similar to yours.

And keep praying about it, consulting with your personal team of experts, and paying attention to what else is out there, as new books are released every day.  

Mostly, if you haven’t considered the concept of making sure you are offering a unique perspective, be sure you do.Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on January 29, 2021

Joni Sullivan Baker
jbaker@buoyancypr.com