How to Develop a Book Concept That Has Bestseller Potential

Identifying Readers’ Needs to Make Sure They’ll Be Attracted to Your Book

Recently a writer friend told me about her desire to write a book that wakes people up. “Everybody’s asleep,” she said, “they need to be woken up!”

“OK,” I said, “but look at it from your readers’ perspective. What’s the need they would tell you they have that you want to help them with?”

We talked for a while and figured out that the need this writer wanted to address is a lack of fulfilment. She wants to help readers get more intentional and experience a thriving, meaningful life as a result.

Let me ask you. Which is more appealing to you:

  • a book that will “wake you up”
  • a book that will help you live a more fulfilling life

The second option, to my mind, is a much better way for this writer to frame her concept. Why? Because it meets a need that real people really have.

The problem with writing to a need readers don’t have, or don’t believe they have, is you end up writing a book few people want to read. But if you write to a need readers have, now your book has bestseller potential.

How do we identify a need readers have and still get to say what we want to say? That’s what this blog post is all about.

Acknowledge the Gap

The first step is to notice when a gap exists, and it often does. On the one hand is what you want to happen for your reader when they read your book. On the other is the need readers actually have that will bring them to your book. Notice the gap, be honest about it.

Don’t Judge Their Need

At this point we can be tempted to get on our high horse and think, “Well, that’s not the need they should have. They should want this instead.” But we don’t get to determine what other people want or need. All we get to do is decide whether we’re going to serve their need or not.

Courtesy of Unsplash

Develop “I” Statements

Often it’s helpful to develop “I” statements to help us get inside the minds of our readers. Taking the earlier example as a case in point, we might ask, what are some “I” statements a reader might have just prior to picking up my book and buying it. The need that book is addressing is a need for fulfillment, so some relevant “I” statements might be:

  • “I feel like I’m missing something in my life.”
  • “I’m just going through the motions. I’m not really enjoying life.”
  • “I wish I had a sense of purpose and meaning.”

As we develop “I” statements, we’re getting an even clearer picture of the need our readers have, so that hopefully we are even more likely to address it.

Research How Other Writers Address the Need

Do searches on Amazon, Google, and YouTube. Look for how others are addressing the need your book is going to address. The goal here is to understand the context in which your book will live. What seems to be working in this space already, and how will your book be distinctive?

Ask Readers

It’s also a good idea to ask your audience about the need they have. Ideally you’ve cultivated a readership already through a blog or email list or both, and you can go to them and ask, “Do you have this need?” Use both multiple choice as well as open-ended questions to get as clear a picture of this as possible. If you can get on the phone or go out to coffee with some people in your audience to hear directly from them, this can be extremely clarifying.

Frame Your Concept

Now that you know what your readers want, develop a handful of working titles and subtitles for your book that speak as compelling as possible to this need. Sketch out a structure for your book that contains within it the promise of meeting the need readers have. You can start by simply listing relevant topics; eventually, of course, you’ll want to develop chapter titles and subtitles.

Bring Them Along

It is at this point that you can think about how to take readers from the need they have to where you want them to go. In other words, having done the hard work of listening and understanding their need, now you can take them where you believe they should go. Work this into your book structure as well.

Question: What was most helpful to you in this blog post? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Donna Stearns

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. I know what I want to write but the concept of seeing it from the reader’s perceived need is something I need to work on.Thanks again.

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’re very welcome, Donna, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Thank you for this. This really helped me today.

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’re welcome, and thanks to you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!

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  • Once again, thank you for doing your art by creating an excellent, idea-rich, actionable post to help writers develop a book concept with bestselling potential. I do have a book concept already, but what I extracted from this post was this: develop I statements to get inside my reader’s mind. I created a new note in Evernote and combed through chapter one of my work in progress book, bulleting the problems/felt needs of my reader. I phrased each one as an I statement and listed them under the sub-head Problem/Felt Need. Then I copied, pasted, and italicized these I statements below the first bulleted list, titling it Solutions to Problem/Felt Need. In bold I crafted a statement that identifies how my book will specifically address/help/solve that problem or need. I found your advice to craft I statements a very helpful and intentional exercise to insure that my concept is reader-focused and has a clear pathway to assist in solving her problem. Thanks, Chad.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Excellent, Shannon! I love how you took the idea of “I” statements and ran with it, applying it in a way I had not considered!

  • Shannon Geurin

    Chad, I love the tip on asking our readers about their need. I’m currently in the middle of typing out my next newsletter and will include this. Thanks for the tips!

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’re welcome! Their responses will be really helpful to you!