… and seven questions we think you should ask instead.
At Find Your Voice, we’ve worked with thousands of people writing down their story and message for the first time. And we get same questions from new authors, over and over again.
We find that, sometimes, new authors get caught up in the wrong questions. We have our own list of questions for first-time authors: questions we think serve them better.
Here are seven questions we hear from new authors like you, and the questions we encourage you to ask instead.
1. What we hear: “Do I have a big enough platform?”
Ask instead, “Who does my story help?”
One of the biggest gripes we have with the publishing industry is that it asks people, right away, to grow their platform. Here’s the kicker, though: “audience” is different than “platform.” A platform is your number of contacts and followers—who, by the way, may or may not be interested in what you want to write. An audience wants to hear your message. An audience needs to hear your story, because your story helps them resolve a problem in their own lives. So, a better question to start with, is, “Who does my story help?”
2. What we hear: “Is this ‘a book’?”
Ask instead: “How much content do I have gathered around a topic or theme?”
If you feel like you have a message, you do. The question, then, becomes, can this message sustain 50-60 thousand words. If you’ve never written anything of that length before, it can feel daunting. Our best advice? Start a running list of all the stories and points you want to make. Keep it somewhere handy (like on your phone or on the fridge) so you can add to it throughout the day. As the list grows, you’ll find more and more confidence about how much you have to say on your topic.
3. What we hear: “What if I’m not a writer?”
Ask Instead: “Am I willing to do the work?”
News flash: every writer we’ve met feels like they’re “not a ‘real’ writer.” It’s time to hang up our misconceptions of what “being a writer” means—no one actually lives in the woods, alone, and gets discovered as the next genius. Realistically, writers are the people willing to show up to the blank page.
4. What we hear: “What belongs in this book?”
Ask Instead: “What’s the ‘point’ of each story or example?”
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you want to say—and to get lost in the details of the stories or content that you’re writing. Our best advice is to continually ask yourself what the reason for each story is. Does it support the larger goal of the chapter? If not, cut it out (or move it to another chapter).
5. What we hear: “Who is going to read this?”
Ask Instead: “Who am I writing this book for?”
“Who is going to read this?” is a great question that has to do with marketing—how people hear about your book. But when you’re starting out, it’s much more helpful to imagine the people (or better yet, person) that you’re writing to. The difference in confidence and tone which comes from a writer sure of who’s listening—that difference comes across in the writing every single time.
6. What we hear: “Will I get published?”
Ask Instead: “How will I get this book into the hands of readers?”
Here’s a secret about publishing: whether you secure a contract and traditionally publish or whether you are set on self publishing, you, the author, are still responsible for marketing your book. At the end of the day, you have to plan how to get your book into the hands of readers. The sooner you start making that plan, the better.
7. What we hear: “What if I’m not an authority on the subject?”
Ask Instead: “Who will write this if I don’t?”
It’s tempting to doubt ourselves—or wonder if anyone will be interested in our problems. But your position is as unique as you are. You have a message only you can write. Dig into the stories and experiences that you have. Only you can offer your voice to the world.
Ready to write your story? Head over to our Prepare to Publish page and take your next step.