Today I met with a woman who is considering writing a book about the history of her community. Because she knows that I have published several niche books, she asked me if I would share my experiences with her. One thing I firmly believe in as an author and a publisher is that we should help other writers out. So many wonderful people helped me along the way that I feel the least I can do is provide the same sort of support to others traveling the strange and sometimes scary path of putting a book together.
Those of us who write non-fiction have to ask ourselves a really hard question: Who cares? Does anyone care about the subject of our book? More than that, do enough people care so that the book will sell a sufficient number of copies to make the publication of it worthwhile? It is something I have struggled with since I came up with the idea for my first book. Because the topic was not just researching house history, but instead was specific to researching houses in St. Louis County, Missouri, I knew that I was severely limiting my potential audience. And I was asked more that once why I did not just do a generic book on house research. The answer was simple in my mind. There are already several books in the market on researching the history of your house, so there was no point in going generic. And more importantly, there was no guide for researching in St. Louis. To research a home in St. Louis County is a very painful, drawn out process. My book needed to be specific in order to really benefit researchers in my area. In the end I believed that just because I was not going to sell thousands of books did not mean my book should not be written.
The same was true of my second book about my dad's service in WWII. Is there a huge market for this book? No, but the historical photos and documents my dad left behind needed to be placed somewhere that people could enjoy and learn from them and not simply be left in an old cigar box.
My advice is that you need to ask yourself why you are writing the book, and who is your intended audience. Who cares? Once you know that, you can make the decision on whether to go forward or not. I leave you with this extremely funny video
about writing a book.
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