4 Essential Questions (plus 1 more) Every Author Must Ask (and Answer)

When in 4th grade (and that’s a long, long time ago), my teacher Mrs. Russell reminded her wide-eye students to avoid two words:  always and never.

Her words were ingrained in us and to this day, they gurgle up repeatedly in my thinking. In most cases, Mrs. Russell was correct. But there are exceptions.

When it comes to writing and books (and living), the “always” and “never” need to be tossed aside. I always ask authors a few questions when I meet them … and ask again as I work with them. Two “always” questions that I ask involve the word “WHO” in them. Who is the book for … Who are you to write it?

As a follower of Seth Godin’s wise words in his daily blog, he hit on my hot spot questions on October 13, 2016 when he asked four simple, yet critical questions for all writers. And that means we authors.


Godin’s questions were:

1. What is it for?

If this piece of writing works, what will change? What action will be taken? 

The more specific you are in your intent, the more frightening it is to do the writing (because you might fail). And, magically, the more specific you are in your intent, the more likely it is to succeed.

For me, I’m looking for value and the “who cares” factor. If you don’t know it, how do you expect readers and buyers to know?

2. Who are you?

Writing comes from someone. Are you writing as scientist, reporting the facts? Are you an angry op-ed writer, seeking political action? Or are you perhaps the voice of an institution, putting up an official warning sign in an official place?

My add is that when you know “who” you are, your expertise spills forth—your credibility. It’s not so much what alphabet soup initials you have behind your name; rather, it’s the true, in the trenches experience you deliver to ease the pain and deliver the solutions for the reader. For the fiction writer, what entertaining factor your deliver.

3. Who is it for?

It’s almost impossible for a piece of writing to change someone. It’s definitely impossible for it to change everyone. So… who is this designed to reach? What do they believe? Do they trust you? Are they inclined to take action?

Oh boy, this is a hot button for me. Why do so many authors get the deer in the headlights glaze when asked this question? The “why” here is that they haven’t done the necessary homework to really ID this “who” … the kiss of death is the common response, “Oh, my book is for everyone.” No, it is not. The reality is that the more you niche yourself, drill down into who your reader is, the more successful you will me. Your book is not for everyone—far from it.

4. Will it spread?

After the person you seek to reach reads this, will she share it? Shared action is amplified action.

My take is ditto, ditto, ditto. Your words, your writing and the re-sharing of it via social media, buzz, mouth are what makes the difference. Depending on situations and circumstances, your words bring solutions and in many cases, healing. What an awesome power to have.

5. What’s holding you back from completing it? OK, this is my add. Are you diddling at all in getting your writing, your book done? Do you practice what I call, One for the money; Two for the show; Three to get ready … Three to get ready … Three to get ready … and you just don’t GO?

Are you do feel you have to get one more study; that you need to research one more thing … The reality is that if you don’t GO … all that research, another study, will just suck your time and energy. The reality is that the likelihood of GO becomes dramatically lessened. In my How to Write a Book in 4 Weeksworkshop I do (the next one will pop in February), after the first week, participants are told to STOP researching and START writing. At the end of the four weeks, then they are encouraged to do one more Google search; one more quick independent study using a tool like Survey Monkey to get an update if needed.

Five essential questions to ask yourself about your writing. Today would be a good day to answer them.

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Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 34 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #34 was published this summer: The CrowdFunding Guide for Authors & Writers. Get your copy.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged, a three day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2015, the dates are August 27-29th.  Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at bit.ly/PublishingShow .

Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and Judith Briles – TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at Judith@Briles.com.


header-logo1.pngAuthor U is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the author who wants to be seriously successful. Monthly education programs delivered face-to-face and online, The Author Resource ezine, BookCamps and the annual Author U Extravaganza are tools designed for authors pre, during and post publishing of their books. Join AuthorU.org today.