21 Important Book Development Questions

When assessing your non-fiction manuscript and determining whether it’s ready either to pitch to an agent or to self publish, you’ll do well if you address these questions. They’re listed in no particular order, so feel free to jump around as you work through them.

  1. Who is your reader? Think of your target audience as one person and describe her/him.
  2. What does your manuscript deliver that’s new and relevant to your reader?
  3. What category does your book fit into? Think about what shelf you would see it on in a bookstore.
  4. Will your book be talked about? If so, how?
  5. Do you have an outstanding title?
  6. Does your subtitle offer a clear and compelling promise to your reader?
  7. What is the word count? Most non-fiction trade books average between 45-55,000 words. If your word count is too high, what can be cut without losing your message? If your word count too low, what can be added for value?
  8. Does the structure of the whole book provide a consistent flow and easy reading experience for your reader? Look at chapter length as well as the structure of each chapter.
  9. Are the chapters in the best order? If not, consider moving chapters to created the best sequence.
  10. Do any chapters need to be cut out or added? In other words, what’s there that’s not needed, and what’s missing that would make a difference?
  11. Does your book need an introduction and/or a conclusion? A seriously subjective question!
  12. Are your chapter openings compelling? Do they make the reader want to read the chapter? If you can’t answer this yourself, ask someone who can be completely objective.
  13. Do your chapters end with a transition leading to the next chapter? If you’re not sure, take a look at some bestselling books in your category and study how the chapters end.
  14. Are there subheadings within your chapters? These create an easier reading experience.
  15. Does your writing add value, distract the reader, or disappear? (More on this in a future blog post.)
  16. Are you credible as the author? Be clear about what qualifies you to write this book.
  17. In what ways does your platform support your message?
  18. How will the reader use your book?
  19. Does your concept promise something the reader wants, and does it deliver that?
  20. Will your reader be committed to reading your entire book by the end of the introduction or first chapter? If you don’t know, ask someone who can be objective.
  21. Does your writing flow so well that your reader forgets she’s reading? Don’t make any assumptions on this one; ask someone who can be objective to tell you.

Are these questions helpful to you? Can you think of more questions to ask?