Candidly, I groan when a potential author sends me an inquiry that lacks a specific target topic or, a topic that affects a certain, identifiable group of readers. Too often potential authors come with vague, general overviews because they are trying to hit a broad target instead of focusing on a more defined topic and, eventually, reader and market.
I’ve found that finding your topic starts with building a strong foundation. Just like building a house or office complex, the foundation is key. When it’s bad, the rest just won’t stand. The same is true for authors and their topic. You need a level, strong foundation. A specific topic leads to a specific market.
Always begin your search for a topic with who you are and what you know. You cannot find readers (your market) who need your topic until you identify your specialty. Your own background, business experience, or perhaps military experience, church life, family, education, form the foundation on which you stand as a writer. Then, all of your writing, marketing, promotion, speaking and teaching begin with this foundation.
For some reason most writers who come to me for advice on being published ignore this simple question: What (industry, field of study, life event, etc.) did you “grow up” in? These beginners want to do something “new” so they create a mental block about their experience, education and practice. A few weeks ago a prospective client came to me with an idea for a book on a topic that was two football fields away from her experience or expertise. Who would want to read just opinion?
Contrast that with my friend Faith Ecklund who, in 1997 was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. Her new children’s book, Our Friends in Chairs with Wheels, helps children relate to people who are in wheelchairs. It comes right out of her experience. It’s a topic she can discuss with honesty and frankness. In other words, she knows her topic and she writes and speaks within her field of experience and knowledge.
What is your base? Start with the experiences, the industries, the expertise you already know.