What Should I Do First if I Want to Write a Book? Three Goals You Must Set

Part I

Today’s post is part of a series on the goals you have to set when you decide to write a book. In this post, I’ll look at why setting goals is important, what kind of goals I’m talking about, and the first of the three most important goals.

Why is it important to set goals when writing a book?

As a ghostwriter, I meet so many people who want to write a book. Many of them have interesting stories. They’ve overcome mind-boggling obstacles in their health, career, or spiritual life, or they’ve gained unique insights into managing relationships, building a business, or taking charge of their weight.

Now they want to write it all down. They want other people to learn from their mistakes or benefit from their experiences.

Yet in today’s competitive book publishing world, it’s important to be specific about WHY you’re writing a book. To that end, if you’re one of the 81% of Americans who think they “have a book in them,” you need to set some goals.

What is a Goal?

First, let’s be clear about what I mean by “goals” in a book-writing context. Here’s what I’m not talking about: words per day or deadlines. Those can be important, but they come much later.

So what am I talking about? Goals you need to set before you start writing:

  • Who you want to reach,
  • Whyyou want to reach them, and
  • Why you want to reach them.

What is Your Purpose in Writing a Book?

You should know what the book will do for the customer AND what it will do for you.

There are three primary goals to think about before diving into the book-writing process. Let’s take a look:

Who are Your Ideal Readers?

“I want the whole world to know what I’ve discovered!” you may think, or “Everyone should hear about what I went through.” Fair enough.

But think of a ripple effect. How big of a ripple do you want to make? Figuring out your ideal reader is the difference between throwing handfuls of gravel into a pond and throwing one large rock into the precise center of it.

It doesn’t have to be one—you can come up with a couple.

It helps to think of someone you know, or maybe combine two-three people you know into a single fictional character. Give that character a name—say, Linda. (This also helps for writer’s block. Instead of working on your book manuscript, open an email and write that passage as an email to Linda.)

Here’s an example. Say you’re a weight-loss coach. You’ve helped all kinds of people lose weight. Think of a specific category or two you’d like to focus the book on:

  • 30-something single moms who work all day and have the burden of childcare?
  • post-menopausal women in high-stress jobs?
  • men in their 40s with desk jobs whose activity levels have suffered from an injury or chronic health issue?

Another example: you grew up in a multi-ethnic household with unique challenges. You felt misunderstood or conflicted at times, but you’ve processed all that and found success in life. Who do you want to know your story?

  • Individuals in similar situations who might benefit from your experience?
  • Individuals who grew up in in a monoethnic culture—you want to help them understand?
  • People in business or government who may not realize where they’re missing the mark in reaching or working with certain demographics?

In each case, you can see how you might need to adjust your writing style for different audiences. You can also see how you could tailor your writing to up to two of those audiences.

Worried about someone missing out if you focus too much?

While not impossible, it is unlikely.

Still, if you’re really worried about missing a certain demographic in your audience, there are ways to address that, from targeted call-out boxes in the text of your manuscript, foot- or endnotes, or even writing another book!


Starting a trip with no goal except to wander can be fun. But for most journeys, you need a good idea of your exact destination before you set out.

Writing a book is no different.

With so many people putting their stories into writing, book destinations have become crowded. That’s why it’s crucial to know where you’re headed before you start. This blog post has explained that as well as looking at one of the main goals you should set.

Stay tuned! In my upcoming post, I’ll discuss another two goals you should think about.

For now, this is Judy Lane-Boyer, your friendly ghostwriter, signing off!Want more information about how to write a book? Check out my post about How To Write a Successful Book: the 6 Things More Important Than the Words.

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