These 3 simple but surprising questions will tell you if you should write a book.

Are you considering writing a nonfiction book?

Ask yourself these three questions:

Who will suffer if you don’t write this book?

How much will they suffer?

How much do I care about their suffering?

You can learn one thing from this exercise right away. If your first answer to “Who will suffer” is “me, the author, since I won’t profit,” then don’t write the book. Books are only worth doing if the readers benefit — or conversely, if the readers would suffer if the book isn’t published.

For example . . .

Here’s how you might answer this question for some books I’ve reviewed recently.

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin

  • Who suffers if the book isn’t published? Ordinary marketers who need to work much harder to get attention.
  • How much will they suffer? Their work will be boring and expensive.
  • How much did the author care? Since Jay works with marketers like this, he cares a lot.

Reimagining Collaboration: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and the Post-COVID world of Work by Phil Simon

  • Who suffers if the book isn’t published? Managers who are attempting to succeed in a hybrid workplace.
  • How much will they suffer? In the absence of the ideas in this book, managers will suffer waste, inefficiency, and frustration daily.
  • How much did the author care? Phil finds inefficiency and poor use of collaboration tools tragic. So yes, he cares quite a bit.

Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust by Melanie Deziel with Phil M. Jones

  • Who suffers if the book isn’t published? Untrusted marketers.
  • How much will they suffer? Since their lack of trust will undermine all their marketing, a lot.
  • How much did the author care? I think Melanie and Phil truly feel bad for marketers who can’t be trusted because of poor marketing methods.

Of course, these authors also care if you want to hire them to give a speech or consult with them. But that’s pretty shallow if they don’t care even more about the suffering of their readers.

How to decide if you should write the book

Every book also includes suffering — or at least effort — for the author. As an author you are going to suffer imposter syndrome, writer’s block, overwork, and fatigue. Every author putting in significant effort does.

The question to ask yourself is this: Which matters more to you: your own suffering or the suffering of your audience if the book isn’t published?

If the collective suffering if the book isn’t published seems minor compared to your own suffering, it’s not worth it. Don’t write the book.

On the other hand, if the collective suffering of all those deprived readers matters more to you than your own suffering, then write the book.

And in the midst of the writing process, when you’re feeling discouraged, come back to this question. It will remind you why you’re putting in all that effort — to avoid the tragedy of a book that could have alleviated all that suffering for your readers.

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