Do people want what you’re offering?
When you think about launching your nonfiction book, you may have in mind a grand opening, where you dazzle the planet with the brilliance of your ideas. The phones run hot with interview requests, folks line up in the thousands to get a signed copy, planes fly promotional banners displaying your book cover across the sky. There’s so much buzz you can hardly hear yourself think. In marketing terms, this is a “hard launch”. It’s an all-in release of a completed product, a noisy celebration that garners you massive publicity and huge sales, if it is done right. Exciting, right? But slow down for a moment. There’s no point in throwing a party if nobody knows who you are, where you live, and what kinds of snacks you have. Even before you write your manuscript—let alone publish your book—what you really need is validation. Validation is an action taken to prove that something is, well, valid: solid, reasonable, well-founded, and cogent. In software development, app validation is one of the most crucial stages of each project because—beyond what the dictionary says—validation ensures that the idea has the potential for bringing profit. Why? Because you have established that people want what you’re making, it works for them, and they’re willing to pay for it. Sure, you know that your book idea is valid — after all, you’ve come up with it, so it has meaning for you and maybe for a number of your friends, colleagues, and family members. Why would you need to validate it further? The answer is quite simple. In the validation process, you’re benefiting from feedback so you can fix “bugs” before they make it into your book. “Bugs” is software-speak for flaws in a program or system that causes it to serve up unintended or unwanted results. In book terms, the feedback you get will help you decide which angles or examples to highlight, what arguments to modify or refine, what stories to add or delete. Discovering a problem that your ideas will solve is easy—finding a solution people want is the tricky part. Validation may take the form of articles in an industry magazine, a workshop held at your local library, a guest blog post. It allows you to present your ideas, your stories, your propositions to your readers one step at a time. You might even release them to just a small slice of your potential readership. Here, you can walk in Pixar’s steps. The animation film studio is known for testing out techniques in short films before going large in feature films. The short film Geri's Game used techniques for animating facial expressions that were later used in Toy Story 2. Water motion, sea anemone tentacles, and a slowly appearing whale were tested in several short films before delighting larger audiences in Finding Nemo. Sure, you can skip validation, but going through with it adds some level of insurance that your investment won’t be wasted. And believe me, when you write a book, you are investing in it big time: you are pouring in your time, energy, emotions, aspirations, and maybe some cold hard cash too. With validation, the creator is asking a question, not providing the answer. (Yet.) Similarly, a book can be seen as part of a longer process of asking questions. You might do it through a blog series, a podcast, an online course. By the time you are ready to write the book, you have asked many questions of your readers. What questions might you be asking? Here are some examples:
Does this idea interest you? Amuse you? Enlighten you?
Did it give you a valuable new perspective?
Does this article change the way you think?
Did it challenge you, provoke you to change?
Does my approach provide you with a valuable process?
Will it equip you to do something better—lead, manage, collaborate, parent?
You may not come right out and ask these questions explicitly, but you are implicitly gathering this information through your readers’ responses. They are telling you what they think in feedback forms, comments on social media, shares, likes. What question do you need to ask your readers? Are you already asking it? If you need help getting your validation off the ground, contact me today to find out how I can help. Image: Ambreen Hasan for Unsplash