When I talk with potential book clients, I begin by asking, Why do you want to write a book? What is your purpose in writing it? What do you want it to do for you?

A book may support their business purpose, or their personal purpose—and ideally it supports both. And of course the book itself has a practical purpose.

But many people struggle with these deceptively simple questions. Sometimes they can’t seem to get started on their book. Sometimes they’ve come to me because they’ve started a book, then floundered after a few months. If either of those sound like you, you’re in good company.

Let’s unpack these three purposes and how aligning them alleviates some of that struggle.

Business purpose

The use of a book to support a business purpose tends to be strategic in nature. “My mission is THIS, so I need a book that helps me achieve that mission.”

The implementation of that mission is often related to the stage of business you’re in:

  • Start-up – You want to launch your business and attract clients. A book shows legitimacy and credibility to potential clients.
  • Growth – You want to grow your client base and your revenue. A book acts as a marketing tool to attract clients and increase your professional fees.
  • Scale – You want to expand your reach and influence. A book becomes a vehicle to share your message and a product to develop revenue.

Those goals lead to different publishing paths, marketing approaches, content approaches, and so on.

Personal purpose

A personal purpose tends to be more emotional in nature and often sounds like this:

  • “I need to write this book. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
  • “I’m not writing this book for my ego; I feel like I am just the conduit the message needs to flow through.”
  • “I have this story inside and I can’t rest until I get it out—I don’t want to die with the music still inside me.”

This kind of language signals a deep connection to purpose. You have a strong force compelling you to get a message out. In a perfect world, your business serves the audience that needs that message.

Practical purpose

At a more tactical level, your book itself has a practical purpose: to teach a new skill, to expand a view of the world, to change how a profession handles a particular issue.

To effectively achieve that purpose requires an understanding of the audience so you can give them what they want and need in a form they will accept. This too leads to content decisions, design approaches, marketing tactics, and so on.

Why harp on purpose?

When it is clear how your business, personal, and practical book purposes fit together, three things happen:

  • The book-development process unfolds more naturally. Specific goals crystalize, the publication path (indie or traditional) becomes more apparent, book content and design take shape more readily.
  • You avoid internal conflict. If your purposes don’t align, you may find you have conflicting goals. For example, the marketing strategies to attract specific clients (business goal) may conflict with the content needed for mass market appeal (personal goal). When you return to purpose, you may be able to resolve that conflict.
  • Your pen keeps moving. Writing a book because you “should” brings a sense of onerous duty, making it harder to write—which is difficult enough for most of us already. (As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing; I love having written.”) Aligned purposes create an irresistible tug.

Remember, strategy is the allocation of limited resources (your time, money, and energy) to your highest priorities (your purpose). How can you make life easier for yourself by being more strategic?

My purpose

Why do I write newsletter articles and blog posts? The obvious answer might be “to attract clients.” Indeed, but a more complete answer is “to offer perspective and spark new ideas that help readers advance their writing, business, and personal growth; and if they like what I say and how I think, we might be a good fit to work together—awesome!”

What makes it so important for me to find that “fit”? Well, my business purpose is to help people shape their ideas into words—and in the process realize the power their voice has—so they can have a bigger impact in the world. I want to spend my time and energy with people who feel called to do meaningful work.

My personal purpose? To increase our understanding of the human condition and as a result increase our capacity for empathy, because I believe that makes the world a better place. Sound a bit grandiose? Maybe. Naïve? Probably. But it’s still true, and it keeps me moving.

If you’re saying “Oh, I like the way she thinks—maybe we could work together!” and you’re ready to go, by all means give me  call (919.609.2817). I will gladly spend an hour on the phone with you discussing your challenges, answering your questions, and just generally seeing if we click. And if you’re not quite ready, keep reading, keep thinking, and keep focused on your purpose.