Validation can mean a couple of things to writers.
It can mean that something has happened to validate the audacity of even calling yourself a writer in the first place. Someone really enjoying your work. Someone paying you for it. Someone publishing it.
That’s why even a tiny bit of pay can feel incredible. If someone was willing to pay you anything at all for your work, it means that they liked it. They really like it.
And maybe you aren’t wasting your time. Maybe there’s some hope for you.
It feels fantastic.
And then there’s the idea of validating an idea.
When you validate an idea, it isn’t about you as a writer. It’s about figuring out whether or not the project you’re thinking about is something that anyone, at all, wants to read.
Some things don’t need much validation. They don’t take too long to write and it’s worth just doing the work and seeing what happens. Blog posts come to mind. Social media posts.
But there are things that will take you weeks, months, or even years to finish. Maybe you’re writing a book. Or you have an idea for a course or some service you’d like to offer. Or you want to start a whole blog for a specific niche.
Before you invest in something that will eat up so many of your resources (meaning your time, energy, and money), then you might want to take the time to validate the idea with potential readers.
Validating a Novel or Other Book
Let’s start here, because it can be the most difficult. And because you’re going to maybe want to do this for your Blog-Your-Own-Book idea.
If you want to validate a novel there are a few things you can do.
- Look at the market. Are there already a ton of books out there that are very similar to your idea? Figure out the genre of your novel and Google it. Are agents and editors tired of seeing it? You can still tell your story, but you might need to think about a different angle to come at it with.
- Trends. If you’re chasing a trend and you want to be traditionally published, chances are that you’re too late. On the other hand, if something is hot, then it might be a great idea for self-publishing. For instance, a vampire book is still a hard sell right now to traditional markets, but they sell like hotcakes for self-publishers who get them right.
- Join a writing group. You’ll be able to work through your idea with experienced readers. Go in willing to take the advice you get and be open minded about it.
Your BYOB book probably isn’t a novel (although, it might be. You can write any book at all during this challenge.) Here are some ideas for validating a non-fiction book.
- Look at the market. You’re going to do this in a different way for this type of book. Go look at the shelf (probably on Amazon or another online seller) and research your topic. What’s missing? Where’s the gap you can fill?
- Ask. It really is that easy. Go into a space where potential readers are, tell them you’ve got a couple of ideas for a book, and ask them which one appeals the most to them. You might be surprised.
- Check out social media. This is my favorite little validation idea. Go into a Facebook group or other social media outlet where people who are your target market hang out. Search through it for questions. Look for keywords that fit your idea. Are people asking about your topic? Are they confused about any part of it? If they are, your book is likely to fill a need.
My BYOB Validation Process
Over here, I talked about how to choose which book to write for the BYOB Challenge. I came up with a few ideas for myself. (Molly is my fictional ideal reader.)
The best way to validate, I decided, was to start a poll in the Ninja Writers Facebook Group. Which book would those people, who are actually my ideal readers, like to have from me.
If I’d just picked a title and didn’t make an effort at validation, I would have chosen ‘creating a roadmap for your writing goals.’ That was my first choice. It’s the book I’d most like to read.
But I’m not my own ideal reader. Not now. Me, 25 years ago? Yes. But not now. I write for newer writers who are just getting started.
It is very clear, from this poll, that the folks in the Ninja Writers Facebook group would like a book about creating a writing habit. And now that I think about it, that makes sense.
They know they want to be writers. What kind of roadmap do they need? Sit your butt down and write. The end. Right?
But actually doing that day after day? That’s really hard when you’re just starting out.
That’s why I’m not my own ideal reader. I’ve got 25 years experience sitting my butt down and writing every day. I have my habits set pretty well. But getting to my larger goals? That’s something I think about a lot.
I could go out and validate again, maybe in a group of writers who are already published or otherwise have more experience. But I don’t want to. I want to write a book for Ninja Writers.
Here’s what you’re going to do.
Once you have a topic and you’ve come up with a few ideas for your BYOB book (if you need help, read this), do some validation.
Ask the people you know who are your ideal readers. Run your list by some friends. Look on Amazon and see if any of your ideas fill a hole in the market.
And be openminded. Remember that writing is a service industry. You aren’t writing your book for yourself. You’re writing it for your readers. There’s a balance, of course, where you’ll find your happy place. That’s where you’re writing what you want to write and what other people want to read.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation, Rebel Nation, The Astonishing Maybe, and Center of Gravity. She is the original Ninja Writer.