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How to Know If Your Book Idea Is Original (and Why This Matters Less Than You Think)

Being unoriginal is one of the biggest fears Authors have when they consider writing a book for the first time.

They think that a book’s only worth writing if it’s totally original. If other people already wrote about an idea that’s anything like theirs, they assume that their own take on the topic is invalid.

What they misunderstand is that originality isn’t solely tied to ideas. In reality, most of the originality in a book comes from an Author’s unique voice and perspective.

In other words, the way you speak to your audience, and your personal point of view on the topic are what matter most.

Take the book Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins—a mega best seller that’s sold over two million copies. Is the value of self-improvement and bettering your life an original idea? No.

But it was still a huge hit. Why? Because Goggins’ unique voice and story allowed him to present this idea in a way that had never been done before.

So yes—there’s a very good chance your book idea isn’t original. But here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be.

You just have to  convey the idea through your personal perspective and experiences in a way that adds new value to the reader’s life.

How do you do that?

That’s what this article is about. Below I share the process we use to help Scribe Authors capture their own voice in their own writing. Then I cover 3 additional ways to incorporate originality into your book:

  1. Tailor your book idea to a specific target audience.
  2. Explain old ideas in a new way.
  3. Connect a variety of ideas together to create something new.

At Scribe, we help Authors find their voice and write original books that resonate with their audience. We have a proven process that’s worked for 2,000 published Authors, including David Goggins, Tiffany Haddish, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. To learn more, schedule a consult with one of our Author Strategists.

The Process for Conveying Your Perspective and Voice Through Your Book

Regardless of whether your ideas are old or new, your unique voice and point of view are what make your book original. So your job as an Author is to figure out:

  1. Which of your points of view are most valuable or unique to your reader?
  2. How can you express that point of view in your own voice through writing?

If you can answer these two questions, you can write an original book—even on a topic where it seems like everything’s been said.

There’s actually a process for doing this. Here’s how it works.

Step #1: Ask Yourself, “Where Is Your Perspective Uniquely Valuable to Potential Readers?”

Once you accept that your book’s originality will come from sharing your unique perspective, the key question becomes: where is your perspective uniquely valuable to readers?

For example, say you want to write a business book. Business is a topic that encompasses many different things. There’s management, hiring, sales, marketing, finance, and so on.

Chances are your perspective is uniquely valuable in one or two of these areas—not every one of them. If you try to write about your perspective on all of them, you’ll end up with a generic, boring book.

Authors who have the most success are the ones who get specific about what they choose to write about. And the way they do that is by figuring out the topics where their perspective is most valuable.

To answer this for yourself, consider the following:

  • What do people ask you for advice about?
  • What do people tell you you’re uniquely skilled or qualified at?
  • What do people ask you to help them with?
  • What do people repeatedly come back to you for?
  • What do you get paid to help people with?
  • What knowledge do people pay you to teach them?

You probably already have a good idea about  what your area of expertise is. But in order to be focused and specific, ask yourself these questions. This will validate where your perspective is uniquely valuable.

Whatever these subjects are, they’re the topics you should share your perspective on in your book.

Step #2: Record Yourself to Translate Your Voice into Writing

There’s a difference between your perspective and your voice.

Your perspective is your unique point of view on the topic—the lens through which you see your area of expertise.

Your voice is the way you speak and communicate about your perspective. 

If your voice doesn’t come through in your writing, your book won’t feel authentic to the reader. As a result, no matter how unique your perspective is, it won’t resonate with your target audience.

It might surprise you to hear this, but most Authors lose their voice in the writing process.

So how do you ensure you capture your voice in your writing?

The best way is to record yourself explaining your ideas to someone who’s in your target audience.

This works for 2 reasons:

  1. Explaining your ideas through conversation comes out more naturally than writing them.
  2. By having a 1-on-1 conversation with an ideal reader of your book—someone who is invested in the subject—you tailor your communication to your target audience.

With transcription software like Otter or Temi, you can easily turn your recordings into text that captures your voice. This is part of our process when we work with clients at Scribe.

For example, we’re working with a retired military colonel who’s writing a book that retells original stories from the Bible in a more compelling way.

With 20 years of military service spent mostly in the Middle East, he’s developed a unique perspective on the subject.

But the first draft of his manuscript read like a military briefing. It lacked the same enthusiasm he had when sharing these stories with me in conversation.

So I had him retell his stories to me as I recorded it. And when he used the transcripts to rewrite his manuscript, it transformed his book from dry and clinical to a fascinating read—even for someone like me who isn’t normally interested in religious stories.

 3 Tactical Ways to Incorporate Originality into Your Book

While your voice and perspective are the most essential parts of writing an original book, there are also tactical approaches you can use to incorporate originality.

Note: These are additions to—not substitutes for—conveying your unique voice and perspective.

Below are 3 methods you can use to make your book stand out. I’ve also included client examples to demonstrate how they’re done and why they work.

1. Tailor Your Ideas to a Specific Target Audience

It’s difficult to share your unique voice and perspective if you’re trying to speak to the masses.

Take a speaking engagement for example. If you’re speaking to a crowd of people who aren’t interested in what you have to say, it’s hard to be yourself.

But if your audience is engaged and receptive to what you’re saying, you’ll be more comfortable sharing your true self.

By tailoring your ideas to a specific target audience that you know is interested in what you have to say, you can be authentic in your voice and perspective. The more you can picture and define the avatar of who you’re trying to help, the easier this will be.

To define your audience, there’s a simple 4-step process you can use:

  1. Choose your primary audience. Think of the smallest group of people that your book is designed to help. Starting small ensures that your book will reach someone who is excited enough to implement your ideas and share them with others.
  2. Determine your ideal reader. The best way to do this is to pick a real person who you’ve already helped. Use them as the example of everyone else in your reader group, but make sure it is a real person.
  3. Describe their pain points in detail. How are they suffering? What are they missing out on? What do they want but don’t have? Determine the problems they have that your book can help them solve.
  4. Brainstorm the benefits this person will get from reading your book. Describe exactly what your audience stands to gain. What transformation will occur in their life.

To demonstrate what this looks like, consider this example from one of Scribe’s Authors:

Who is your primary audience? Advanced practice nurses who want to start their own healthcare practice.
Describe a typical person in your audience and share what they’re like. Jennifer works for a physician, hospital, or large practice. She’s not making as much as she believes she deserves and works long hours that take her away from her family. She feels rushed and stressed because she has to meet volume quotas, which prevents her from spending enough time with her patients. She worries about not providing the quality of care they’d get if she had more time. She also can’t practice the preventative relationship-based care that inspires her work. Jennifer is afraid of losing the security she has with her job, but she’s not sure she wants to remain a nurse if things don’t change. She wants to start her own practice, but doesn’t know how. She’s been searching for guidance, but hasn’t yet found a useful resource that can actually help her.
Brainstorm the pains that this person is experiencing. She feels unfulfilled in her career. She’s afraid of failing if she starts her own practice because she doesn’t know where or how to begin. Jennifer fears doing things the wrong way because she’s only known how to follow rules her entire life.
Brainstorm the benefits this person will get by reading and implementing what you’ll teach in your book. Jennifer will get a step-by-step guide that will take any guesswork out of starting her own practice. It will include all the applicable laws and regulations that she has to know, which will give her peace of mind knowing that she won’t be breaking any rules. She’ll get real-life examples of other APNs just like her who’ve succeeded, which will give her the confidence she needs to begin. She’ll also feel less afraid of failure because she’ll know what she needs to do to mitigate any risks involved with starting her business. Finally, Jennifer will be on the fast-track to having a better lifestyle, freedom, autonomy, and recognition as a healthcare leader in her community.
 

2. Explain Old Ideas in a New Way

A second way to incorporate originality into your book is to explain an old idea in a new way.

Why does this work?

Because people don’t care if your ideas are old or new. They care if they’re useful. And explaining an old idea in a new way makes it more useful and original for readers.

Look at the book Who Not How by Scribe Authors Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy. At its core, the idea behind the book is to change your thinking from “how do I do something” to “who do I hire to do something”.

This isn’t a new idea. And at first, it seemed totally self evident to me. Find a who, not a how. Why would I need to read a book about this?

But then I read the book and realized I didn’t understand this concept at all. Before, I thought it was delegation. I thought it was hiring people.

I didn’t see that it’s actually a mindset—a fundamentally different mindset that I wasn’t applying in many ways. Their perspective opened my eyes to how I was only using who not how in about 10% of my own life.

Who Not How was 10x richer than any other expression of that idea that I’d heard. It’s a quintessential example of explaining an old idea in a new way to create an original book.

The key point here is that the idea wasn’t the value—the explanation of the idea was the value of this book. This book explained an old idea in a way that allowed me to actually understand and implement it.

3. Combine Existing Ideas to Present Something New

We now live in a world with information overload. As a result, the ability to curate and connect ideas has become more valuable than ever.

If you can piece together existing ideas and explain how they connect, you can present readers with something new (and therefore original).

A perfect example of this is the book Weight Lifting Is a Waste of Time by Scribe Author Dr. John Jaquish

Through his research, he learned that combining free weights with resistance bands was the best way to achieve the greatest gains in strength and muscle mass.

Even though there was plenty of data to support this, very few people were aware of the benefits of combining weights with bands. Typically people used them separately.

So while there wasn’t anything novel about using free weights or resistance bands, describing how to use them together—and backing that up with data—allowed him to create a completely original book on bodybuilding.

There are an infinite number of ideas out there. And when you can connect ideas that have been traditionally seen as separate, you can use them to bring originality into your book.

How Does Scribe Help Authors Craft Original Books?

At Scribe, we offer ghostwriting and publishing services for nonfiction Authors. We also provide book coaching that includes expert guidance and accountability to anyone who wants to start writing a book themselves.

One of the first steps we take when working with any Author is to help you define your book positioning. This is the part of the writing process where you discover and define what differentiates and makes your book original.

By defining your target audience and the unique value you’ll deliver, you’ll become intentional and clear about who your book is for and what makes it different. This, rather than writing a book based on a purely novel idea, is what makes the best books. It’s also what will make your book original in the eyes of your readers.

Once you’ve locked in your positioning, you can then show up to authentically teach and change people’s lives. If you want help with how to do that, we have the following resources:

  • Scribe Book School: Our free course that teaches you our exact, step-by-step process for how to write and self-publish a book.
  • Scribe Guided Author: Our book coaching program that provides an intensive 3 day book writing workshop, 12 months of group coaching calls, quarterly masterclasses, and access to our exclusive online community. We teach the entire process of writing and self-publishing your book.
  • Scribe Professional: Our ghostwriting service for Authors who want to bring a book into the world but don’t have the time to write it themselves. We pair you with a professional writer who will capture your ideas and turn them into a book written in your voice. This includes full publishing services and first week promotions to help you become an Amazon bestseller.

If you want to learn more about any of these services, schedule a consult to speak with our team.

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