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Get Clear (And Not in a Scientology Sort of Way) Before You Write

Feb 08, 2023

 If someone asks you why you're writing your book and your answer is "To help people," go volunteer.

It's much easier, less time consuming and less costly than writing a book!

Or you can just listen to this episode. It's another one based on the book I'm writing. Speaking of, if you want exclusive stories, resources and info about this book as I write it, you can sign up for that on


→ You can get my 5 steps to creating a life-changing book

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The Business of Being a Writer with Jane Friedman

How to Save Yourself From a Disastrous Book Launch with Scott Duffy

What a Book Can Do For an Entrepreneur with Rich Goldstein


Well, hello there, and welcome to the podcast that changes names as often as you change underwear.

Well, I hope less often than you change underwear.

It's Anna David, I talk to the world's most successful entrepreneurs and best-selling authors about how to create and launch a book that will transform your business, give you authority, work for you, without ever asking for a raise for the rest of your life.

So this is another of my solo episode solo episodes. It’s based on the book I'm currently writing. And if you want more information about that book, I highly recommend signing up because I'm giving you all the latest tips and techniques. And if you listen to this, I'm, I'm hoping you're listening because you want to publish a book that will help build your authority. If not, you just enjoy listening to podcasts on topics that you would have no interest in, which is bizarre. But if you're a part of the first group, go to And sign up for more information there.

This episode is about getting clear about your book before you write. Now, I will tell you, I didn't have a goal. For the first six books I wrote, If you had come up to me and asked me what my goal was, I probably would have said, “Well, I don't know how to be a best-selling author.” A lot of people and actually I will say with Party Girl, my original concept was “Oh my god, if I could help one person see how fun and funny recovery is and can be, I will have done something good.” So I was like the people that I'm about to talk about, which are the first-time authors who say to me when I ask them why they want to do a book and they say, “I want to help people.” 

So what I often say, and I'm considered rude for saying, is I think helping people is amazing. I hope all my books help people. But if your main goal is to help people, there are far easier ways. You could go volunteer today. So this is partially this, like put your own oxygen mask on first philosophy. And partially just advice from a realist, because if your book is solely to help people, if you’re releasing a book, you're going to spend a lot of time or a lot of money, possibly both, or there's no point in doing it.

The statistic I've heard is that it takes a first-time author roughly 300 hours to write a book. So I always recommend when people say, “Well, how do I know if I should get help writing the book,” ask yourself what do you make an hour, multiply that by 300. That's what you'll spend. And you haven't even started looking at editing and launch and cover and all of that stuff. 

That being said, some people just have it in them. They just want to write the book. And I can see it. And that's their dream. And that's fine. But do know that if you are not a professional writer who's been writing every day, all day, for the past decade, somebody who has been doing that is going to do a better job.

My point, that was a little bit of a tangent, my point is that if your book is just to help people and you spend a lot of time and money putting it out there, it's really not a very good deal for you. I mean, it really is like putting the oxygen mask on the person next to you while allowing yourself to die in the plane going down. So why not have something to show for it, aside from some people you don't know who may never even tell you that you help them? Why not do it in a way that can help both of you? The way you do that is you say…

Who is my book for? So let’s go into a little example. Let's say your book is about how you started your business. First, there's an easy question: what is your business? You can even write this down. Unless you're driving. Okay, let's say you're a coach. 

So then the book topic could be about whatever it is you struggled with that made you want to become a coach. Okay, there we go. So then you go, who are my readers?

Well, let's assume it's people who want help with whatever you struggled with. But let's drill down more. So ask yourself: why do they want help? Is it because they believe that overcoming this issue will help them find love? Is it because they think it will help them become more successful? Is it both?

And what if you can't answer that? Then you should be going out and putting stuff out there about this topic and seeing what people are responding. But we're not going to social media to try to become influencers and show off our abs, I don't know, I don't know, I can't think of the shallow reasons people go to social media. We are going to find our tribe, and to interact with them so we can find out what they're interested in and also help establish our authority at the same time.

So that's how you're going to be able to answer.

If you're getting no action in any of the places, go to different groups, I don't know, Facebook, Whatsapp, Reddit, go and find out what people want to know that you are also passionate about. There is the Venn diagram where there is a crossover and you’ve got to find it. Because if you're just writing something that you think people are going to like, but gee, I got no passion for it. It's not going to work.

Sidebar, let's do a tiny tangent, my second book bought Bought, I wrote because I had a resentment. I had a resentment that like all good resentments was very justified. I was writing for Details Magazine, and I had this wonderful editor. And we came up with this story idea that I was going to infiltrate the seedy side of high-class prostitution in Hollywood, I was going to find out about Playboy playmates and porn stars and actresses that got paid like 10s of 1000s of dollars for a night. And I did, I can't even tell you, I was visiting pimp’s houses, I drove to this place called Canyon Country where I got a disc that a guy who went to prison in Cuba for being a pimp gave to this private detective, I found out about this woman who was funding a presidential campaign with the money, and it was so good. And it was going to be career changing.

But unfortunately, my editor left to go to another place. And I was given this other editor, and I presented him with this amazing research. And he says, “You know, I think this is really more going to be a story about how rich guys get their rocks off.” So then they run this, they cut everything interesting from the story, they run the story. And then the next month, they run that they run a letter from a reader that says, “I don't know how Anna David managed to take such an interesting topic and make it so boring.” And you know what? I had to agree with them. So anyway, it was all this editor’s fault and when I was meeting with my Party Girl editorial team And they said, “Do you have another book idea?” I said, “You know what, I do.” And I gave them this idea about high class prostitution in Hollywood thinking I could fictionalize it. Finally, all my hard work will have paid off!

But I neglected to do one thing, which was to ask myself, do I care about high class hookers?

The answer is no, I have no judgment about it. I'm just totally indifferent. So then I get this book deal. And I end up creating an entire book about a topic I am not interested in. And if somebody had come to me and said, “Hey, what is your why?” I would have said, “I don't have one.”

So drill down until you have your why and you know who your book is for, maybe it's for…to continue the coach example, what you wanted to know five years ago, or before you became a coach. Keep drilling down until you have what feels like the perfect combination of what you want to share and what people want to know.

And that's your elevator pitch. I talk about this all the time but If you don't have the template for that, you can just go to But basically, you need to be able to fill in the sentence. My book is for blank, who want blank so they can blank. And don't feel like you know, you're getting married to this, you're dating it. So don't worry that it's not perfect, because it can evolve. 

I talked about this in a previous episode, but this book I'm currently writing evolved once I got beta readers who showed me that I didn't that the book was not for them. So a couple examples.

My book is for health enthusiast who want to follow a keto diet so they can be in the best shape possible.

My book is for women who want to invest in real estate so they can be financially independent. 

My book is for doctors who want to avoid burnout so they can continue to practice medicine and have balance in their lives.

Those are elevator pitches for books we've done. Possibly it makes sense to stop this right now and write down your elevator pitch. Unless you’re driving.

So if we're going to continue with the example of the fictional person writing the book about how she when she got over to become a coach, let's ask, Who is the reader? Is it a married mom of two whose last child just left for college so she's looking for something new? Or is it the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company who's achieved everything but find something missing?

Again, you're going to know this from interacting with your readers. Now, if the answer is the second, always think of that avatar, the archetypal person to refer to so you stay on track because it will help you determine what to include and what not to include. For my book Make Your Mess Your Memoir, I pictured two people, there are a couple there, this amazing couple that I know from Genius Network. And I talked to them about working with them on their book, and they were always my dream client. So I write this book, and every page of the book, I'm picturing them, I'm picturing them reading it, I'm deciding would that speak to them, would that offend them, would that excite them. And I finished the book. And guess what, they don't read it. I don't see them for a while. I'm busy person. So they don't hire me. But enough people just like them do that we bring in hundreds of 1000s of dollars in new business because of that book. Because if there's one, there's many, and when you write a book that specifically for a certain person, they are going to read that book and want to recommend it to everybody. So even if it's not the person that you're picturing, there is someone else. 

So anyway, a couple of years after Make Your Mess comes out, I see this couple at a Genius Network annual event. And I say “Oh my god, I have something funny to tell you, I wrote a book for you. And I went on Good Morning America with it and everything.” And they're like, “What?” I explained this to them. And I said, “Actually, it's in the gifting suite right down the hall.” And they thought that was so great. And they went and got it. And guess what? They’re now our clients. So my point isn’t to picture people and then not tell them about your book, then wait till you see them a year later and tell them. My point is that this works. So be really clear about who your book is for.

If you’re the coach, and you want to attract clients that are successful CEOs, but you know a lot about the experiences of empty nester moms but that’s not your ideal reader slash client, don't include it in the book.

And remember, expert blindness is our worst enemy, like the sheer amount of knowledge you have about your topic is actually a detriment because you're too inside the fishbowl to fully understand what your reader wants to know.

And that is something that I struggle with all the time, because there are terms that people who know about publishing use and then there are terms that that people who don't use. For example, the word “blurbs,” if you work in traditional publishing, a blurb is an endorsement but somehow with self-publishing, blurb came to mean book description. And then what we call blurbs are called endorsements. So even though I know the quote unquote correct way to do it, if I want people to understand it, I might have to use different language. 

You also want to get really clear about what you want your reader to do once they've read your book. So I'm always saying this but you want your reader to be able to do what it is you're describing or if they don't have the time and do have the budget, you want them to hire you. But your book should not be like a 200-page ad for your services. In order for it to be successful and to mean anything to you, to has to be the culmination of your knowledge on your topic. And it has to be so detailed that a reader could finish it and do whatever it is you're describing but it also should show your knowledge so impressively, that you showcase yourself as the authority on your topic.

So get very clear about the problem you're solving and what you want your readers to do when they finish reading. Do you want them to hire your company, employ you as a consultant, take your course sign up for your coaching program, pay you to speak? Whatever it is, figure it out before or at least as you write.

Of course, just because you published your book doesn't mean people are going to immediately flock to you. The beta reader that I have talked about I saw she posted that she was being published by a company that goes out and establishes speaking careers for their authors.

Here’s the thing: nobody establishes your speaking career but you, and I've talked about this in other episodes, but there's no such thing as a sort of speaking agent you can pay to get your speaking gigs. Speaking agents take a percentage, so they want speakers who are already getting paid. 

So this book that I'm writing goes deeply into how you can launch your speaking career from your book and how you can use your material from your book. And so a reminder, if you want advance information about this book, go to www.annadbookcom.

But anyway, just because you publish your book doesn't mean everybody's going to start hiring you. But a consultant I know told me that a few months after his book release, it's actually a book that we did. He brought in half a million dollars in new contracts. What he said to me is, “I can't say for sure it's the book that did it. But I can say that every new client had read the book.” I interviewed JJ Virgin, a really successful entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author for Entrepreneur Magazine, and she said, “If people read my books, they'll buy my products. We have a relationship, they just took you into their bedroom or bathroom, they feel like they know you.”

 My final point is this: be obsessed with your topic. I told you what happened to me with the hookers, I not only wasn't obsessed, I couldn't care less. So you shouldn't plan to dash this off before moving on to the next topic. Because your book, unlike a TV show, isn't going away. You can promote it forever, which means it can continue to help you get what you want long after it's released.

A decade after Party Girl was released, I did the audiobook and a very famous music musician who was struggling with his drinking reached out to me and asked if I could coach him. And I said, “I'm not a sober coach.” And he said, he didn't care. He wanted to hire the person who wrote Party Girl because he knew she would understand them. And he literally said, “I'll pay you $1,000 to speak to me.” I had to talk him down. I ended up coaching him. I mean, I ended sort of working with him for years. And I have potential clients who reach out to me every week because they read Make Your Mess Your Memoir. So I have no doubt the same will be true for the book I'm writing and the book you're writing.

So share your book as you write it. This is so meta but I'm doing this right now. And by letting you guys hear this, hearing your responses to it, I'm getting not only more information about what you want, but I am continuing to establish my authority. I'm discovering what you respond to, what you ignore, what are your interests and your blind spots? I am drilling down.

So that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this solo episode again, get more information about this book that I'm talking about by going to and I will see you next week.