Give your book project the PEN test

Feb 6, 2012 | Writing A Book

“I need to write a book to take my career to the next level.”

That’s  probably the most common answer when I ask why someone wants to write a book. If you’re an information entrepreneur, that answer makes sense. A book can help you establish yourself as an expert, bring in new clients, and help boost your speaking and consulting fees.

Alas, the simple fact that you “need” to write a book doesn’t automatically mean that you’re ready to write one, at least not a good one. To test that, I give every new client the PEN test. Pen stands for Passion, Expertise, and Need.


Do you have real, driving passion for your subject? Writing a book is hard work and you need passion to get you through the tough times. Then you have to get it published and promote it and live with the subject for a decade. Are you passionate enough for that?


Do you have the expertise you need? Think about the expertise you’ll need to get the book done. You’ll need to have it or hire it.

Are you an expert in your subject matter? You can remedy some lack with original research that will make your book better. And you will develop more expertise as you wrestle with the material and write your book.


What difference will your book make in readers’ lives? So far we’ve been talking about you, but there’s a great big world outside. If your book doesn’t make a distinctive and meaningful difference for your readers, it won’t sell and you will have wasted time, money, and effort on the project.

Bottom Line

Don’t start a book project until you’re certain you have the Passion and Expertise necessary and that there are people out there with the Need for the book you’ll write.

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