Everyone has at least one book in them-I firmly believe that. But bookstore shelves are packed with titles, all competing for readers' attention. So how can you tell if your book idea is ready for the competitive publishing business?

The key is to target your market and zero in on an unfilled need. Because, yes, the shelves are packed with books-but trust me, there's plenty of room for you and your book, as long as you can shape your idea into a winning concept. You can use the following strategies to help hone your book idea.

Define Your Book's Purpose in One Concise Statement
You've probably heard of an elevator speech-an intriguing statement about what you do that can be delivered in about a minute. Your book needs one of those, too-a brief, one-sentence statement of the book topic and big-picture benefit readers will gain from it.

Consider your book's topic. What is your book really about? How will your book benefit your readers? What problems will it solve? If you want to write a creative work, what impact will your story have on your readers?

Be as specific as possible, such as, "My book will help people live within their means and eliminate credit card debt for good." Distilling your book topic and benefits into one concise statement will give your book the direction it needs to stand out.

Define Your Target Audience
As a writer, the most important person in your professional life is your reader. You have to know your audience, their concerns, their challenges, and their needs. So think about who you're writing your book for. Who needs/wants the information in your book?

Keep in mind that you can't be all things to all people, so "everyone" is not an appropriate audience. You need to target a specific market with a specific need that you know how to fill. Going back to the previous example, if you're writing a book about how to live within your means, your audience is people who are carrying significant credit card or "bad" debt. This is still a huge audience, but it isn't "everyone."

Regardless of what topic you plan to write about, you should take time to get a sense of the market. Consider how well books on topics similar to yours have sold in the past, and talk to your clients about whether or not they would buy the book you're thinking about writing. Writing according to market demands will only help your book sell.

Know Your Competition, and Say Something New
If you know what's been written about your topic, then you'll know how to write it better. To find out what books yours will be competing with, go to Amazon.com and search your book topic. What titles come up? Have your read these titles? What will make your book different? How is your book better? What gives your book an edge over the others? Also consider reading a few of the titles-if not all-just to see how the other authors handled the material.

Author's Bio: 

Melinda Copp helps aspiring self-help, business, and nonfiction authors write and publish books that establish expertise, attract clients and opportunities, and share their message in a compelling way. Visit http://www.writerssherpaprograms.com/writeabook.html for a free copy of her Write Your Book Quick-Start Mini E-course.