One of my favorite questions when I start working with an authors comes from the legendary Clayton Christensen: “If your book was an employee, what job would you hire it to do?”

(Sadly, Christensen recently passed away—but his brilliant mind will live on.)

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This question is inspired by Christensen’s “Jobs To Be Done” (JTBD) framework.

JTBD Theory in a Nutshell

The gist is that customers don’t simply buy products, they hire them to do a job. This transforms the way we both think about and position our products (or services).

Rather than buying milkshakes for a merely delicious breakfast, people wanted something to do with their hands on their drive into work.

This is where the JTBD theory shines. It helps us to rethink the relationship between our product and our customers.

Rather than focusing on data about them (demographic or psychographic), we should actually speak to them and find out, in their own words, what job they hired a product to do for them.

This focuses us on the utility and straight up benefit our product offers.

Why will readers hire your book?

Books are no different.

What job does your book have to do in the world?

Is it to inform or incite action? Maybe…

…or is it to give readers confidence they can solve a persistent problem? To help them see there’s a way to overcome issues dogging them personally or professionally?

So perhaps your readers will hire your book to give them confidence rather than knowledge?

There are two simple ways to start sleuthing this out.

  1. Talk to your target market. Why do they buy books right now and how do they use them? What utility do they provide—if any?
  2. Mine Amazon reviews for in-market competitors. Reading 1-star, 3-star, and 5-star reviews of similar titles will be revealing. You will find deficiencies, or content gaps. You will also find how these books knocked it out of the park.

You’re Smart—Just Start

You’re smart, so you can figure out a bajillion more ways to do this. But these two can get you started in less than 15 minutes.

Clarity is the best motivator. So get clear on why readers may hire your book, then get to work on its job description… Also known as your outline.

Ultimately, though, this can lead you to an even more personal question. What job should your book do for you?

  • Is it a purpose or legacy project, communicating your life’s mission for future generations?
  • Is it a salesperson, helping differentiate you from competitors?
  • Is it a marketing tool to gain audience traction and have content to repurpose for the next 2 years?
  • Is it a service piece to serve customers as a guide to their success?
  • Is it an inspirational read you want to make money directly from via sales? (This is the hardest to do.)

When you treat your book as something hired to drive an outcome it can (and should) impact your entire strategy.