Before You Release Your Words Into the World…

If you’re writing a book you hope to see published, your words must serve the reader.

  • Maybe it’s a memoir.
  • Maybe it’s self-help book.
  • Maybe it’s the story of a remarkable relationship.
  • Maybe it’s tips about gardening.

No matter what you are writing, it has to have value for the reader.

So before you send your proposal or manuscript to an agent or editor (or before you send it to me to review!) imagine that the agent/editor/publisher will be reading your words with one question in her heart: What’s in it for the reader?

Questions I want you to ask, of your proposal/manuscript, before you release your words into the wild…

  • What is the value, for the reader, in this book?
  • When she finishes the first chapter, does she want to keep reading?
  • When she’s really tired, is there a reason for her to keep turning pages?
  • Does every sentence, every page, every chapter serve the reader?
  • When she finishes, can she articulate the single important takeaway of the book?
  • When the reader sets this book down, has she gained something from it that she wants to share with a friend over coffee?
  • Does she want to buy a copy for her sister because the book had so much value?
  • ls she able to apply what she’s learned to her own life?

If the answer to some of these questions is either “no” or “I don’t know,” I want you to return to your word-baby and review it one more time through the spectacles of an agent or editor. Name the value–write it out–that the reader gleans from each chapter.

If you can’t identify the takeaway value for the reader–the “payoff” for purchasing your book–then work at it until you can.

Ultimately, “your” book is not about you. It’s about the reader.

Serve the reader.

This post first appeared on Margot’s blog, Wordmelon

Advertisements

Want to Get Published? A Publisher Needs to See a Viable Audience

Note: This is the third post in a series of four posts: 3 Things a Publisher Must See.

3 things

Let’s say you do find yourself on an elevator face to face with an acquisitions editor from your dream publisher. She’s heard your pitch, is interested and asks you who will buy your book.

Do you know the very worst answer you can give her?

“Everyone.”

While you think it might be what she wants to hear, it isn’t. It really isn’t.

Jonathan Merritt, a savvy friend of Margot’s, explains, “If you aim to write a book for everyone, you’ll write a book for no one. But if you write a book for someone, then you’ve written a book for everyone.” Your book will be most effective if, as you write, you are imagining one person—Reading Rita or Literary Lou—and write to the heart and mind, questions and concerns, of that one person.

Know your audience. Editors want to see that you know who is reading your book and are writing to them. So you need to be able to describe your audience demographic: How old are they? Male or female? Education? Married Parents? Church attenders? Listen to Christian Radio? Etc.

Most often, people don’t buy books they think they should read. ($16 to learn that the best way to lose weight is exercising more and eating less? No thanks.) Books that sell are ones that meet a reader’s felt need. ($16 to learn that the best way to lose weight is by eating pizza every hour on the hour. LOL. Just kidding. But not really. #bestseller.)

In your proposal, you demonstrate that there is an audience for your book by letting a publisher know that it is meeting a real need for readers.

There are all kinds of creative ways to communicate readers’ felt needs to a publisher:

  • Description, “In the last month, five of my friends have had this problem…”
  • Statistics show that….
  • The top-selling books of 2015 were…
  • Etc.

In the writing, of course, your book must actually meet the readers’ felt needs. There needs to be a benefit to the reader who reads your book. (This is what makes readers rave to their friends about your book over coffee and on GoodReads!)

Here’s how: On every page, be asking, “What is the reader feeling? What is the reader thinking? How can I serve the reader with this story, page, chapter?”

To convince a publisher that there’s an audience for your book, you must communicate clearly that it offers value by meeting a need readers really have.

Exercise: Draft a character sketch of your book’s target reader, Reading Rita or Literary Lou. What keeps this reader up at night? What does this reader care about? What concerns does this reader have? Tape this list to your computer screen so that you remember to write every page with Rita or Lou in mind.

Cheering you on,

Margot

 

Powerful Non-Fiction Writing

Keeping in mind that non-fiction readers invest their time and money in books that meet a felt need, a great philosophy is, “Offer them what they want, then give them what they need.” Here are 14 questions to consider as you write your life-changing message:

QuestionsXSmallWhat problem is your reader experiencing?

How has the problem been overlooked?

What are they missing out on due to this problem?

What impact has this problem had on their life?

What misconceptions has the reader bought into that might keep him/her from experiencing the benefit you’re about to offer?

What underlying beliefs do they have that keep them from seeing a new solution or alternate view?

What solution or benefit will you show the reader?

What truths will help the reader see the benefit?

What will give them an “aha” moment?

What might influence the reader to avoid possible change?

How are others enjoying the benefit you’re teaching?

What will the reader let go of in order to adapt a new view of their life?

What choice(s) will they make?

What action(s) might they take?

Always keep your reader in mind. Offer them what they want, then give them what they need. As author Dean Merrill says, “Never stop asking ‘what’s in this manuscript for the reader?'”