I’ll just get to the point with this post. I mean, really, you need to know these things if you plan to write a fantastic book that will serve your readers. So, here goes:
- Editing is important. Typos are so amateurish; they’re distracting, annoying, and they devalue the book’s content and the author’s credibility. If you want smart people to read your book, be smart and hire a professional copy editor.
2. Order matters. Readers want to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. Stop hiding the good stuff at the end of the book. Don’t use confusing chapter titles. Keep your contents page brief and orderly (every sub-section doesn’t need to be included), and be certain the page numbers in the contents align with the pages in the book.
3. Give all or nothing. Stop teasing readers with the what and not sharing the how. There are too many options, other than your book, for learning something. If you want to provide value to readers, give them the whole enchilada, not just the tortilla.
4. The cover is a reflection of the reader. No avid readers wants to walk around with a book whose cover looks like their kid’s 2nd-grade art project, or one with a ginormous photo of Y.O.U. Invest in professional design services for your book cover. And if you must have your photo on the cover, hire a professional photographer and make sure the photo is appropriate and relevant to the book’s topic.
5. Tell stories. Readers connect with and remember stories more than they recall your complex processes, systems, data, and formulas. Use the art of storytelling to illustrate your key points.
6. Show me something. Even your nonfiction book needs to have some kind of graphic appeal on the interior pages. Yes, grown folks can read words, but they also like to see some kind of images — like charts, graphs, photos, flourishes at section breaks, interesting bullet points, side bars, pull quotes, etc. A seasoned interior designer will know the score and ensure your book’s interior is top notch.
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7. Readers want a clear WIIFM. You might be surprised to know that readers expect something from your book. And that something is their WIIFM — What’s In It For Me? If the only thing people get from your nonfiction book is to know your rags to riches story or your tale of trial to triumph, you need to dig deeper. Your book should inspire, educate, or entertain readers. What’s the takeaway for them? Make the WIIFM clear and give it to them!
8. Less is more. This is a tough one to add because, sure enough, some aspiring author will read this to mean that a tiny booklet is all that’s required to please readers. No! That’s not what I mean. When writing a how-to book, a self-help guide, or an exploration of your specific subject matter expertise, know when to say when. Explain your concepts, your approach, or your systems, give readers a little homework, and then be done with it. Don’t try to impress (or bore) readers with your thirty years of knowledge and experience.
9. Give them a chance. What if a reader was so impressed by your story and processes that she wanted to work with you after reading your book. How would she know of your service or product offerings, how to reach you, and whether you offer packages or programs or consulting? Give readers a chance to learn more about your business offering by planting nuggets within your book. Warning: Do not interpret this as: “It’s okay to hard-sell to readers in your book.” No! There’s a stealth way to do this that helps readers see you as an attractive expert and makes connecting with you after reading your book an obvious next step. I’m happy to share it with you.
Anita R. Henderson is president of The Write Image, LLC and creator of Write Your Life. Her work with professionals and entrepreneurs has resulted in multiple award-winning books and has helped authors grow their media and online visibility, speaker platforms, industry credibility, and overall confidence in their ability to write a compelling, high-quality book and leverage it in their business or career.