Non-fiction books should shout with benefits and authority

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What do you want your book to do?

Probably (1) get bought–or at least read; (2) make you money; (3) if self-published, get snagged by a “big house” and do more of [1] and [2]; (4) establish you as an “expert” or “authority” in its topic field; (5) get potential readers to want to know more about the topic, and (6) make the world [or at least America] swoon at seeing your name and wisdom in print. Forget the swooning; save it for fiction.

Of the six rewards, (5) probably pays the best and generates the most of the rest. If there are enough eager readers who want the benefits and new knowledge, just knowing that your book and you exist can lead to invitations to write another book and/or one or several articles, speak to gatherings, consult, offer classes or programs, create a related product, join a faculty, and so on. It usually depends on how many benefits you suggest that can be realistically accomplished and how unique they are. If, for example, your book explains a how-to process that will (effortlessly) double the readers’ income, and you seem to be the kind of expert who can speak well and informatively, or can carry out the other invitations, your book can be your best spokesperson if you get it in front of enough of the right people.

Of course, when they see the book, its title, sub-title, description, cover messages, and all related promo information must draw their eyes to the benefits and your expertise. That can be helped by getting testimonials from recognized authorities in that field, or at least from people with the kind of titles that should be given to legitimate authorities.

I know that this blog is mostly common sense. But how many books do you see that neither carry nor imply authority on part of the author? Or fail to tell you what good could occur if you grab the tome and get reading?

So let me say it another way. If you want others to pay you well and often, you must devise and explain a way that, if done by them, will change their lives (and all they touch) in a magically positive way. And that you, the author, have the tools to be their guide. Those tools are in your new book available right now…

If this helps you, fine. It is provoked by a spate of books I’ve seen lately that did almost none of what I suggest here. There are no promises or anything in them that even suggest that I should open the cover. Or that I would benefit by doing what the authors say. I’m a court-of-last-resort book editor and I can only imagine that the books are just as poorly researched and written. What a shame. Why didn’t they study a few similar books that did succeed? I hate to see time and hopes lost. The most bewildering element seems to be the authors’ timidity or fear of stepping out and making an honest claim for why a buyer (or reader) should read the pages. And how what’s on those pages could change the readers’ lives–and many others’ too.

Whew! A rare rant.

Best wishes,
Gordon Burgett

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