- By Cathy Goodwin
- Published 08/5/2009
- Rating: Unrated
Authors of self-published books often seek help from reviewers and copywriters. They realize that reviews on Amazon and other online bookstores can make a huge difference in book sales. They also realize they need sales pages to promote their books. These days, publishing a book can be affordable. Many companies will do all the work, allowing you to pay a single lump sum. It’s very tempting for independent professionals (including coaches, consultants, therapists and others) to produce a book that reflects the wisdom they’ve accumulated painfully over the past five to ten years. They realize they gain credibility and even turn readers into paying clients. Alas, without planning, too many books end up piled on the floor of someone’s garage. Ideally, the time to show your book to a reviewer or copywriter is before you publish your book. By the time a book is ready for review, you can’t make changes even when you discover fatal flaws. Here are 3 checkpoints before you send a book for review (or, ideally, before you publish).
First, Is your book truly original? Believe it or not, many authors simply repeat popular guidelines and aphorisms when they publish. One self-help author wrote, “When I worked with Ginny on her career change, we reviewed her strengths and values…” Nothing new here. The author needs to add a couple of extra steps to show how her unique approach got Ginny propelled into a new career. If Ginny’s been at
tempting a career change for three years, and only now succeeds, the author’s got a basis for a book. Second, does your book have a consistent theme? If your book promises to help readers deal with emotions, you need to work the emotional challenge theme into every chapter. When I wrote my book on relocation, my theme was, “Moving changes your identity.” Every chapter shows how geographic relocation influences your identity. Third, choose just one genre and stick to it. “Genre” refers to the category of your book. It’s where bookstore patrons go to look for your book. Fiction genres include horror, sci-fi, mystery, and literary fiction. Within each genre you can have subgenres, such as “cozy mystery”” and “police procedural.” Occasionally a successful book mixes genres; Kate Atkinson combines literary fiction with murder mystery, for instance. But usually publishers are very strict about genre and I recommend that self-published authors do the same. Non-fiction genres include self-help, memoir, history, and biography. When you mix genres, reviewers and readers feel uncomfortable. Often they don’t know why.
Independent professionals often make the mistake of mixing memoir and self-help. They write out their story and then they write the lessons they want to teach others. Unfortunately, the results often ends up as neither compelling memoir nor insightful self-help. Authors justify their choice by saying, “I want to tell the story my way.” That’s fine – but readers will read your book through their own lenses and you can lose them.