Posts from the ‘Writing Advice’ category

Weak Theme Development: How to Solve a Common Writing Problem

If you are like many authors, early drafts of your book are—or will be—a bit kitchen-sinky, with too much of this and too much of that. Whether the issue is models, stories, or some other element, be prepared to make some hard decisions and do some trimming as you revise. One common problem I see in manuscripts is too many themes muddying up the message of the book. Of course, I also see the opposite…

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Four Methods for Creating an Outline That Works for You

For some authors, outlining sucks. Do it anyway. Your outline is the life preserver that will keep you from drowning in the middle of your manuscript. There are a few authors out there who will tell you that they never outlined their books before they wrote them. Great. They are the Steve Jobses of the writing world. Almost every other nonfiction writer needs an outline. Why? 1. Because you need one as part of a…

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Four Questions to Help Your Book Stand Out from the Crowd

Do you know whether your book is marketable? Do you know what it means for it to be marketable? People have to be willing to put money down to access the content. So, one important aspect of marketability is competitive title analysis: Are there already other books on the market that offer the same content in the same way? Unless your book is based on entirely new research into a new area of science or exploration, you…

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Your Book’s Genre: What Is BISAC and Why Does It Matter?

A mysterious organization that operates behind the scenes. A list that influences the entire publishing industry. A mark on every book. To what nefarious plot am I referring? The BISG’s BISAC list! Okay, it’s really not nefarious at all, but to most authors it is mysterious. What is the BISG? The Book Industry Study Group. It produces the list of official genres—the Book Industry Standards and Communications, or BISAC, subject headings—used by most distribution systems.…

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Message and Promise: The Two Most Critical Elements of Every Book

So what? Who cares? These are two of the questions that Jane Friedman—former publisher of Writer’s Digest, publishing industry veteran, and educator—says that you have to address in your book proposal. Less pithy industry vets say that you need to be able to explain what your book is about and why readers will care. More pithy industry vets use the terms message and promise. There’s a difference, and these two pieces, once you’ve clearly defined them, can…

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Marshall Goldsmith: King of Persona

I had a few of Marshall Goldsmith’s books on my reading list and just hadn’t gotten to them. It was rather inexcusable; I mean, the majority of my work is business book editing and writing. He is the winner of the Think50 Leadership Award (the world’s most influential leadership thinker), has been recognized in a Business Week article for being one of the most influential leadership development experts, teaches at Dartmouth’s business school and speaks…

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How Will Your Book Change the Future?

Last year, I attended the last O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference. I wasn’t looking for a way to redefine my work as an editor, but that’s what happened. Brian David Johnson, futurist for Intel and author of Vintage Tomorrows, gave a phenomenal speech called “How to Change the Future.” How? “You change the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in.” I have to tell you, I got a little choked…

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Writing Prompt #2: Defining Your Audience

Yes, I’m putting an analysis of your audience before a discussion of your idea, your core message, or what you think your readers need to hear. You need to understand your audience deeply before you can consider how to craft a promise to the reader that will be compelling. Always, always write with your reader in mind. So, read this post about understanding your core audience, write answers to the questions below, and discuss your answers with…

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Writing Prompt #1: Goals and Platform

Begin with the end in mind. This is the advice of the late Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 25 million copies since it was first published in 1989. If it worked for him . . . Read my post on four questions to help you determine your writing goals. Then consider the following questions and discuss your answers with somebody who knows you and your ambitions well:…

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Four Steps to Engaging Your Audience

Your audience needs to be bigger than your mother. I’m not trying to start something here. I’m sure your mother maintains an ideal weight and that she’s a supportive audience member. However, if you want to sell more than one book, you need to consider carefully who else it is that you’re writing for and how you’ll fulfill their needs and expectations. Writing is an art, but there’s also a bit of science behind it, and science…

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