What Do Your Readers Desire? (Hint: It’s Not Your Life Story)
When I decided on a career as an author in November 2017, I had an elegant plan for a systematic and circular way of building marketing platforms for books and related services before these books and services existed.
Growing and surveying an audience before creating a product is common enough. Although it might seem backward at first, from a market analysis standpoint, it makes perfect sense.
You must engage your consumers to find out what content they really want before you put the time and effort into creating a full-length product for them: in this case, books. Research BEFORE development. What’s more, if your audience tells you what to write, and you write to their specifications, it serves to follow that they will buy your books. Right?
It’s Not About You
In my case, the plan revolves around a book about how to succeed as a full-time author. To be more granular, my book (in progress) is about how to write, produce, publish, and market books that sell really, really well.
This book’s working title was It’s Not About You. Although clever, this is a failure of a title and will not be the actual title of the book. Let me explain…
Why did I choose the title It’s Not About You when I started writing my book? Because I believe to succeed as an author you need to put your readers’ desires first; hence, it’s not about you, the author. Yet, this sets up an obtuse paradox. From a marketing standpoint, this is confusing, and confusion is not marketing’s friend.
Who is it NOT about? Me? You? Your readers? Anybody? Everybody?
The paradox is solved if you understand that successful books are not ABOUT anybody, especially not you, the author. Good books are written FOR readers and are created to satisfy the reader’s needs and desires … books that sell, entertain, inspire, excite, and inform.
This is even more true for biographies or memoirs. In the case of a memoir or biography, a successful one celebrates what is humanly possible to achieve (inspires), or serves as a cautionary tale (informs and excites), or is just a rollicking good story that entertains.
If you aim to write a book based on your life experiences, fiction or nonfiction, it’s still not about YOU. There’s that paradox again. What I mean is, our stories must grow to be bigger than a self-centered story to be any good at all. Robert Frost’s Mending Wall seems tiny in scale (a broken wall in a field), but it is expansive in its meaning. It encompasses the world, and that’s what makes it so good.
The secret is to step out of your neurosis and add your insight and experience to the Universal story. Joseph Campbell recognized this, and dedicated his life to the exploration of pan-cultural archetypes in story. Everyone, all humans, contributes to these archetypes. Therefore, good stories are compelling, relatable, expansive, and immersive. You can seat this universal story in any subject, from a how-to about creating a profitable YouTube channel to a work of historical fiction about being the Empress of Russia.
No matter how large or small your audience or scope is, as an author, your goal is to write to satisfy your readers’ needs and desires. This will include your own story, of course, but it will not be about you. A winning book is about the human experience.
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