Make Your Book Readable, Digestible, and Actionable
Once you’ve determined why you want to write a book and have found your ideal target audience, your next step is to ensure that your book is useful to that audience. You’ll determine your reader’s pain points and how you’ll address them. This is your unique contribution, the selling point of your book, but it has to be presented in a way that lets your reader absorb it effectively. As you write your book, keep in mind that for your message to connect with your audience, it must be readable, digestible, and actionable.
This may seem obvious, but even the most compelling advice—be that how to start a company or how to bake a cake shaped like a unicorn—will be ignored if it’s not delivered in a compelling way. Your text must be comprehensible and clean, and you need a compelling arc (with a beginning, middle, and end) to keep the reader interested.
Typos, grammatical mistakes, ambiguity, and a lack of clarity affect how your message is received. They are distractions from your purpose and disconnect the reader from your advice or story. For your audience to connect with your content, they need to be able to read it without stumbling over confusing sentences or awkward phrasing. Write in the same language you’d use to converse with a friend, and then edit like you mean it.
You may be writing on a complex topic, but please keep in mind: Your reader doesn’t know as much as you do (otherwise, why would they buy your book?), and they are not inexhaustible. Make the work of understanding your book as easy for them as possible.
If you find yourself writing long passages of background or the results of extensive research on your topic, break it up into digestible bits. Your reader can’t wolf down large chunks of information any more than they can that 72-oz. steak that’ll be free if they consume it in under an hour. In both cases, they’re likely to end up embarrassed, confused, and with severe heartburn.
Present your advice a step at a time. Use examples your reader can identify with, and walk each example through the relevant steps. Remember our previous discussion: Your book is about the reader’s journey, not yours. Presenting your knowledge in the order you learned it or describing all the impressive research you’ve done is much less effective than simply telling the reader how to apply your knowledge for themselves.
Speaking of which, your recommendations need to be something the reader can actually do. Of course, this is relevant to business, self-help, and how-to books, but it applies equally to cookbooks or any other written instructions. Your reader must be able to take action and put your advice to good use.
Say you’re writing about how to create a startup that sells for a gajillion bucks. Make sure each step along the way is clear and possible. For example, the following list of steps, while accurate, is not likely to help your reader achieve their goal.
- Create a successful startup.
- Cash in.
Start from the beginning—coming up with a product or service—and move through each important step along the path. How do you find customers? Do you need to partner with a manufacturer?
Don’t skip steps, and don’t hold back. Your reader should be able to follow the path you lay out for them without you there to hold their hand. Don’t worry about giving away your secret routes and maps. If they’re smart, the reader will see you know where you’re going and will hire you as their guide.
By making your book readable, digestible, and actionable, you give the reader the tools they need to understand your message and use it in the real world. After all, isn’t this why you’re writing in the first place?
Would you like to discuss how to make your book more readable, digestible, and actionable? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our submissions page. If you have any questions for Greenleaf Editorial about the editing process or your project, tweet us @GreenleafBookGr.