If you’ve found a publisher for your book (or think you may soon have one), you may be wondering what your responsibilities will look like once your manuscript is with your editor. After all, now that the book is in the hands of experts, the author's work is done, right? In truth, this is where the real fun begins.
Stephen King once wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” This is advice often given to writers. It means you should get rid of your most cherished and self-indulgent passages for the good of your prose. But maybe that’s a bit extreme. Maybe you don’t have to kill your darlings; maybe they just need to be turned into responsible adults.
Once your manuscript is complete, you may find yourself reading and rereading it, constantly making tweaks or rearranging small pieces of the text or rewording your never-quite-right prose. It may seem like it will never be perfect. Guess what. It won’t. But it’ll never be done either unless you let it go.
Hundreds of books are published every day in a seemingly endless variety of formats and platforms, so it is essential that you find ways to make your book stand out from the crowd—whether that crowd is in the airport, the bookstore, or online. The good news is that readers are always on the lookout for something new. Differentiating your book from the competition will help ensure that your book doesn’t get lost among the other books in its genre.
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.
One of the elements of a book that doesn’t get spoken of much is the index. An index is essentially a roadmap to the book, listing names, places, and things in alphabetical order and giving the page numbers associated with each topic. For nonfiction books, packed with valuable information, a well-made index can help quickly direct the reader to the information they’re trying to find.
If you ask many first-time authors who they imagine will be reading their book, you’re likely to get “There’s something in this for everyone” as an answer. Although this is a nice idea, it’s untrue. The old adage that trying to please everyone leads to pleasing no one is particularly relevant here. By trying to appeal to too broad an audience, you may undercut your book’s success.
Before you begin writing a book, it’s crucial to ask yourself why. Without a clear understanding of the purpose of your book, it’s difficult to make it stand out from the thousands that are published each day. But there are two sides to that question: why you want to write the book and why someone else would want to read it. Understanding both sides of that coin is crucial if you want to both get your message across and ensure that there’s someone on the other end to receive it.