A few weeks ago, an aspiring author contacted me to help her with her book proposal, and to help clarify where her how-to book was going. She’d been working with an editor, but she felt she needed more clarity on what to do with her book.
Sandy’s (I’ve changed her name) challenge was a common one. She had so much information for parents to help their children she didn’t want to leave anything out. The problem is, when you put everything in one how-to book, you can overwhelm your readers and actually make it harder, not easier, on them.
If you’re providing how-to information, it’s often helpful to have a # step system (3, 5, 7, 10 and 12 seem to be some magic numbers). I wouldn’t make it any more than 12 – 15 steps. People want something easy. 3, 5 or 7 steps sound really do-able. If your system is very complex, you might extend to the upper end of my suggested spectrum.
If you have lots of ancillary information, you may be tempted to put some of it in appendices, but it might be even better to put it on your website. This is a way to give readers more information once they’re truly ready for it, without overwhelming them. And it’s a way to bridge the relationship between somewhat passive readers to more active members of your community.
You may want to offer some of the website information free, and you may also decide to offer more detailed information in the form of special reports, audios or videos.
Also, remember, that your book is a good way for readers to learn some of what you have to offer, and that people often need more handholding to implement something new. Sandy’s parenting book is a perfect example of a system that will be much more powerful if her readers have support—perhaps a weekly support group or teleseminar series.
With these additional offerings, your knowledge and information will make a much greater impact, and provide a more generous income stream for you–how many books do you have to sell to make a living versus spaces in your teleseminars or consulting gigs?
Don’t just ask yourself, “What do I need to put into my book to make it work?” Ask, “What can I take out?” If you’re afraid your book will be too short, remember to add real life examples and stories. If you can’t share your patients’ or clients’ stories due to confidentiality, consider creating composites and having a disclaimer about this in your introduction, explaining that the examples are individuals but composites.
Also, don’t be afraid to write a shorter book. With less and less time, readers often gravitate to those who package their message with brevity.
So, maybe it’s time to sit down with your outline or first draft and edit with the motto, Less is more. What can you simplify? What can you save for volume two or the website or a special report? What can you put on a YouTube video?
Have at it…and let me know how it goes!