In this article, I’ll tell you the six things MORE important than writing that make a book successful. Why?
When I tell people I’m a ghostwriter, it opens a side of them that people close to them may not see. I hear things like: “I’d love to write a book!” Or “I’ve been told I should write a book,” or, “My boyfriend is writing a book! He’s a great writer.”
Some people think their amazing writing skills make them a candidate for success. Others think this goal is an unattainable pipe dream because, “I’m not much of a writer.”
Guess what? They’re both wrong.
Technological advances, including the Internet, have changed our lives. But they’ve had effects specific to writing. With physical labor becoming more automated, an increasing number of people have jobs that require them to write, be on the computer, or use the Internet. And society has followed labor.
What does that mean?
Now anyone with a computer or even a mobile phone can spend a few minutes writing something that impacts the lives of others. Writing has proliferated. And if you know about keywords and SEO, you don’t have to be a great writer to get followers. Yet at the same time, good writers abound more than ever.
All that to say?
Anymore, being a good writer does not guarantee your book will succeed.
Six Things More Important Than Writing in a Successful Book
So what will help make a book a success? Let’s check it out.
1. Writing the Right Book
Surveys show that between 50%-81% of Americans have thought about writing a book or want to write a book. True, everyone you meet has interesting experiences to share, helpful insights, or a great process they’ve developed.
But simply writing it all down won’t get you much attention, whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Will this material still be relevant in five years from now? Ten years?
- Will I still be passionate about this topic in a few years?
- Will this book help get me where I want to go?
On the first question, I worked with a client not long ago, a pastor who wanted to turn a sermon series into a book. He lived in Texas and preached the sermons around the time of the snowstorm that blacked out much of the state in February 2021. To back up his points in one sermon, he used several anecdotes from what was later dubbed “Snowpocalypse.”
At the time, relevant and impactful.
For a book on a topic that he wants to resonate with people everywhere from all walks of life for years to come? Not so much.
So we had to work together to find anecdotes from a wider range of his experience.
The second and third question go together.
Say you’re a personal counselor. You’ve developed a great technique to help people solve relationship issues, but now you want to shift your focus to people with addictions. Will a book about your relationship technique be something you’ll want to talk to readers about in ten years? Will it help you get more of the clients you want?
These are the kinds of questions you should consider before opening a blank document. Or if you’re hiring a ghostwriter, make sure they are helping you think through these questions.
Have you ever picked up a book that looked intriguing only to put it down after a few paragraphs? The title looked incredible. The back cover convinced you the author would share something valuable. Yet after a few pages, you just couldn’t get into it.
Want to use your book as a marketing tool? To gain more clients? Or do you simply want to help as many people as possible?
Either way, you have to be easy to follow.
It doesn’t matter how fascinating your topic is or how crazy your stories if you don’t craft your book in a way that guides your reader through it and inspires him or helps him be a success at what you’re teaching,
3. Your Title and Subtitle; Savvy Branding
Organization helps people keep reading and following you. But what will make them pick it up in the first place?
It’s about branding.
Ladies, ever heard that when you dress to go out you should wear a sexy top and a demure bottom or vice versa?
The same goes for your title and subtitle.
Make either your title or subtitle cool, edgy, eye-catching. The other should let them know that you may be daring, but you also know what you’re talking about. You have something useful to share.
You have to hook ‘em before you book ‘em.
4. The Back Cover
The title and subtitle should catch a potential reader’s eyes. The next thing she will look at, though, is the back cover. Here are the questions she’ll ask herself about the book:
- Why is this book relevant?
- Why is this book different/unique?
- Is this someone I care about? Is she the right person to author this book?
Think you should summarize 20% of the back cover? Actually, that’s not the place to tease too much. You want the reader to begin to trust you here as someone she cares about and/or who can help her. In fact, you can summarize up to 80% of what your book is about on the back cover. Leave 20% for her to discover inside. You want her to believe that the details you give inside are worth her time—and money.
For more insight into the importance of a book’s cover and how to make yours stand out, check out my interview with the cover designer for Rich Dad Poor Dad.
5. The Table of Contents
This builds on the back cover.
While you don’t want the table of contents to be a Cliff Notes of the book, you do want readers to see what they’re going to get. Chapter titles, section headings, lists of illustrations/charts/graphs should convince the reader that this book is a treasure chest—for him.
6. The Writing Process
Most of us have heard the stories of publishing “discoveries,” such as Tolkien writing The Hobbit for his children that a friend then took to a publisher. A popular idea is that if you write about a groundbreaking process or an amazing story, fame will find you. Write the book, and success will follow.
The reality is quite different.
Traditional publishing houses will never even glance through a manuscript from someone who doesn’t already have hundreds of thousands of followers. And yes, self- and hybrid publishing are much easier routes, if your ONLY goal is to see your book in print.
What do you do, then, if you want to make an impact with your book, make money, or both, but you’re not a celebrity?
You use the writing process to grow your audience.
From the moment you commit to publishing a book, start building your readership. As you write, post snippets on social media to engage potential readers. Write blog posts or do vlog/podcast episodes based on chapter sections.
Who do you want to read and/or share your book? Reach out to them. Say, “I’d like to interview you for my book.” Remember the personal counselor with a great process to overcome relationship issues? If that’s you and you decide to write a book about it:
- Think of who you learned from. Did someone’s book or article influence how you developed your ideas?
- What about a grateful client? (You can even offer to change some of his details and “fictionalize” him if he doesn’t want his name in it.)
- Did you have mentors on your journey?
- Are there other practitioners you admire or follow on social media?
Let them know that you’re working on a book and why you would value any contribution. Also, if you decide to use beta users, use your network within the industry.
Becoming a published author is in itself a path that requires time, consistency, and effort. While some people want only to compile their life’s journey for their grandchildren, many would-be authors would prefer that their writing impacts an audience beyond their friends and family.
If that is the case, don’t waste valuable time and effort. Make sure that you or the person you hire to write for you understands what it takes to give your book a better chance of success. First, you must examine your goals: where do you want you and your book to go? Then, organize and craft your material in a way that will get you there.
Ready to write your book but need some help? Contact me–let’s start your writing adventure today!