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If Your Book Is for Everyone, It Will Sell to No One

07/14/2011 11:42 pm ET | Updated Sep 11, 2011

I recently read a manuscript that was written like a stream of conscious to the author's closest friend. Had I been a close friend or family member I probably would have enjoyed the book. As someone who didn't know this author I was pretty bored most of the time and it was never clear to me what the book was about and who it was for. It was a mish-mash of everything she had ever learned in every self-help book she ever read or every seminar she ever went to and her interpretation of what she learned. That was all mixed in with every random thought she ever had about every random thing she ever experienced.

That experience got me to thinking about some key lessons for new authors...

Including Everyone vs. No One:
It seems like new authors don't spend a lot of time thinking about the reader. When I ask them "Who is your book for?" quite often they will respond with "it's for everyone." There couldn't be a more wrong answer than that. A one-size-fits-all book that's for everybody is ultimately for nobody. It's really important that aspiring authors understand the more narrow and niche they can make their target for their reader, the more success they will have. You really want to be able to reach a specific group of people.

Thinking about who the reader is before starting to write a book is an important and often left-out piece of the puzzle. Let's say you want to write a book about nutrition and joint pain. Are your writing it for athletic Baby Boomers or for elders living in senior communities? What is the demographic of most of your clientele? What are their specific needs? Figure out who your ideal audience is by thinking about who your customers or clients are. Who's coming to you for advice? Speak to them. Be the authority for them and share your wisdom and insights in the book. Readers like to feel you are talking specifically to them. They don't want to weed through information that's not relevant to them.

Betting on the Over and Under:
Some new authors also fall into one of two categories; they either over-share (like the mish-mash author) or under-share by not putting themselves into the book and it reads like a text-book with no personality or flavor. In my opinion, the best books bleed on the page. You can see and feel the heart and soul of the author and understand how they learned what they learned and what transformations took place for them, as well as other people's relevant stories.

Finding the Flow:
A book needs a beginning, a middle and an end that's cohesive and makes sense. Let's also not forget that it needs to be well written and entertaining with take-away value to the reader.

Making it Digestible: Don't use big fancy words just because you can. Without "dumbing it down" use the clearest, simplest language that beautifully shares what you have to share.

The core lesson here is about finding your niche and sticking with it. The rest should fall into place so long as you stay focused on your specific reader and commit to what will enhance their reading experience.

It will also help to narrow your focus when it's time to market your book (which is before it's published). How will you market to everyone? You can't. It just doesn't work that way, no matter what you're trying to sell. The narrower your focus, the more books you can sell.

Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. www.everythingyoushouldknow.com

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