(The first in a series of 3 articles about Author’s Blocks)
Last year an established author asked me to help launch her new metaphysical book. ‘Julie’ had spent the past two years researching and writing the book and was proud of the finished product.
I asked for the title of the book and she replied: “The Surprising Truth About Consciousness.”
“And the subtitle?” I asked?
“Oh, there’s no subtitle.” Julie replied.
“No subtitle?” I mused. “What’s the book about?”
With that, Julie launched into a long explanation about all the research she had done and the experts she had interviewed. With overflowing excitement, she told me how her findings were going to revolutionize commonly held beliefs about the relationship between higher consciousness and everyday life. Fascinating stuff.
“How come there’s no subtitle?” I asked.
“It doesn’t need one, does it? She answered. “People will want to read it because the title is so intriguing, won’t they?”
“Hopefully. Let’s get back to that in a minute. Now what about the cover? Can you send me the image? I said.
A few seconds later I opened the attachment and looked at the colorful yellow, orange and black mystical looking cover design which included what looked like an abstract angel figure. The all-caps title was mid-sized white font and the author’s name was underneath in a smallish font.
“Who designed the cover?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m also an artist and the cover image is one of my paintings.” Julie answered
“Has the book already been printed?” I asked, hoping for a “no”.
“Yes, 10,000 copies are being printed this week.” She said with excitement.
Oh, crap. I thought. Now it was time to put on my consultant hat – my most tactful and honest consultant hat…
You see, Julie had worked long and hard on her book. Her passion for the topic was evident and this book was her new baby. She had conceived the title in a moment of divine inspiration and took pride in using one of her paintings as the cover image. And while her intentions were pure, she was, without realizing it, setting herself up for a disappointing book launch.
Why? Because Julie was a victim of what I call ‘The Author-Centric Mindset’.
What is ‘The Author-Centric Mindset’?
The author-centric mindset is a frame of reference common among writers who are passionate about their work and have developed a high level of expertise in their subject matter. As a result of their complete immersion in their topic, they have unconsciously developed the perspective that everyone else should be as interested in their topic and just as passionate as they are.
How to tell if you have an author-centric mindset
Do any of the following apply to you?
1. Does your book title make complete sense to you but others look puzzled when you tell them what it is?
2. Did your title come to you in a ‘download’ from the Universe but you’ve never asked for objective feedback from others?
3. Have you decided that a subtitle is unnecessary because your title is so clear?
4. Does your title and/or subtitle fail to explain what the book is about; address any pain-points; or offer any solutions to the reader?
5. Did you design the cover yourself?
6. Are your title and name hard to read when your cover is reduced to the size of an Amazon thumbnail?
7. Does your cover look ‘self-published’ or DIY when compared with other books in your category?
8. Did you neglect to perform a comparative analysis of books in your genre before deciding on your title, subtitle, cover and premise?
9. Did you unconsciously forget to explain technical terms or concepts discussed in your book?
10. Do you use the words, “me” and “I” more than the words, “you” and “we” in your manuscript?
If you answered yes to more than ONE of these questions then you may be suffering from an author-centric mindset.
The Reader-Centric Mindset
Almost without exception, bestselling self-help and how-to books are authored and edited by writers with a reader-centric mindset. What is a reader-centric mindset? It is a mental state that puts the reader’s needs and aspirations ahead of the author’s.
The reader-centric author takes inventory of his or her life experiences, expertise, passions, talents and skills and asks the question: What’s does this mean for the reader?
Let me give you an example. I own a Toyota Prius and when we were buying that car the salesman told my wife and I all about the amazing features of the car. It went something like this…
“Did you know that Toyota has refined the 4th Generation Hybrid Synergy Drive to create a lighter, more efficient system? It features a more compact size and has achieved a weight reduction on both the motor and battery pack when compared to previous models. And Prius switches seamlessly between 1.8L gas engine and a highly refined electric motor to deliver a more exhilarating driving performance for any condition.”
“Really??” we said. (In other words, what the heck does that mean?)
Our well-meaning salesman was clearly being car dealer-centric rather than customer-centric. A more customer-centric explanation would have gone something like this:
“Toyota has made the motor and battery smaller which gives you more legroom and luggage space. And you can switch from gasoline engine to the electric motor on the fly to save money on fuel by driving in electric mode.”
This change in his delivery would have turned a technical, feature-oriented pitch into an understandable, (write your book so an eighth grader can understand it) benefit-laden conversation that would have engaged us in the conversation and led us to say “tell me more.”
And that’s the attitude you want to have in every aspect of your book – from the title to the cover; and from the manuscript to the back cover copy. You want to write with the reader’s needs, wants and aspirations in mind so they will want to take it to the checkout, read it cover to cover and recommend it to their friends.
How to Produce a Reader-Centric Book
My good friend Chris Kyle teaches experts like you to turn your teaching content into an online course. And if you take Chris’ Launch Academy training you’ll go through an enlightening exercise called the “Authentic Messaging Blueprint” (AMB). In the AMB process, Chris guides you to define your Avatar – the person you are creating your course for (or in your case, the person you are writing your book for).
Your Avatar is defined by their demographics (age, gender, income, etc.), psychographics (beliefs & attitudes), fears, frustrations, aspirations and wants. You can even give your Avatar a name (my Avatar’s name is Shannon). Then as you write and edit your manuscript, craft your title, design your cover and market your book keep your Avatar in the front of your mind. You could even cut out a picture of your “Shannon” from a magazine and pin it to the wall near your computer to remind you of the person you are writing your book for.
Chris’ AMB then challenges you to identify the transformation that your Avatar can experience by reading your book and applying your recommendations in their life. You write statements describing her transformation. What is she feeling now after applying your advice? How does her life look different (personally, professionally)?
For example, when I prepared my AMB for the eBook Bestseller Bootcamp these were Shannon’s transformation examples:
– She is now a #1 Amazon bestselling author
– She is in demand as a speaker, coach, consultant, practitioner, advisor
– She now charges more for her services
– Her email list has doubled and grows daily
– She feels proud of her accomplishment and others congratulate her
– A foundation has been laid for a professional and effective online presence
– She is now confident and knowledgeable about how to write, publish and launch a book
– She feels that she’s on her way to greater professional success and financial independence
– She is now having a greater impact on people’s lives
As I created the course content I kept these transformations at the top of my mind and developed the training around them. The same principle applies when you’re writing your book.
Back to Julie
So what happened to my client, Julie’s book? Despite my recommendations, the title stayed the same (with no subtitle) and her 10,000 copies came off the press bearing her artwork. Fortunately for her, she was an engaging writer and had a substantial platform including a large email list and was able to reach a lot of people with her book promotion.
The book became a bestseller and generated a significant amount of unexpected income from backend sales generated by the book launch campaign. However, Julie didn’t enjoy the level of sales that she had envisioned and still has a few thousand copies of her book in the warehouse.
Had she adopted a more reader-centric mindset early on in the process, the result may have been different and The Surprising Truth About Consciousness* may have touched and transformed a lot more lives.
* The book title has been changed to protect my client’s privacy.
Post a comment below. I’d love to hear our thoughts on this.