3 questions from authors along with my answers.
Q1: How do I continue on when I’ve lost my confidence as a writer?
A1: Okay – let’s dive into some mindset stuff here! Close your eyes, take some deep cleansing breaths, clear your mind, and think of a time when you were totally in the zone as a writer. You were at-the-edge-of-your-seat excited about what you were working on, the ideas and words were flowing to your fingers faster than you could type them, and you had the overall feeling – “Damn, I am GREAT at this & people are going to love what I’m writing!” Picture that moment in as much detail as possible. If at all possible, pull the piece you were working on and reread it, keeping in mind that before you, it did not exist. The idea, the words, the story you communicated…. It was you, as an author, who breathed life into all of that.
No matter what happened with this piece afterwards (because most of that is beyond our control), focus on the fact that you created those words, first in your mind and then you had the courage and confidence to make them reality. That is a HUGE accomplishment and the only reason it happened, is because YOU are an author. And even if another author got a hold of your exact writing ideas and details behind this piece (and everything else you have ever written), it would not come out the same because of your unique perspective, style, and way of communicating. You did that. And if you did it before – you can – and will – do it again. You have everything you need within you – author!
Q2: How do I write the back cover copy for my book?
A2: Here’s a general template I use for back cover copy that I invented years ago on a freelance copywriting job where I’d write over a dozen back covers every week.
Attention Getting Pull Out Quote: The most captivating (okay – dramatic!) quote you can find in your book that also either hints at or describes a piece of your book’s promise.
Example from a self-help memoir by one of my authors:
I was sick to my stomach. I wanted him to feel my pain
and to instill fear in him. I lifted my arms and swung at him
with the bat… it broke with a snap.
Thesis Statement: Similar to the opening line of a press release (but not as dry), the who, what, where, when, why, how, etc. of your book.
Reader promise: Whether in a paragraph or bullet points, now you make it about WIIFM – what’s in it for me as the reader. For fiction – the most enticing promises of the story… think – If this were a movie what would be in the trailer?
Closing Line: This is your last opportunity to make your case for the reader buying your book. Don’t hold back.
For nonfiction – the most compelling and urgent “why it is absolutely urgent that you read this book & your life will not be the same if you do not.”
For fiction – the cliffhanger (will they or won’t they fall in love, will the main character survive, will the planet get blown up by aliens, etc.)
Q3: When writing a self-help book how do you create a balance between teaching the process and including your personal story? Do you include success stories of others that have been through and used the process?First, a quick recap of why I love self-help memoirs: Purely self-help has the author “should-ing” all over the reader without building trust & rapport by sharing (authentically and vulnerably) their personal story. Purely memoir, without any message strategically woven throughout, can leave the reader ambiguous on the intended transformation and their action steps to achieve it.
Now, onto the Q. In self-help memoirs, I call what you’re describing “finding the intersection of story & message.” This means designing an architecture that connects story and message – ex. 70% story, 30% message, 90% message, 10% story, etc. Sometimes story will lead, and sometimes your message will guide your architecture.
Here are some questions to ask to help find the story/message intersection in your book-in-progress:
1. What is the ultimate business/brand goal of your book? Would leading with story or message better support that goal?
2. Is your author brand (or emerging one) heavier on your personal story, or on your message/teaching process?
3. Based on your research of your target readers, which balance might better “speak their language”?
4. Which structure better plays to YOUR strengths as an author?
And to answer your second question, yes, success stories of others – whether you call them case studies, vignettes, or stories – fall under the category of “story” in your architecture. When written as such (a story with a beginning, middle and end – NOT a testimonial!), success stories can be effective in your message/lessons to life.
Hopefully some of the information above is helpful for you now OR at some point in your book development, writing and publishing process. Have some questions of your own? Shoot me an email!